A rematch of 2015?
The presidential election of Turkish Cyprus could not be completed in the first round as expected, and as predicted, in many opinion polls, the winners of the first round were prime minister and National Unity Party chairman, Ersin Tatar, with 32.36 percent of the votes, and the current President Mustafa Akıncı, an independent candidate, with 29.8 percent of the votes. Now the question is, who will emerge victorious in the Oct. 18 run-off vote and who will assume the responsibility and the chair of the presidency?
There won’t be perhaps much discussion on the outcome of the first round as the two victors of the first round would need to find ways to patch up with those candidates who lost and their parties in order to get their precious electoral support in the Oct. 18 run-off vote. Thus, rather than wasting time with whatever was discussed and leveled at each other in the campaign period, now it is time to mend fences.
The situation is very interesting for Akinci, the oldest candidate in the 2020 presidential election, who is 73 years old. He also came second in the first round of the 2015 elections, but with the support of the Republican Turks Party (CTP) electorate and precious support from those disgruntled segments at the grassroots level of the center-right National Unity Party (UBP), who were angry with the party leader and presidential candidate, Derviş Eroğlu, he comfortably had won the elections back then. Can he do it this time? Can some UBP supporters betray their own party’s candidate once again?
There is a lot of interesting data when the election result of the first vote is examined. First of all, the electoral participation rate is unprecedented in the history of the Turkish Cypriot elections. It’s only 55.53 percent. I’ve written it before. Even if the electoral participation rate was much lower, it would not have mattered because the Turkish Cyprus election legislation did not regulate the participation rate for the validity of the election. A significant proportion of voters in the center-right and center of the political spectrum, unfortunately, have contributed to raising the boycott rate in this election. There were groups on the left who decided to boycott, of course, but the manipulative developments, especially after the interventions in the run-up to the elections, convinced this group of voters to go to the polls. However, the same situation was perceived as “abandonment” and even “mortgaged to their will,” especially among Turkish Cypriot nationalists. It was interesting to note that at the İskele electoral region, for example, Tatar received a very high 43.4 percent of the votes while Akıncı came only third with 16.1 percent of the votes. That electoral region is mostly populated by mainland settlers, thus, the demonstrated support from Ankara for Tatar apparently has paid back at that locality.
It makes us question, given the available data, what might happen in the second round of voting between the top two contestants of the first round?
In the first round of the election, the CTP leader and presidential candidate, Tufan Erhürman, came in third with 21.69 percent. With simple mathematics, Akıncı can easily be re-elected as the president if he can get the votes given to Erhürman in the first round. However, Akıncı’s not-so-friendly rhetoric towards both the CTP and Erhürman during the campaign period might now discourage at least some segments of the CTP supporters from lending their precious votes to the incumbent.
Kudret Özersay, the candidate of the People’s Party (HP), won only 5.73 percent of the votes. Compared to the 21 percent votes he received in the 2015 presidential election, it was a huge disappointment. Although it is considered as a centrist party, the HP is a political movement with support from both the right and the left. Özersay said in his assessment after the election that he was not happy with the result and would soon decide on his political future, but in any case, his eventual assessment will define the HP’s direction of the game in the second round of voting. However, it will be difficult for the HP’s right-wing supporters to vote for Akıncı and the leftist grassroots base for Tatar. I’m afraid most of them won’t go to the polls and thus play a decisive role in the second round of vote by abstaining.
Serdar Denktaş and his Democratic Party (DP) and Erhan Arıklı and the New Birth Party (YDP) will likely support Tatar in the second round. Arıklı will discuss both his future and his party’s position in the second round on Wednesday in the executive bodies to make a decision. In terms of Denktaş, the situation is slightly different. As the son of founding president Rauf Denktaş, particularly in view of the fact that he left his party leadership a year ago, I do not expect him to support Akıncı. All through the election, he was mostly critical of the “defeatist” policies of Akıncı.
However, the support of neither Denktaş and his DP nor Arıklı and his YDP will be enough to move Tatar to the presidency. Just as Akıncı cannot win the presidency only with the CTP support and must do something to convince those leftist and far-leftist groups who despite everything insisted to boycott the first round to go to the polls and vote for him on Oct. 18, Tatar needs to convince especially the Turkish Cypriot nationalists, and their groups angered with manipulative developments to give up boycott, go to polls, and vote for him.
In the current situation, if Tatar does not make good use of this one-week period, I am afraid that like his predecessor Eroğlu in the 2015 election, he too might face the risk of losing the second round of voting despite winning the first.
In short, we are going to have a rematch of 2015.