February 6, 2008

This can be a strange place at times.

Right now the country is in the grip of presidential election fever. Every five years the country goes to the polls to decide on a new president. All citizens over the age of 18 are entitled to vote but voting can only take place in Cyprus. That struck us as rather strange.

Many (most?) countries have facilities for citizens living, working or travelling overseas to cast their vote, either in an embassy or via postal votes. Apparently for that to be possible in Cyprus there would need to be an act of parliament and that has never taken place … so, if people want to vote they have to be here at some point between 17 and 24 February when voting takes places.

The race is said to be too close to call right now and as a result all parties are doing their best to make sure they don’t miss any possible votes.

Which brings us back to those folks living overseas. If you were a political party and you had a few million Euro to spare and needed some votes would you hire a fleet of jumbos to fly potential voters back to the island? Well, that’s the plan here. Depending who you believe the three parties are planning on funding the cost of returns flights to Cyprus for people who want to come back and vote, no matter where they are in the world.

According to the Cyprus Mail

“Thousands of Cypriots will be flown into the island this month by the three main candidates vying for top spot in the presidential elections. But exactly how many are coming over, who they will vote for and whether they even own voting books is anyone’s guess.

If the polls are anything to go by, the elections will be a tight race and every vote will count which is why the three main contenders have invested millions into bringing ‘supporters’ back to the island.Fokaides estimated that the whole system of flying voters back cost around seven to eight million euro in total. As to numbers, Fokaides refused to be drawn in, saying only they had received an unprecedented number of requests for tickets from all over Europe and America, mostly from students. He rejected reports suggesting that DISY were bringing around 6,000 voters over, a little less than the 7,500 reported for AKEL. The DISY official said the number of travelling voters was about equal with AKEL’s, while claiming the Papadopoulos camp only had 60 per cent of that figure.

DISY and AKEL have offered to pay two thirds of ticket costs for their voters while the Papadopoulos campaign office are flying their voters over for free. According to one Papadopoulos campaigner, 29 charter flights have been booked for Tassos voters, including five jumbo jets with 400-plus capacity. He estimated the total figure to be around 7,500 people.”

Of course it is a private ballot so will people vote for the party that flew them back, or will they fly back with the opposition to increase their costs rather than those of the party they want to win? That aside, there is much speculation that people will make use of these flights to come back and visit family and may not get around to voting at all ;-)

Meanwhile, until all of this is over the proposed water rationing has been postponed. Apparently the incumbent political party called a halt to the restrictions as they were concerned it would cost them too many votes.

Seems it doesn’t matter where in the world you go, politicians are the same everywhere!


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