An amended elections bill to go before the House plenum for approval does not provide for automatic registration of all eligible new voters in the island’s electoral roll.
The main reason is political parties’ fear being exposed by an alarming increase in abstention rate, insiders told us.
But the official line is that the Elections Service does not have ‘credible evidence’ to allow registration of all over 18-year-olds residing in Cyprus six months prior to their registration.
“Why should I allow the over-swelling of the roll when there is no credible evidence that a 50 or 60-year-old for example who never cast a vote in his life is actually a permanent resident of Cyprus?” said Demetris Demetriou who heads the Service.
“Automatic registration applies only to eligible Turkish Cypriots, for political reasons, and to all those who turn 18 three months after the official publication of the new law. The rest have to register the old way,” he added.
However, insiders said the main reason for excluding automatic registration for all is the rising apathy of voters.
“Abstention was high enough in previous recent past elections and it will only get worse. The parties know that and want to avoid the bad exposure,” one told us. The numbers speak for themselves. Of the 18,000 new voters who have been notified of being eligible to register in the European Parliament elections of May 25, only about 600 have responded so far.
“It is probably the worse response we ever had, we can’t recall such a high apathy level, and it is the same with the overseas Cypriot voters too,” Demetriou said.
The deadline for registration is Wednesday, April 2, and the deadline for submission of candidacies is Friday, May 2.
The government is to set up overseas voting booths in nine big cities of Greece, in Britain’s London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds, and in Brussels.
Cyprus elects six members at the European Parliament and the electoral system is based on proportional representation.
There are some 95,000 Turkish Cypriots holding Republic of Cyprus ID cards which allows them to automatically register. This paves the way for them to elect two MEPs if they choose to participate, if they give up efforts to gain observer status in the EP – a gesture signaling recognition of the breakaway ‘state’ in the occupied north.
The overall number of registered voters is now close to 550,000 with some 6,000 being EU nationals – based on the numbers who voted back in the 2011 municipal elections. This number is due to change because a lot have left debt-ridden Cyprus since then.
This year’s EP elections will be the third in which Cyprus is participating since it joined the EU in May 2004.