A proportional system, introduced in 1995, is in force for parliamentary elections. The threshold was set to 1/56 (about 1.79%) of valid votes, which equals the number of votes required for occupying one of the 56 House seats. In 2015, the threshold for securing entry into the parliament was doubled, raised to 3.6%. Proportionality replaced a reinforced proportional system, which was voted in 1979-80, and set very high thresholds. It required that a party wins a seat and secures 8% of valid votes or, alternately, secures 10% of the vote to enter the House. This made it extremely difficult if not impossible for any new party to secure a parliamentary representation.
A plurality system was first applied in parliamentary elections in Cyprus, from 1960 to 1976. Reminiscent of the British rule over the island, this was an FPTP system in six multi-seat constituencies, which allowed the voter to choose across party tickets. It ultimately led to its manipulation by shifting /directing votes from one party to another, thus altering the real strength of parties. As a result of its side-effects the will of the people had been altered, leading among other to the exclusion from the House of a party that secured 27% of the vote.
Proportional system
In June 1995 the House of Representatives amended the Electoral Law and adopted proportional representation. According to the new system, every party or independent candidate receiving overall at least 1/56 (1.79%) of valid votes secured its entry into the House of Representatives. The allocation of seats was done as follows:
Cyprus was divided into six constituencies, corresponding to the six administrative districts. A number of seats were attributed to each constituency. Voters could vote for a party and give preference votes to individual candidates on the party list. The number of preference votes was defined by dividing the number of seats in a district by four and rounding to the higher digit.
The number of seats for the Greek community was increased to 56 (up from 35) in 1985 and the allocation of seats and preference votes was set as follows:
Constituency | Seats | Votes |
---|---|---|
Nicosia | 21* | 6* |
Kerynia | 3 | 1 |
Ammochostos | 11 | 3 |
Larnaka | 5 | 2 |
Lemesos | 12 | 3 |
Pafos | 4 | 1 |
*As from 2011 – Nicosia has 20 (5 preference votes) and Larnaca 6 seats
The first distribution of seats takes place by constituency. When the vote counting is completed and after blank and non-valid ballot papers are excluded, the number of valid votes is divided by the number of seats in the constituency. The result defines the threshold for the constituency and parties that have secured an equal or higher to the threshold number of votes take part in the allocation of seats. The number of seats for each constituency was defined according to its share in the total of the registered voters, which normally would lead to electoral thresholds that are about the same in all constituencies. However, differences do exist, due to the fact that each constituency has a different rate of population growth, different number of abstentions, blank and non-valid ballots.
Example for 1996 – Results
Constituency | Valid votes | Seats | Electoral quotient | Percentage
100 / #seats |
---|---|---|---|---|
Nicosia | 135944 | 21 | 6473 | 100/21=4,76% |
Kerynia | 19031 | 3 | 6343 | 100/3= 33,33% |
Ammochostos | 73078 | 11 | 6643 | 100/11=9,09% |
Larnaka | 35245 | 5 | 7049 | 100/5=20,00% |
Lemesos | 77467 | 12 | 6455 | 100/12=8,33% |
Pafos | 28756 | 4 | 7189 | 100/4=25,00% |
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Example for 2011 – ResultsConstituency | Valid votes | Seats | Electoral quotient | 100 / #seats |
---|---|---|---|---|
Λευκωσία | 142285 | 20 | 7114 | 100/20 = 5% |
Κερύνεια | 21090 | 3 | 7030 | 100/3 = 33.3% |
Αμμόχωστος | 83294 | 11 | 7572 | 100/11 = 9.09% |
Λάρνακα | 42000 | 6 | 7000 | 100/6 = 16.67% |
Λεμεσός | 83364 | 12 | 6947 | 100/12 = 8.33% |
Πάφος | 32544 | 4 | 8136 | 100/4 = 25% |
The decisive role of the electoral threshold is best understood when votes are viewed as percentage of the total votes in a constituency. Since the number of seats is different, the same number of votes is translated into a different percentage.
Each party will win as many seats as the number of times the electoral threshold will go into the total number of votes it has received.
Example from 1996 election: Nicosia had 21 seats and the threshold was 6473 votes.
The Democratic Rally was placed first since it received 46935 votes, which were divided by 6473 and gave 7.25. Thus the party was allocated seven (7) seats and had 1624 remaining votes that were used in the second phase of seat distribution.
The same procedure was followed for all parties and in all six constituencies.
In the above example, the Democratic Rally received in Nicosia 7 (seven) seats and votes equivalent to 0.25 seats were used for the second distribution.
Parties had the right to participate in the second distribution provided they had received 1/56 or approximately 1.79% of the vote island wide. To this end, a coalition of parties needs to secure 10% of the votes [as from 2016, the threshold is set to 3,6% of valid votes].
Independent candidates are not allowed, under the law to participate in the second distribution.
For the second distribution of seats the Republic is considered as one constituency.
In order to determine the number of seats to be assigned to each party in the second distribution, the total number of unused votes (remainders) of all parties participating in the second distribution, were added up.
(The unused votes of the parties which are not entitled to participate in the second distribution as well as the unused votes of the independent candidates are not taken into account).
The total number of unused votes is then divided by the number of seats not allocated in the first distribution. The result will represent the electoral threshold for the second distribution. The total number of unused votes throughout the island of each party or coalition of parties taking part in the second distribution is summed up and divided by the electoral threshold. The quotient indicates the number of seats each party or coalition will win in the second distribution.
Seats are distributed as follows:
The parties are ranked according to the number of unused votes remaining from the first distribution. This ranking will determine the order in which the parties will be allocated seats in the second distribution.
Each seat is allocated in turn to the party or coalition in the constituency in which it has the highest number of unused votes and provided seats are available.
If there are not available seats in a constituency in which the party or coalition has the highest number of unused votes, that party will win a seat in the constituency in which it has the next highest number of unused votes.
This is repeated with the other parties taking part in the second distribution. The entire procedure is repeated, with the same order until all seats are allocated.
In the 1996 elections, AKEL, the Democratic Rally (DISY), the Democratic Party (DIKO), EDEK and the Free Democrats Movement (KED) participated in the second round of seat allocation. They had in total 91694 unused votes while 16 (sixteen) seats were to be allocated between these parties. The threshold thus defined was 5371 votes which was the divider of each of the above five parties remaining votes. We note that this threshold is lower than the threshold for the first allocation of seats. The division gave the following:
AKEL: Unused votes /threshold =3.02 DISY: Unused votes /threshold =3.82 DIKO: Unused votes /threshold =3.80 EDEK: Unused votes /threshold =2.98 KED: Unused votes /threshold =2.37
After the allocation of seats that was respectively 3+3+3+2+2=13, there were 3 (three) remaining seats to be assigned in the final phase. Only parties having secured more than 2/56 or 3.56% [in 2016 this is set to 7,2%] of the total vote have the right to participate in this final seat allocation stage.
So, the three seats were assigned to EDEK, to DISY and to DIKO.
The distribution of seats in the first stage of seat allocation is done by constituency, proceeding from the strongest party in the constituency, then it continues to the second, third etc strongest party until all parties that have secured a number of votes larger than the threshold receive their seat(s).
The seats are won by those candidates who have received the higher number of preference votes within the party’s list. In case of candidates having an equal number of preference votes, the seat is assigned according to the order they appear on the ballot, which is alphabetical.
The second distribution starts from the party having the larger number of unused votes on island wide basis. The party receives the first seat in the constituency where it has the biggest number of unused votes and continues to the next ones. In case there are no remaining seats in a constituency, the party receives one in the next constituency.
Reinforced proportional representation
A system of reinforced proportional representation was in force from 1979-80 until 1995, when proportional representation was introduced. The system was the same with the proportional described above with a fundamental difference relevant to the threshold: No party could participate in the second distribution of seats unless it had secured one seat from the first distribution and at least 8% of the vote island wide or 10% without a seat. A coalition of parties needed at least 25% of the vote.
The principles and the procedure to follow with regard to the distribution of seats were as in the proportional system, taking into account the limitations relevant to the threshold.
The system was applied in the 1981, 1985 and 1991 elections.
Plurality system
The plurality system was in force in the first years of independence, in the 1960, 1970 and 1976 elections. It was an FPTP system, where candidates receiving the largest number of preference votes were elected. Thus, a party could receive all the seats in one constituency provided all its candidates ended on top of the others. On the other hand, parties with a high appeal and high share of votes could win no seats.
A decisive factor of the system was the possibility for the voter to give votes of preference equal to the number of seats in the constituency, while also having the right to vote across party lists (block vote).
The plurality system created the conditions for manipulation in such a way that the result was decided before the elections and in a way that excluded sizeable political parties from entering the parliament and distorted the people’s will:
- In 1970, the largest party, AKEL, which could secure all the seats provided there were no coalitions, preferred to present candidates to only 9 (nine) out of 35 seats. The party directed preference votes of its supporters to other parties (EDEK and Progressive Front) in order not to allow the United National Party (Eniaion) to win the majority of seats.
- In 1976, an electoral coalition between AKEL, the Democratic Front (DIKO) and EDEK presented lists where the total number of their candidates was equal to the number of seats in each constituency. They called their supporters to vote across party lists for their candidates securing in this way the majority of votes for all their candidates. They succeeded in excluding the Democratic Rally from parliament, despite the fact that its overall share was about 27%. Moreover, DIKO’s (agreed in advance with its partners) share in seats was 60% for an estimated vote share of less than 25%.
The plurality system was replaced in 1979-80 by a proportional system with the threshold set to 8% and a seat or 10% overall.