Cyprus voters go to the polls to elect new parliament

A passenger plane approaches Larnaca airport before landing as a woman walks past sunbeds at Makenzy Beach in the southern Cypriot port city on May 23, 2021. (ETIENNE TORBEY / AFP)

Cyprus elects a new parliament on Sunday in a process likely to show a decline in support for major parties and a sizeable abstention rate among voters angered by corruption scandals.

More than 10 political parties or formations, fielding a record 659 candidates, are seeking seats in a vote which will not likely produce an absolute majority given this has not been the outcome for several decades.

Cyprus – divided among its Greek and Turkish Cypriot populations but whose government controls the Greek Cypriot side – has an executive system of government and the poll is a test run for allegiances which may be formed ahead of presidential elections scheduled in 2023

Cyprus – divided among its Greek and Turkish Cypriot populations but whose government controls the Greek Cypriot side – has an executive system of government and the poll is a test run for allegiances which may be formed ahead of presidential elections scheduled in 2023.

Incumbent president Nicos Anastasiades of the right-wing Democratic Rally party is into his second-five year term.

Opinion polls suggest smaller parties are likely to benefit from repeated scandals in recent years, eroding the dominance of Anastasiades's party and the Communist AKEL, the other traditional mainstay of Cypriot politics.

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"A big part of voters are fully disappointed with mainstream parties," said political analyst Christophoros Christophorou.

The present administration has been under fire for championing a lucrative cash-for-passports scheme it had to abandon amid allegations of corruption in November 2020. 

More recently, a presidential commissioner was last week placed under investigation for discrepancies in his high school and university diplomas. His high-paying state job overseeing volunteer work was created at the height of the 2013 financial crisis which saw thousands lose their bank savings and triggered an EU bailout.

Surveys have shown the fringe far-right ELAM party almost doubling its support from 2016, when it first elected two MPs to parliament. Similarly the Greens party, fielding a diverse group of mainly young candidates, is also set to make inroads.

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But abstention may be a key feature of Sunday's election. In 2016 it hit a high of 33.3 percent.

"The issue of corruption … benefits the small parties but it is also an issue which feeds the abstention rate," Christophorou said.

Just over 558,000 people have the right to vote for 56 deputies in Cyprus's House of Representatives in elections held every five years. Polling stations open at 0400 GMT and voting ends at 1500 GMT.