Turkish Cypriots elect leader, Turkey follows closely

Cypriot election officials begin counting votes for the election of a new leader for the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) on October 11, 2020.

It is an election that opposes two ways of seeing peace with the southern part of the Mediterranean island and relations with Turkey. Residents of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), only recognized by Ankara, voted Sunday (October 11) to elect their leader.

After the final counting of the votes in 723 out of 738 polls, the Turkish-backed candidate Ersin Tatar topped the first round of the election “Presidential” of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), ahead of outgoing leader Mustafa Akinci, according to the electoral council. With 32.46% of the vote, the nationalist Ersin Tatar is ahead of Mr. Akinci, at odds with the Turkish authorities (29.73%), and Turfan Erhurman (21.62%), two social democrats who advocate the reunification of the Mediterranean island divided in the form of a federal state. A second round will oppose MM. Akinci and Tatar on October 18.

The 738 polling stations closed at 6 p.m. (5 p.m. in Paris) and turnout at 5 p.m. stood at 54.72 percent of the nearly 199,000 registered voters, according to the electoral council. Initial estimates are based on counting just over 9,000 ballots.

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This “presidential” election takes place against a backdrop of tensions in the eastern Mediterranean around the exploitation of hydrocarbons between Ankara and Athens, the main ally of the Republic of Cyprus which exercises its authority over the southern two-thirds of the island and is a member of the European Union.

The TRNC (about 300,000 inhabitants) is established in the northern third of the island, occupied since 1974 by Turkey in reaction to a coup to reunite Cyprus with Greece. Turkey, whose coastline is some 80 km from those of Cyprus, sees the island as a major piece in its strategy to expand its maritime borders.

Redefining relations with Turkey

Mr. Akinci is a 72-year-old Social Democrat who advocates reunifying the island as a federal state and loosening ties with Ankara. He is followed by Tufan Erhurman (around 22% of the vote), a candidate who advocates a solution similar to that of the ” President “ outgoing for Cyprus.

“This election is crucial for our destiny”, Akinci said after voting, expressing concern about the health of Turkish Cypriots due to the pandemic but also about the “Health of politics” in TRNC. He denounced “The intervention of Turkey” in the election.

Turkey openly supports Mr Akinci’s main rival, nationalist Ersin Tatar, 60, currently ” Prime Minister “ of the government to which a large part of the executive powers belongs. “The main issue in the election is how we will then define our relations with Turkey”, according to activist Kemal Baykalli, founder of the NGO Unite Cyprus Now.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan holds a press conference with Ersin Tatar, prime minister of the breakaway state of Northern Cyprus, in Ankara, Turkey, October 6, 2020.

“The TRNC and its people form a state. We deserve to live on the basis of equal sovereignty “, declared Mr. Tatar, applauded by his supporters in front of the polling station, suggesting his support for a final partition of the country between two sovereign states. For many years, negotiations for reunification have stumbled, in particular on the question of the withdrawal of some 30,000 Turkish soldiers present in the occupied northern third.

Economic crisis

Voting takes place after the controversial reopening on Thursday of Varosha (east), a ghost town cordoned off by the Turkish army and emblematic of the division of the island.

The announcement of this partial reopening of the city abandoned since the Turkish invasion was made by Mr. Tatar, alongside Mr. Erdogan, in Ankara. A decision criticized by Mr. Akinci, the Republic of Cyprus, the European Union and the UN, which monitors the buffer zone between the two parts of the island.

The election in the TRNC, which depends economically on Turkey, also takes place in a context of economic crisis, amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 800 cases of contamination and four deceased patients have been officially recorded there.

The World with AFP

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