Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) Presidential Elections 2015

Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

The Presidential Elections in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was held on April 19, 2015 but no candidate bagged enough votes to claim outright victory.

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Official Figures

Official figures showed that first round turnout stood at 62.3 percent, from a pool of roughly 177,000 eligible voters. None of the seven candidates came anywhere near the 50 percent of the vote required for outright victory.

Comparative Study and Patterns of Voting

Derviş Eroglu the incumbent president, supported by the National Unity party achieved 28.15 percent votes. While Mustafa Akinci an independent got 26.94 percent votes. Siber the most favorite candidate was supported by the Republican-Turkish party achieved 22.53 percent of total votes cast. Other four independent candidates Ozersay 21.25 percent, Kirdag 0.49 percent, Onurer 0.40 percent and Ulas got 0.24 percent votes. It resulted in the elimination of Siber, Ozersay, Kirdag, Onurer and Ulas. The elections went into run-off phase.

First Round of Presidential Elections 2015

In the first round of the presidential election a major reversal of power took place. The incumbent president, Dervis Eroglu, a one-term president who is a three-time former prime minister in the interest of the conservative and nationalist UBP (National Unity Party) failed to win the election outright as he did in 2010, and was forced into a run-off today/ Remarkably, the run-off was not against the favourite, Sibel Siber, of the socialist Republican-Turkish Party (CTP), but against independent candidate and former mayor of North Nicosia, Mustafa Akinci.

Incumbent President’s Affiliation

Eroglu, the incumbent president was endorsed by the Democratic Party, a reasonably powerful bloc with 16 percent of seats in the Legislative Assembly. He has the DP’s association with founding president of the “republic”, Rauf Denktash.

Main Focus of Different Contesting Candidates

Siber is the current speaker of the Legislative Assembly. Her campaign was based on her experience as a successful past prime minister, and the fact that, if successful, she would be the first female President of the Turkish Cypriots. She was endorsed by Prime Minister Ozkan Yorganciouglu and former Prime Minister Ferdi Sabit Soyer, and by former president Mehmet Ali Talat, who at a rally in North Nicosia claimed that Siber would win the campaign in the first round.

Final Phase of Presidential Elections

The run-off presidential elections was held on April 26, 2015 in which the incumbent president, Eroglu, won 39.50 percent of the vote, with 43.764 votes, Akinci, the second-placed candidate in the first-round of voting, secured 67,035 votes 60.50 percent Eroglu won the districts of Kyrenia, North Nicosia and Morphou, with Akinci taking Famagusta and Trikomos.

Mustafa Akinci’s Resolution

Mustafa Akinci has clean politician image and a political career committed to seek a resolution to the Cyprus problem Akıncı managed to forge a left-right coalition in the runoff vote that carried him to victory, thus to become the second left winger since the creation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983.

Mustafa Akinci, campaigned as an independent with an olive branch as his symbol. “We are going to live in peace,” he said after the count. “Past generations suffered a lot. People from both communities have shared suffering.”

Main Focus of Mustafa Akinci’s Presidential Campaign

Mustafa Akinci, the 67 year-old former mayor a leftist moderate, campaigning on a platform of peace, has won the presidential election in Northern Cyprus, raising hopes of a breakthrough in stalled reunification. It was election for a solution. It was election of better socio-economic conditions. It is hope that Akinci, more than any other candidate, can reach out to the Greek Cypriots and make the necessary arrangements needed to get talks moving forward for achieving any sustained solution.

Democratic Choice of people of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)

The people of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) voted overwhelmingly in favour of Mustafa Akinci, who has promised to inject fresh urgency into the quest to end four decades of division on the island. He gained 60.38 percent of the vote compared to 39.62 percent for the outgoing Dervis Eroglu.

Greek Cypriot leader’s Reaction

The Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades, congratulated Akinci, “The Republic of Cyprus welcomes the choice of Mustafa Akinci as the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, a man who through his public discourse and declarations, has referred to the need for reunification of the country. The victory of Mustafa Akıncı in northern Cyprus gives hope to Turkish Cypriots of a better future.

Collapse of Main Political Parties

The comparative study of the recently held presidential elections upholds that main political parties that have dominated Turkish Northern Cyprus for several decades appear to have collapsed. Three of the four main candidates in the presidential election ran as independents, even though two of those received party support. The main victor of the first round was Kudret Özersay, an International Relations Professor and former negotiator, who placed last amongst the four but secured 21 per cent of the vote with limited campaign funds and no party support.

He ran on a campaign of good governance that received the ire of the entrenched parties for its lack of ideology. Özersay’s unprecedented performance demonstrated, however, that people are tired of the nepotism that has drained the north’s resources and bankrupted local governments in recent years and that is represented by the traditional parties.

Mustafa Akıncı’s Olive Branch

Mustafa Akıncı a veteran of the established political tradition campaigned emblem of the olive branch, which symbolised his commitment to peace. He urged voters to support him ‘To be able to put down roots like an olive tree, for us to remain in this country, to live like humans in this country, honourably, our heads held high. Let’s live as humans and as a community’. He repeated in all his speeches that the olive tree symbolised roots, which he promised Turkish Cypriots would now be able to have.

Eroğlu’s Political Assumption

Throughout the election campaign Eroğlu campaigned on the assumption that Turkish Cypriots would vote taking into consideration the Cyprus talks process and how determined he has been in defending Turkish Cypriot rights in sovereignty, territory and the principle of equality of the two peoples of the island. Akıncı a three-time mayor of Nicosia’s Turkish sector in the 1970s and a former deputy prime minister who made a late comeback to politics as presidential candidate on the other hand campaigned on a pledge that he could deliver a settlement.

TRNC: A Semi-presidential System

The TRNC’s regime is a semi-presidential system in which the President is head of the “state”, and the prime minister head of the government, but in European traditions the presidency is an exceptionally important office, given that part of the division of responsibilities renders the President as the plenipotentiary representative of the Turkish Cypriots to the international community, including vitally in negotiations regarding the Cyprus dispute.

Akinci demanded a partnership of equals

During his electoral campaign Akinci demanded a partnership of equals with the parts of Cyprus not under occupation. He supported Turkish Cypriot membership of international sporting organisations such as Uefa and the Olympic games, from which they are currently banned. The former deputy prime minister had other pledges, such as an all-Cyprus mobile telephone network, and opening the border at Lefka and Famagusta, reflecting other advances he has made in Greco-Turkish relations during his time as mayor of North Nicosia.

UN-Brokered Negotiations

UN-brokered negotiations, halted last October 2014, are expected to resume next month May 2015. The new leader has already signalled he is open to confidence-building measures (CMBs) that could help bridge fences in tandem with peace talks. Certainly, the election of Mustafa Akıncı, has already brought the first glimpse of hope that this small community has had in more than a decade.

Decades of Isolation

For more than four decades, Turkish Cypriots varying degrees of isolation imposed after the island’s partition in 1974, the result of a Greek-sponsored coup and resulting Turkish military intervention.

Disputed Island

The dispute of Island dates back to 1960 when the Treaty of Guarantee was signed between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots along with the British government over the island. The treaty banned the island of Cyprus from participating in any political or economic union with any other state, as well as making other parties guarantee its independence, territorial integrity and security.

1963: A Turning Point

Unfortunately in 1963, only three years after it was signed, Turkish Cypriots societies/communities were ousted by force from all organs of the new republic by their Greek-Cypriot partners, violating the founding agreements and the constitution. Greek Cypriots thereafter claimed to represent the Republic of Cyprus, which was considered illegal and not recognized by Turkey.

1964-1974 Peacemaking Efforts

Between 1964 and 1974, the international community made several peacemaking efforts but all ended in failure. In 1974, an attempt by Greece to annex the island through a coup was made but resisted by a Turkish peace mission in accordance with the 1960 treaty. Consequently, Turkish Cypriots set up their own republic in 1983 while continuing the search for reconciliation.

Salient Features of UN Sponsored Plan 2004

The UN sponsored Plan 2004 was restructured the island as a federal United Republic of Cyprus, encompassing both the present Republic of Cyprus and Turkish-occupied Cyprus, but omitting British-occupied Cyprus. A collective Presidential Council comprising four Greeks and two Turks and a bicameral legislature with both communities sending deputies based on their respective populations were to be the framework of the new State. Simultaneous referenda were held in the Republic and in Turkish-occupied Cyprus. While Ankara and North Nicosia supported the plan, it was strongly opposed by Athens and Nicosia. The then Turkish prime minister, R.T. Erdogan, and the Turkish Cypriot prime minister favoured the plan, seeing it as a way to end the international isolation of Turkish Cypriots (international flights, for instance, are banned from landing on Turkish-occupied Cyprus) and their exclusion from the European economy.

Ultimately, Turkish Cypriots overwhelmingly backed reunification 64.91 percent to 35,09 percent but Greeks opposed it 75.83 percent to 24.17 percent and only the non-occupied portion of Cyprus joined the European Union.

Concluding Remarks

Recently held Presidential Election in Turkish Northern Cyprus has clearly demonstrated the victory of the efforts of unification over hawkish and isolationist policies. It is the victory of economics over politics. It is victory of peace, commitment and conflict resolution.

Mustafa Akinci’s record of helping Greco-Turkish relations during his 14 year tenure as Mayor of North Nicosia has led to early hopes that the Cypriot dispute may finally be resolved and peace break out in Cyprus: he previously led the Communal Democrats, a party which backed reunification of the island, and supported the UN-sponsored peace plan for reunification. Now, there is genuine hope in Ankara, Athens, Nicosia, and North Nicosia that 2015 may finally be the year where peace returns to Cyprus and reunification may finally be achieved.

Newly elected Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus President Mustafa Akinci has declared sorrow belongs to both the north and south side of the island and it is “time to heal the wounds of one another”. Addressing a cheering crowd in the Inonu Boulevard in Lefkosa after he won the run-off presidential election as an independent candidate, Akinci said: “My generation lived the pain, shared the pain with the south.

“Maybe we felt the pain more in 1950s and 1963. But they (Greek Cypriots) felt the pain in 1974 as well.”

“The past generations shared the pain, now let the future generations share the blessings of the island,” he said.

Speaking in front of his supporters, Akinci said he would follow a “result-based” policy for the future of the divided island and seek the benefits of having negotiations with Turkish Cypriots, although he would also “empathize with the Greek Cypriots”.

He added: “A strong and viable Turkish Cypriot existence will be in the favor of the Republic of Turkey.”

Presidential elections in Turkish Northern Cyprus ushered the island into a new and challenging phase. Let us hope that people living in the divided island may be witness of a swan song in the days to come. Let us also hope that long awaited morning of peace and desire to live with dignity with equal rights may soon be dawn.

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