The year of pivotal elections in the Eastern Mediterranean
Important elections will take place in three Eastern Mediterranean nations in 2023. The people of Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus will elect their new governments soon following the elections in Israel, which resulted in the establishment of the nation's new, far-right government.
Greece will hold parliamentary elections in the middle of the year under a new simple proportional representation electoral system. In Turkey, a new five-year government will be chosen with Recep Tayyip Erdogan's administration and the opposition’s candidate as the nominees.
In Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades' ten-year administration will come to an end in February 2023. The Cypriot people will choose the future president of the European nation of Cyprus, who will serve in office through 2028.
Greece is moving toward a new coalition government
By the end of the first half of 2023, Greece is predicted to hold elections for the country's new parliament. A new proportional representation system will be used in Greece's elections. Greek analysts predict that the new system will open the door once more for coalition governments in the Balkan nation.
According to the most recent studies, the conservative New Democracy (ND) party, which is now in power, continues to lead the list of Greek political parties. Following the New Democracy is The Coalition of the Radical Left – Progressive Alliance (SYRIZA), the largest center-left party in Greece. The gap between the two parties has recently shrunk, mainly as a result of the Kyriakos Mitsotakis administration’s difficulties in dealing with several issues, including the economic crisis and core constitutional liberties.
According to a recent poll, the results released in the Greek media during the last days of 2022, in the intention to vote by reduction to the valid ones, ND leads SYRIZA by 8.1 percent. Kyriakos Mitsotakis is thought to be the most capable of handling the nation's serious issues.
If elections were held today, the proportion of the ND would be 33.4 percent (+0.5% from the previous assessment), according to the survey's findings. Following with 25,3 percent (+0.6%) is SYRIZA. Although two new far-right parties have recently gained a lot of support, they are not expected to surpass the 3 percent election barrier and enter parliament by today's norms. The center-left PASOK-Movement for Change (10.5%, -1.1%), the Greek Communist Party (5.8%), the far-right Greek Solution (4.1%), and the European Marxist MeRA25 are expected to enter the new Greek parliament (3.1%).
The recent poll finds that 54.5 percent of Greeks believe Mitsotakis is most suited to defend the nation's interests against Turkey, and 50.1 percent believe he is best suited to handle crises (50.1 percent). According to reports, 31.1 percent of citizens favor a single-party ND government, while 16.5 percent favor a coalition government with ND at the center.
Another five years of Erdogan's rule?
Two factions square off in Turkey's upcoming legendary electoral clash. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's alliance is determined to hold on power in the forthcoming elections. The coalition of six opposition parties aims to end Erdogan's long reign. The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which is mainly backed by Kurds and some left-wing elements in Turkey, is expected to play a significant role in the formation of the new government of the Middle Eastern regional power. Turkish citizens will concurrently elect their government for the next five years with Greek citizens.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has allied with nationalist elements during the past ten years and drifted away from the aim of democratization and EU membership, now faces formidable obstacles. In recent years, Turkey's economic crisis has gotten worse. The value of the Turkish lira and citizens' purchasing power is steadily declining as inflation escalates at an uncontrollable rate. In these circumstances, the AKP supports major public projects, dramatic foreign policy maneuvers, and, once more, uses conservative language and nationalism to maintain power.
Erdogan is preparing Turkey for significant constitutional reforms that are expected to open the door for the free usage of the headscarf in public life alongside presidential and parliamentary elections. In addition, it uses militaristic language in Syria's northern region and the Aegean. He is also working behind the scenes to have the democratically elected mayor of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality dismissed and the HDP, Turkey's third-largest party, banned, pushing democracy and constitutional order to their breaking points.
Midway through 2023, six opposition groups that have united and agreed on the objective of Turkey's restoration to parliamentary democracy hope to end Erdogan's authoritarianism. In the upcoming weeks, it is expected that the alliance led by the secular Republican People's Party (CHP) will be selected to run Turkey's presidential election.
According to all recent research conducted in Turkey, the HDP will be crucial to the outcome of the elections. The Kurdish movement is expected to decide the outcome because Turkey's two biggest political parties have a combined vote of 40–44%.
Cyprus elects new President
Nikos Christodoulides, a former foreign minister of Cyprus who is backed by the parties in the so-called centrist space, is still seen as the overwhelming favorite to succeed Nicos Anastasiades as President of the Republic in the final stretch of the campaign for the Cypriot presidential elections on February 5.
Recent surveys show that the former government spokesperson and former foreign minister of the Anastasiades government has managed to maintain a lead of almost 10% over his two primary challengers, backed by the two major parties in Cyprus, despite any setbacks. They are Andreas Mavroyiannis, an independent backed by the left-leaning Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL), and Averof Neophytou, the President of The Democratic Rally party (DISY). The DISY is the largest Greek Cypriot political party. The AKEL represents the Cypriot left. The two are in a contest to reach the second round of the presidential election on February 12, with all possibilities open because the percentages they accumulate in the polls do not guarantee their participation in the second round of the presidential elections.
The most recent survey shows that Andreas Mavroyiannis, a candidate for AKEL, has an almost 2 percent advantage over the DISY president. According to the poll performed recently for Alpha TV station, Nikos Christodoulides has 32.9 percent in the vote intention. Mavroyiannis comes in second with 19.7% of the vote, followed by Neophytou in third with 17.9%, and in fourth and fifth place, respectively, are the leader of the far-right National Popular Front (ELAM) Christos Christou and the independent candidate Achilleas Dimitriadis.
Eastern Mediterranean at a pivotal moment
The Eastern Mediterranean is at a turning point due to elections in three important regional nations. The results of the elections will affect developments in various areas, including the situation in northern Syria, the Cyprus issue, the Eastern Mediterranean's oil reserves, and the Aegean scenario.
The return of Turkey to parliamentary democracy will be framed by a shift in the general picture regarding the issues mentioned above if the opposition alliance in Turkey is successful in winning the election.
The results of the elections in Cyprus and Greece each have a unique role to play. The success of the Eastern Mediterranean gas project in Europe and the restart of talks on the Cyprus issue will primarily depend on the new Cypriot administration and events in Turkey.
The new Greek government will also need to make crucial decisions about various matters, including the Greek-Turkish dispute, the difficulties relating to fundamental constitutional rights, inflation control, and the new economic crisis.
*Dr Nikolaos Stelgias was born in Istanbul. He is an independent researcher, writer, historian and journalist. His doctorate is in the field of the modern Turkish political system (Panteion University, 2011). His latest book “The Ailing Turkish Democracy” was published by the Cambridge Scholars Publication in 2020. Dr. Stelgias was a correspondent of the newspaper "Kathimerini (Cyprus edition)" for Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community from 2009 to 2021. Currently, Dr. Stelgias works at the Cyprus News Agency. Dr. Stelgias publishes in Turkish news articles and analyses on Cyprus and Greece.