Tuesday

19th Mar 2019

Ultra-right group wins seats in Cyprus

  • The ruling conservative Democratic Rally (DISY) still managed the most seats (Photo: Cypriot Parliament)

A ultra-right party has won seats for the first time in Cyprus following parliamentary elections on Sunday (22 May).

The National Popular Front (ELAM), which styles itself after the Greek neo-nazi Golden Dawn party, now has two seats after winning 3.7 percent of the votes.

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In 2011, the nationalist party won just over 1 percent.

Reuters quoted Golden Dawn leader Nikos Mihaloliakos in Athens as saying that "for the first time, Cyprus will get nationalists in its parliament".

The most recent election marks broader discontent with government policies after the financial meltdown in 2013, and, in part, on moves to reunite the island before the end of the year.

Voter turnout hit historic lows with 67.3 percent. Cyprus, along with other EU states like Belgium, Greece and Luxembourg, imposes compulsory voting.

The ruling conservative Democratic Rally (DISY) still managed the most seats with 30.6 percent followed by the Communist AKEL with 25.6 percent.

But DISY will now have 18 seats, down from 20, in Cyprus’s 56-seat chamber. AKEL will have 15 down from 19.

Other larger groups like the centrist Democratic Party DIKO and the Socialist EDEK also sustained losses.

The DISY loss may make it more difficult for president Nicos Anastasiades to end the feud between the Greek and Turk Cypriots. Cyprus had split in two after Turkish troops occupied the northern third of the island in 1974.

In a joint statement released last week, Anastasiades and his Turkish counterpart Mustafa Akinci had vowed to reach an agreement before the end of the year.

A reunified Cyprus would pave the way for Turkey's bid to one day join the European Union.

2013 financial crisis

The election results are largely attributed to the handling of the financial crisis imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.

The island nation had requested a bailout after its banking sector was drained of cash follow huge losses on Greek loans. The sector was some seven times larger than the size of Cypriot economy.

The conditions of the bailout were also sharpened following the banking sector's dubious ties to Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs and wider allegations of money laundering.

Some 40 percent of the €68 billion in Cypriot banks in 2013 was Russian held.

Cyprus was also the first ever eurozone country to impose temporary capital controls after banks had been shut down for a week.

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