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18 July, 2024
 
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Elections expected to reshape political landscape

Municipal and European elections could redefine traditional parties, leadership dynamics, and the rise of the far right

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*Excerpts from Marina Economidou's article on Kathimerini's printed edition on Sunday 2/6/2024

As Cyprus prepares for the upcoming municipal and European elections, the political landscape faces significant transformations. The combined electoral contests, alongside internal party dynamics, are intensifying political risks, potentially affecting the future of traditional parties, leadership battles, local impressions, third-place contention, far-right ascension, intermediate party reclassification, and the next presidential term.

The trend of anti-politics

Phidias Panayiotou's rise in the polls signifies potential shifts in Cypriot politics. This could herald an era of anti-politics, where voter anger leads to the replacement of traditional politicians with social media influencers. Similar trends have been observed in other countries, such as Italy's Five Star Movement. The popularity of figures like President Nicos Christodoulides and Parliament Speaker Anita Demetriou, built on social media presence rather than political positions, reflects this shift. Panayiotou's influence could challenge traditional parties, like ELAM and the Democratic Party, by blurring ideological boundaries and attracting reactionary votes.

Annita and Stefanos in the battle for the lead

The battle for electoral dominance between DISY, led by Annita Demetriou, and AKEL, led by Stefanos Stefanou, is heating up. DISY employs a strategy of ideological confrontation, positioning AKEL and ELAM as equally dangerous extremes, while AKEL avoids high confrontation to attract right-wing voters. Poll scenarios suggest varying outcomes for both parties, with potential impacts on their leadership and future electoral strategies.

Percentages and scenarios

For Demetriou, maintaining or surpassing a 27% lead secures her political standing and sets sights on the 2026 general elections. A lower percentage could prompt internal challenges. Stefanou aims for a clear primary victory to strengthen AKEL's position for future elections. Loss of the second seat could trigger internal dissent and challenge his leadership.

The gamble of change

Stefanou views the elections as a stepping stone to future victories. A primary win establishes his political legitimacy, while a loss, especially to a newly formed party like Volt, could incite internal party conflicts. AKEL's strategy focuses on attracting centrist and broader left voters, aiming to mitigate losses to parties with similar positions.

The riddle of the Turkish Cypriots

The participation of Turkish Cypriots, crucial in previous elections, could significantly impact results. AKEL leverages Turkish Cypriot votes, understanding their potential to boost party ratings. DISY, conversely, may use their participation to claim broader appeal if they secure the primary through these votes.

The municipal elections

Local government elections hold high stakes despite reduced political involvement. For Demetriou, winning key municipalities like Nicosia, Limassol, and Paphos is crucial. Poor results could highlight leadership missteps. For AKEL, success in these elections validates their broader electoral strategy and mitigates internal discontent.

Looking for a lifeline

Nicolas Papadopoulos' DIKO faces threats from ELAM, risking a loss of third place. Maintaining voter support from previous elections is critical. Internal party dynamics and potential leadership changes loom if results falter. The survival of coalition partners like EPP and the Democratic Party also hinges on these elections, with possible future mergers considered for political survival.

The President in the grip of allies

President Nicos Christodoulides' government faces scrutiny post-elections. Poor results for co-governing parties could raise questions of cohesion and stability. A balanced outcome maintains a window of cooperation with DISY, crucial for parliamentary support.

The rise of the far right and the next day

ELAM's potential double-digit percentage and third-place contention could normalize far-right influence. Internal dynamics within ELAM, reflecting hardline versus renewal ideologies, will shape future alliances and strategies. Other parties, especially DISY, must decide between ideological delineation or potential cooperation with ELAM.

The June 9 elections will be pivotal in reshaping Cyprus' political landscape, determining the survival and evolution of parties and political figures for years to come.

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