Nicosia – Just over half a million Greek Cypriots go to the polls on Sunday in parliamentary elections seen as a crucial indicator ahead of the presidential race in 2013.

The May 22 elections will determine the 56 members of the next five-year term of the House of Representatives, a mainly legislative body with no executive powers. The island’s executive president is elected by a direct vote.

This will be the 10th parliamentary polls since the Republic of Cyprus was established in 1960.

Sunday’s electoral process is especially significant since OSCE observers will be monitoring the elections, Chief Returning Officer Lazaros Savvides has told a press conference, in view of the parliamentary elections.

He said their presence does not intimidate the Election Service, expressing the hope that things will run smoothly as they have done in previous elections.

Savvides said that a total of 531,136 persons are registered to vote, a number which is 30 percent higher than the 2006 parliamentary elections.

“We hope that during these elections too, voters will come forward in an orderly manner and exercise their right to vote”, he said, adding that all polling stations are ready for Sunday’s poll.

A total of 8.500 civil servants will work on the day of the elections.

Polls will open at 0700 local time (0400 GMT) and close at 1830 with a one-hour break at noon. Votes will be counted at local electoral centers and final results on the percentage secured by the parties as well as the number of the seats allocated to parties in the new parliament, are expected to be announced around 2300 local time.

Savvides reminded everybody that on midnight Friday, the pre-election campaign wraps up and all party banners must be removed. Savvides said nothing can be done to control the messages that are being relayed through the internet and social networks.

A total of 1203 polling stations will operate in Cyprus and overseas and a further 17 for the election of the representatives of the three religious groups (Armenians, Maronites and Latins). Polling stations will also operate in Athens, Patra, Salonica, London and Manchester.

The enclaved (Greek Cypriots living in the northern Turkish occupied part of Cyprus) will vote at two polling stations in Nicosia while a special polling station will operate in the Central Prisons.

Turkish Cypriot voters will be voting at polling stations with Greek Cypriot voters.

Savvides said that those who have lost their election booklets can still replace them by 1300 Saturday.

Twenty of the 56 parliamentary seats are allocated to Nicosia electoral district, 12 to Limassol, 11 to Famagusta, 6 to Larnaca, 4 to Paphos and 3 to Kerynia.

Seats are allocated under the system of proportional representation. Voters, he explained, have to indicate their preference of a party and have the right to place a “+” or “x” or a tick against the name of the candidates of their choice. Voters can choose up to five candidates for Nicosia, three in Limassol, three in Famagusta, two in Larnaca and one each for Paphos and Kyrenia.

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