Demetris Christofias completed his term in office as President of the Republic without seeking re-election, the first ever President reaching such a decision. It was commanded by his failure to deal effectively with the financial crisis and its negative effects on Cyprus that were evident since 2010, by contradictions and weaknesses of his governance in various areas, and, most importantly, the catastrophic explosion of ammunition at a military base, in Mari village, in July 2011. All these had a critical impact on AKEL and they paved the way for Nikos Anastasiades’ victory in the presidential elections of February 2013. Anastasiades’ share of votes against Stavros Malas was the second largest received by a candidate to the presidency after Makarios.

March 2013 was a dramatic month for Cyprus, as it almost brought the country to a collapse, with among other the closure of the second largest bank in Cyprus, a haircut of deposits and a high rise of unemployment. In the period that elapsed until the 2016 elections, the state of public finances improved significantly thanks to the implementation of strict fiscal measures imposed by Cyprus lenders through the European Support Mechanism. The relatively good results did not cure existing problems, they just reduced their impact, including unemployment rates. They were not good enough to diminish the dissatisfaction of the masses that was expressed in various ways, and in particular with the growing alienation from political life and abstention from elections.

The stage for the parliamentary elections of 2016 was also set by an amendment of the electoral law, proposed by DISY and supported by AKEL. The two parties agreed in increasing the electoral threshold by 100%, from about 1.8% to 3.6%. A variety of arguments were put forward by the initiators of the amendment, claiming that this was an attempt for a healthy political life, fighting corruption and excluding from parliament precarious and opportunistic schemes that did not have a positive contribution to quality political action.

It was obvious that their goal was not simply to exclude the far-right ELAM that had made its presence (and became a threat to democracy) apparent since 2011. They were also targeting other existing small parties, while dissuading persons that had the intention to create new ones. All four main parties were feeling threatened by the eventual creation of new parties by dissidents from their ranks.

New formations have already made their appearance, such as the Citizens’ Alliance-Symmahia Politon with George Lillikas and Solidarity-Allileggyi with former DISY MP and EMP Eleni Theocharous, while various groups were expressing the intention to contest the election. In the end, a total of twelve party formations participated in the election, with the number of candidates being the largest ever in the Republic of Cyprus. 488 candidates were running for the 56 seats in the House of Representatives.

A new element was also the change of leadership in DIKO. Nicholas Papadopoulos was since January 2014, the party’s new leader, who withdrew it from the Anastasiades government. The change caused intra-party tensions and distancing of some DIKO cadres from party action and politics in general.

The economy and the Cyprus Problem dominated the election campaign, a repetition to some extent of the past, albeit with the economy gaining in importance. Apathy and the alienation of voters in general continued. The situation exacerbated by the refusal of a significant number of young people to register on the electoral rolls, rejecting thus their right to vote. It is estimated that at least three out of four young people did not register, while abstention in the May election reached 33.3%. Almost half of the eligible citizens did not exercise their right to vote.

It seems that beyond reactions from smaller parties to the change of the electoral threshold, there has also been anger from large parts of the voters too. This is evident from the significant increase in the vote share for all small formations, with no clear indication that this vote was in support of the positions or proposals of these parties. The election results featured an increase of 50% of the abstention rate compared to 2011, while some new formations received a significant number of votes although they failed to enter the parliament. However, eight parties in total won seats in the House, with the strongest among the small parties being the Citizens’ Alliance –Symmahia Politon (6% and three seats) only 0.2% behind EDEK, which suffered heavy losses (6.2%, 3 seats). Next was Solidarity -Allileggyi with 5.2% and three seats, the Ecologists who had more than doubled their share to 4.8% and two seats, and ELAM which just exceeded the electoral threshold with 3.7% and got two seats.

AKEL also suffered significant losses, recording the lowest performance ever (25.7%), while DISY, with 30.7%, also lost 3.6 points. Finally, DIKO’s share was reduced by 1.3 points, which under the circumstances was considered by their leadership a satisfactory performance.