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Far right party makes gains in Cyprus parliamentary election

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The far-right ELAM party and a centrist splinter group made significant gains in parliamentary elections in Cyprus on Sunday.
The far-right ELAM party and a centrist splinter group made significant gains in parliamentary elections in Cyprus on Sunday.   -   Copyright  Petros Karadjias/AP
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The far-right ELAM party and a centrist splinter group made significant gains in parliamentary elections in Cyprus on Sunday.

With all the votes counted, the center-right DISY emerged in first place with 27.77 per cent of the vote, followed by the communist-rooted AKEL party.

But the frontrunners respectively lost 2.9 and 3.3 per cent of their support bases from the previous election, while ELAM won 6.78 per cent of the vote, almost double its share in 2016, and the centrist DIPA gained 6.1 per cent.

“The result isn't what we expected,” AKEL General-Secretary Andros Kyprianou told a party rally. “We respect it and we'll examine it carefully to draw conclusions, but we can now say that we failed to convince."

The polls opened as normal on Sunday to the island's 558,000 eligible voters, who were choosing between 21 political parties for the 56 Greek Cypriot seats in parliament.

Turnout was 65.73 per cent, just 1 per cent lower than in the previous poll despite the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

Business as usual?

In the run-up to the vote, opinion polls had suggested the country’s two main parties would lose support. ELAM, with its strident anti-migration platform and hardline nationalist polies, appeared to have drawn some disenfranchised voters away.

The election won’t affect the running of the government on the divided Mediterranean island nation, as executive power rests in the hands of the president, who is elected separately.

Casting his ballot earlier on Sunday, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades urged citizens to “abandon the couch” and vote so they wouldn't “give others the right to decide for them”.

Smaller parties had appealed to voters to turn their backs on the DISY party, which they said was burdened by a legacy of corruption.

An independent investigation into a now-defunct investment-for-citizenship programme found it had unlawfully granted passports to thousands of relatives of wealthy investors, some with shady pasts.

DISY bore the brunt of the criticism because it backs the policies of Nicos Anastasiades, the party’s former leader.

In the final days of campaigning, DISY President Averof Neophytou appealed to traditional supporters not to turn parliament into a collection of fractured, smaller parties that would gridlock the legislative process.