By Yiannis Charalambous*
For those who follow developments in northern Cyprus, the results of the first round of the unrecognized ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ elections confirmed what had more or less been predicted. Notably, that these elections are unpredictable and will definitely be decided in a two-round election.
19th of April saw incumbent Dervis Eroglu supported by the UBP and DP-UG coalition garnering 28.18%. He was followed by Mustafa Akinci, who was supported by the TDP and BKP and managed to receive 26.92%. CTP-BG candidate, Sibel Siber received 22.54% while former negotiator in the Cyprus peace process and independent candidate, Kudret Ozersay, garnered an astonishing 21.23%.
The results of the first round reveal some interesting trends within the Turkish Cypriot electorate: Firstly, that Eroglu suffered significant defections among his traditional support to newcomer Ozersay. This is explained by the high percentage of votes garnered by Ozersay, which could arguably safeguard his political survival, and the failure of Eroglu to achieve a clear win. Nevertheless, Ozersay’s performance should also be evaluated in relation to Ankara’s interests. It is believed that Ankara, by tacitly supporting Ozersay would have contributed to his political survival and at the same time dealt a serious blow to Eroglu with whom relations are strained. Secondly the success of Akinci to overpass Siber can be explained by his ability to garner the support of the pro-solutionist Turkish Cypriot electorate who vote for Cypriotism and a compromised solution in contrast to Siber who has been perceived as a controversial candidate even within the CTP.
The final showdown between Eroglu and Akinci set for April 26 reflects a variety of contrasting dimensions. It represents a battle of the corrupted and failed establishment against hope for a better future; a contra between supporters of the status quo against supporters of a compromised solution and reunification; a conflict of identities comprised by motherland nationalism versus Cypriotism. Indeed it is a decisive point for the Turkish Cypriot community which will ultimately define the years to come. This “moment of truth” will eventually be defined by the following parameters:
- Firstly, to which extent (and not whether) does Akinci secure support by CTP’s electoral base;
- Secondly, the ability of Akinci to gain some support from the already fragmented right (especially from Ozersay supporters);
- Thirdly, the percentage of absence;
- Last but not least, the extent to which Ankara will interfere in the battle and her choice of candidate; this will also indicate Ankara’s true interests and sincerity in solving the problem.
And yet, the Eroglu-Akinci showdown does not only consist ‘a moment of truth’ for the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey. The result will most probably have a serious effect on the Greek Cypriot side as well, especially in the occasion that Akinci is elected. In particular it will significantly test Nikos Anastasiades’ sincerity and pledged determination towards a solution which has recently been challenged both by the international community and the Turkish Cypriot elite. Let’s not forget that it “takes two to tango”.
*Yiannis Charalambous is a graduate of Turkish Studies from the National Kapodistrian University of Athens. He holds an MA in International Relations and European Studies from the University of Nicosia, he has conducted research on the Cyprus Problem and contributes to the writing of the FES Cyprus Newsletter.