The situation in mid-2019, when European elections were held was quite different than the respective period of 2014, although the same government was in power; Nicos Anastasiades won a second term, in February 2018, beating for a second time the AKEL candidate Stavros Malas; the economy had recovered, with unemployment rate at around 6.5%. Cyprus was under post-MoU monitoring by its creditors since March 2016, when it exited the MoU of 2013. Almost two years had elapsed since the collapse of the negotiations in Crans Montana, for finding a solution to the Cyprus Problem and no sign of resumption of the talks was in view.

The May 2016 parliamentary elections saw all four major parties loosing votes compared to 2011; their combined votes in 2011 amounted to 370,000, the total of their losses in 2016 was 100,000. Politics and politicians were facing distrust by citizens, while no sign of reversing the trend was visible. In the period preceding and after each election, political parties and the executive had been expressing their concern about the indifference or apathy of the electorate leading to a rise of abstention rates. However, they have never promoted any concrete measures and they have failed to prove that their concerns were genuine, going beyond paying lip service to the need to “do something about it”.

A record number of parties and small formations participated in the elections; DISY (Δημοκρατικός Συναγερμός – Democratic Rally), AKEL (Ανορθωτικό Κόμμα Εργαζομένου Λαού – Progressive Party of the Working People), DIKO (Δημοκρατικό Κόμμα – Democratic Party) and EDEK (Ενιαία Δημοκρατική Ένωση Κέντρου – United Democratic Union of the Center) and ELAM (Εθνικό Λαϊκό Μέτωπο – National Popular Front) contested the election each with their own ticket of candidates. The Citizens Alliance (Συμμαχία Πολιτών) joined forces with the Ecologists Environmentalists (Οικολόγοι – Περιβαλλοντιστές). To the small formations that participated in the previous election, Animal Party (Κόμμα για Τα Ζώα) and the Cyprus Socialist Party (Σοσιαλιστικό Κόμμα Κύπρου), new ones were added; they were Jasmin Movement (Κίνημα Γιασεμί),   Patriotic Movement (Πατριωτικό Κίνημα), EAK (Εθνικιστικό Απελευθερωτικό Κίνημα – Nationalistic Liberation Movement) and OAD (Οργάνωση Αγωνιστών Δικαιοσύνης – Organisation of Fighters for Justice). Along with the above, a DIKO splitter party, headed by its former chairperson Marios Garoyian was founded in 2018 under the name DEPA (Δημοκρατική Παράταξη – Democratic Front) and contested its first election.

The European Parliament, in its announcement of the elections, prioritized migration, the ascendance of the extreme right and threats from Russia and China. Cypriot parties were late in presenting their electoral proposals, with each party choosing to include in its program a different number of issues and giving it a different perspective. It was interesting to note differences in viewpoints, the topics and the range of subjects each chose, to the point that it was impossible in some cases to compare positions. When examining the kind of issues selected for the campaign, one wonders whether this was a European or a national election, because focus was on subjects with a purely local character and interest.  In most cases, no link or perspective with a European framework existed. For example, problems and proposals related to education were approached exclusively with a focus on the Cypriot educational system without the slightest link to principles, policies and objectives of the European Union. In addition to choosing purely local issues, the main themes and challenges or the vision for Europe were completely absent from most party programs. With the exception of EDEK and AKEL, all other parties drafted their electoral manifestos as if the vote was for members to the House of Representatives or even for local authorities.

In brief, instead of seeking the citizens’ vote in connection to the nature of the election, based on each party’s vision of Europe and the role the European Parliament plays, the campaign remained stack to local issues. They failed to inform citizens about the role of and what to expect from these institutions, especially from the elections outcome.

DISY resorted to a campaign with a strong anti-communist colour attempting to present AKEL as a danger to democracy in the same vein as the far right ELAM. Their rhetoric seemed reminiscent of discourses of the 1970s and 1980s. Also, the inclusion on AKEL’s ticket of a Turkish Cypriot academic, which was seemingly ensuring votes from Turkish Cypriots, who were for the second European election given the right to vote, alarmed DISY leaders, who attacked both the candidate and AKEL; they repeatedly questioned the intentions of the candidate, accusing him as agent of Turkish Cypriot or Turkish interests.

The allocation of the six Cyprus seats, as predicted by opinion polls, were expected to change, with EDEK’s one seat going to the extremists of ELAM. This led to a harsh confrontation of the two parties with EDEK multiplying its attacks against the neo-Nazi offspring of the Greek Golden Dawn party. However, there was no sign that EDEK’s attempt could succeed.

DISY’s anticommunist rhetoric and fierce attacks against AKEL and its Turkish Cypriot candidate failed; worse than that, the party lost almost nine points, falling from  37.8% in 2014 to  29%.  AKEL increased its score by a mere half point (27.5%), while DIKO (13.8%) and EDEK (10.6%) won each around three points. Despite opinion polls and predictions pointing to the contrary, EDEK’s good performance helped it keep its seat in the European Parliament. It seems that voters of the party who abstained from the ballots in the past felt the need to mobilise themselves in order to avert a win by the extreme right. This eventuality was not recorded by opinion polls.

The score of the far right ELAM (8.25%) was, nevertheless, a big success, despite not managing to win the seat. This was 5.5% higher than its 2014 percentage, while in terms of votes the increase was higher than 200%.

DISY and AKEL secured two seats each, DIKO and EDEK one seat each.