Cypriots elected six members of the European Parliament for the third time since joining the European Union in 2004, with the traditional parties maintaining somewhat their seats, despite a record number of abstentions.
In all, from the 607,000 registered voters, only 44% voted, mainly affected by apathy caused by the economic crisis and the austerity measures imposed by the European Council and leading EU member states.
The ruling Democratic Party (DISY) affiliated with the European Popular Party, was the only grouping that improved its share of votes by 1.7 percentage points, and with 37.8% of the votes secured two seats from the first count.
It re-elected Dr Eleni Theocharous who was the most popular among all candidates in Cyprus, with nearly two in three of her party voters giving her preference votes.
Second past the post was former government spokesman Christos Stylianides.
The Cyprus ballot included a record ten groupings and eight independents, with voters allowed up to two crosses in the cases of parties or alliances.
The main opposition communist AKEL, aligned with the GUE-NGL, also elected two MEPs, but barely succeeded as it’s popularity dropped by 8 percentage points to 27%, with voters punishing them for a failed five year administration that brought the economy to its knees and forced Cyprus to seek a bailout from the Troika of international lenders.
The leftists re-elected Takis Hadjigeorgiou from the first count and former commerce and energy minister Neoclis Sylikiotis got it from the second distribution of votes.
Popular MEP Antigone Papadopoulou did not make it into the European Parliament as her centre-right Democratic Party (DIKO) accounted for 10.8% and chose economist Christos Mavrides instead.
On the other hand, the race for the sixth seat was hotly contest by the cooperation of the socialist EDEK party (S&D) and the Greens, with the centre-left voters securing 7.6% and electing party communications director Demetris Papadakis, barely ahead of the rejectionist Citizens Alliance headed by former foreign and trade minister Yiorgos Lillikas, that had set ambitious targets of being the third biggest party.
Commentators suggested that with Cypriots re-electing the same six seats according to local party strength could also pave the way for the two biggest and rival parties DISY and AKEL to cooperate to conclude the Cyprus peace talks that have taken a new momentum since February this year.
In her first statements after the result were announced at midnight, MEP Eleni Theocharous pledged that she will always work to promote the interest of the people of Cyprus. She thanked the people for its support and expressed hope that she will be able to respond to the people`s expectations.
“We have planned our policies and we will follow them,” she said, noting there is a very heavy workload ahead.
Re-elected MEP Takis Hadjigeorgiou said that the two AKEL members will work hard to address the concerns of the people of Cyprus.
He made special reference to the Cyprus problem, saying that the MEPs of AKEL will do their utmost at the European Parliament so that a solution of the Cyprus problem is finally achieved. Hadjigeorgiou talked about the economic crisis, noting that the Left political group will work to give alternatives to those policies which cause misery in the countries of the south.
“We have the experience and we will work together with the team of the European Left and the other Cypriot MEPs on European issues and issues which concern Cyprus. Our goal is to do our utmost so that Europe supports the ongoing Cyprus talks and we achieve the reunification of our country,” added Sylikiotis.
DIKO’s Costas Mavrides referred to the “unprecedented economic crisis”, and the huge human pain it has caused, noting that “we will struggle with the rest of the MEPs of Cyprus to improve the situation.”
Soon after the results were announced, President Nicos Anastasiades expressed concern about the phenomenon of the abstentions which “must preoccupy the leaders of the EU and the political forces.”
“Of course it is not a Cyprus phenomenon. From what the Slovakian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister was telling me earlier in our meeting, the situation in Slovakia is even worse. The participation (there) did not exceed 20%,” Anastasiades said in Limassol after a meeting with Miroslav Lajcak.
He added that “this phenomenon must preoccupy the leaders of the EU and I think that it will be one of the first issues that will preoccupy us next Tuesday at the European Council. But the political forces must also be preoccupied in particular with what is driving the Cypriots, the European citizens in general to keep a certain distance from the most important of events, which is the election of the elected representatives of the European communities.”
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