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Cyprus votes for new parliament

Greek Cypriots have been to the polls in parliamentary elections viewed as a gauge of support for President Nicos Anastasiades. The vote comes at a crucial time in unification talks with Turkish Cypriots.

Polls in the run-up to Sunday's election suggest voters will back the conservative Democratic Rally (DISY) and other smaller parties supporting President Anastasiades, while the left-wing AKEL is expected to come in second

The centrist Democratic Party is polling in third place.

No one party is expected to win an absolute majority in the 56-seat House of Representatives.

Popular discontent and apathy could lead to low voter turnout, in which case smaller fringe parties might pass the 3.6-percent electoral threshold.

This prospect has been a concern to politicians from the two traditional mainstream parties, DISY and AKEL, which have both urged voters to go to the polls. Analysts say low voter turnout could fracture parliament and weaken support for mainstream parties.

Five parties are in the outgoing parliament, while up to eight could enter the new parliament.

One result to look out for is whether the far-right, fascist ELAM is able to get over the threshold.

Top issues

The election campaign was dominated by the issue of the reunification of the island, which has been divided since a 1974 Turkish military intervention in the northern part in response to a pro-Greece coup that unsettled a delicate ethnic balance.

UN-backed talks between Anastasiades and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci are at a critical stage, with both sides optimistic there could finally be a breakthrough.

Watch video 07:19

Interview with President of Northern Cyprus Mustafa Akinci

Another top issue is the fallout from near-bankruptcy in 2013. Cyprus navigated out of the financial crisis with the help of a eurozone bailout agreement and has returned to growth.

But some voters remain upset over austerity measures tied to international loans and the harsh government response over the banking sector and depositor accounts.

Persistently high unemployment and low wages add to discontent, as does the widespread feeling that a return to growth has not been translated into better lives for average citizens.

Cyprus has an executive system of government in which the president is directly elected and appoints ministers. Parliament is the legislative and oversight body.

Anastasiades'term in office ends in February 2018.

cw/tj (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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