23/05/2011 - Results
The Democratic Assembly (DISY) won the general elections on 22nd May in Cyprus. Led by Nicos Anastasiades, DISY won 34.28% of the vote and 20 of the 56 seats in parliament, (+2 in comparison with the previous general election on 21st May 2006). It took the lead over the Progressive Workers' Party (AKEL) of President of the Republic Demetris Christofias which won 32.67% of the vote and 19 seats (+1). Both parties progressed slightly in comparison with 2006.
In contrast the Democratic Party (DIKO) led by Marios Karoyian, AKEL's government partner regressed. It won 15.76% of the vote (9 seats, -2) and came third. The government coalition comprising AKEL and DIKO should however remain.
The Movement for Social Democracy (EDEK), led by Yiannakis Omirou won 8.93% of the vote (5 seats, =) whilst the European Party (EVROKO), a far right party led by Demetris Syllouris won 3.88% of the vote (-1.9 points) and two seats. The Ecologist and Environmentalist Movement (KOP) led by Yoanna Panayiotou won 2.21% of the vote (1 seat, =) and recorded slight progress (+0.25 points). Finally the People's National Front (ELAM), led by Christodoulos Yoannides, won 1.08% of the vote.
Turnout – it is obligatory to vote in Cyprus – clearly declined in comparison with the previous elections to lie at 78.7% i.e. -10.4 points.
Beaten in the ballot boxes the Progressive Workers' Party therefore suffered a defeat. "The battlefield was difficult because of the economic crisis. The parties in power in other European countries recorded a clear decline or were defeated. In these circumstances the Progressive Workers' Party succeeded in improving its position," declared the AKEL chair Andros Kyprianou. The chair of the Democratic Assembly (DISY), Nicos Anastasiades, deemed that these results were a "message to the government in office demanding political change." The result is a setback for outgoing President Demetris Christofias who has been criticised for the concessions he is said to have made in the peace negotiations for the island's reunification under the aegis of the UN and more generally for the lack of results produced by these talks.
"We should focus our attention on the way we are going to overcome the stagnation caused by Turkey's intransigence and create conditions to come to a rapid solution to Cyprus's problem," declared Demetris Christofias.
The rightwing victory may change the direction of the ongoing negotiations in that greater firmness on the part of the Cypriots would make it more difficult for the establishment of a compromise. DIKO which has been moderate on this issue for a long time has moved towards a tougher line, and did not spare the President of the Republic any criticism when it was a government coalition member. "We have paid the price for our tolerance with regard to government tactics which we did not agree with," declared Nicholas Papadopoulos, DIKO's Deputy Chair.
"The Head of State has the choice between two approaches. He can either do everything possible to move towards a real solution or adopt a harder line in the hope of increasing his number of votes in the next presidential election," indicated political analyst Hubert Faustmann.
The result of the negotiations will also depend on the Turkish general election that will take place on 12th June next. Just three weeks before the vote the Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by outgoing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is forecast to be the winner by all of the polls and should win its 3rd consecutive mandate.
Demetris Christofias and Dervis Eroglu, leader of the northern part of the island (the National Unity Party, UBP), will meet UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on 7th July next in Geneva in the hope of finding a solution to the island's division before mid-2012. This meeting follows those of 18th November 2010 and 26th January this year which brought the 3 men together. Ban Ki-moon insisted on the need to make further progress to come to a settlement as soon as possible with an agreement that was acceptable to both parties. He expressed his increasing frustration with regard to the lack of progress made during the last round of talks.
Cyprus will take over the Presidency of the European Union on 1st July 2012.
During the election on 22nd May the government was also sanctioned because of the island's socio-economic situation. Two years after the start of the global financial crisis the Cypriot economy is suffering great tension. The country recorded zero growth in the first quarter of 2011 against the previous quarter (the GDP grew by 1% in 2010), i.e. its worst result since the fourth quarter of 2009. Moreover the unemployment rate totals 7.2% of the working population (March 2011 figures). Nicosia has had to borrow money on the financial markets three times and may soon be forced to resort to borrowing again. The island's rating was also recently downgraded by the ratings agencies Stand & Poor's and Moody's.
The European Union has set the Cypriot authorities the following goal: to reduce the public deficit under the 4.5%/GDP threshold. The government will also need a sound parliamentary majority to be able to implement a policy that may be extremely unpopular over the next few months.
The rightwing opposition's victory affects the chances of Demetris Christofias being re-elected as President of Cyprus (the latter has not yet said whether he will run again), in the next election that is planned for February 2013; this increases the chances of the Democratic Assembly (DISY) however.