Published on : 18/10/2020 – 19:37Modified : 18/10/2020 – 19:51
Some 199,000 voters were called to vote to elect their leader in a second round in the shadow of tensions in the eastern Mediterranean between Greece and Turkey. The two candidates were neck and neck but it is ultimately the nationalist Ersin Tatar who wins according to the Electoral Council.
Beating the odds, the nationalist candidate Ersin Tatar, supported by Turkey, was elected Sunday October 18 “president” of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (RTNC), a success for Ankara in a context of strong tensions around its projects in the Eastern Mediterranean.
With 51.74% of the vote, Ersin Tatar supplants Mustafa Akinci, leader outgoing cold with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and supporter of a reunification of the Mediterranean island in the form of a federal state, auguring a radical change of relations with the southern part of the island.
The support of the candidate who came third in the first round on October 11 did not allow the Social Democrat to win. A demand for recounting of the ballots by Mustafa Akinci’s camp, which has repeatedly denounced Turkey’s interference in the election, cannot be ruled out.
Ankara very quickly greeted “warmly” the victory of its protege: “We will work together to ensure the prosperity, development and security of the Turkish Cypriots. We will together defend the rights and legitimate interests of Northern Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean “, tweeted the head of Turkish diplomacy Mevlüt Cavusoglu.
Turnout rose to 67.30%, three points more than in 2015, despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Some 199,000 people were called to vote out of more than 300,000 inhabitants.
Tensions in the Mediterranean
The election took place in a context of strong tensions around the exploitation of hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean between Ankara and Athens, main ally of the Republic of Cyprus, member of the European Union since 2004, which exercises its authority on the southern two thirds of the island.
After drilling off North Cyprus, the return this week of a Turkish exploration vessel in waters claimed by Greece has stirred up discord and led to condemnation by EU leaders of “provocations” from Turkey.
72-year-old Social Democrat Mustafa Akinci defends the reunification of Cyprus in the form of a federal state and has never hidden his intention to loosen ties with Ankara. Ersin Tatar, 60, defends a two-state solution.
The grip of Ankara
But displaying an independent position from Ankara is difficult as the TRNC has been under Turkish economic influence since its creation in 1983. And in times of economic crisis, amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic, Mustafa Akinci’s strategy has not paid off. .
Cyprus gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1960 but Turkish troops invaded the north of the island in 1974 in reaction to a coup attempting to reattach the island to Greece.
With his election in 2015, Mustafa Akinci had rekindled hopes for a peace agreement, but the last official negotiations failed in 2017.
“We cannot do anything without Turkey, history has shown that the Greek Cypriots will never accept that we are equal in the Republic”, noted Dilek Ertug, a 60-year-old real estate agent, before the results.
Greek Cypriots had gathered near the buffer zone on Saturday to demand the return of the northern territories, saying Cyprus was “Greek”. Condemning Turkey’s “interventions”, Dilek Ertug’s brother Asaf Senol, 64-year-old retired, said he was pro-federalism, illustrating the divisions even within Turkish-Cypriot families.