Difficult decision for Turkish Cypriot electorate
Conservative, leftist or centrists, irrespective, it will be rather difficult for the Turkish Cypriot electorate to decide among 11 candidates for the presidential vote on Oct. 11. Though only a few days are left before the voting day, all polls indicate that the ratio of undecided is as high as 40 percent of the electorate.
One reason for the high rate of undecided – inclusive of those who most likely boycott the elections – is most probably the limited campaigning because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The leader and presidential candidate of the New Birth Party (YDP), Erhan Arıklı, mostly supported by the electorate with a mainland background, was actively campaigning door-to-door, the Cypriot style. Not only he but almost the entire top echelon of his YDP were infected and hospitalized. The condition of some was so serious that they were brought by an ambulance plane to Turkey for their treatment.
Though five of the eleven candidates cannot be taken so seriously and their cumulative share most likely remain less than one percent of the vote, there are six candidates that pollster place between 6 to 30 percent. With such a high rate of undecided, it might be argued that the electorate might stage some rather odd surprises. For example, though they have been ranking sixth and fifth in almost all polls, both Serdar Denktaş, the son of late President Rauf Denktaş, and Arıklı claim that they can make to the runup poll on Oct. 18 and win the election with the other failed centrist and conservative candidates. By chance, if they could make it to the second round, they might have a high chance of getting elected indeed. Unlike the 2015 vote, when disgruntled conservatives rebelling to their party leader Derviş Eroğlu voted in a revanchist mentality for Mustafa Akıncı and carried him to the presidency, the “federalist” and “two-state supporters” divide in this election time might help any conservative candidate if the other candidate who made to the runoff is either of the two federalist candidates – Akıncı or socialist Republican Turkish Party (CTP) leader Trufan Erhürman.
The undecided party, therefore, appears to be the biggest defining one in the Oct. 11 vote and probably in the Oct. 18 runoff. On the other hand, some officious political analysts claim for some odd reasons, difficult to understand that if the undecided camp could exceed 50 percent, the vote might lose its legitimacy. Why? As I said, it is so odd that understanding the logic of those supporting this assumption is indeed impossible. The rule of the game is clear. In the first round of voting, a candidate needs to get 50 percent, plus one of the votes of those electors that participated in the voting. If no one gets that in the runoff, only two of the candidates that receive the highest support in the first round participate, and whoever gets more than the other is elected. It is that simple. To a certain extent, how many people participated in the vote is just a statistical detail. In abstaining or boycotting the vote, on the other hand, might probably contribute to the election of a candidate that the abstainers or boycotters would not want to support.
Who to support is a very difficult decision to make. Yet, probably they should ask some questions and then decide to give support accordingly. For example, two of the candidates, Akıncı and Erhürman, say they would negotiate nothing but a federal settlement. In 2004 double referenda on the U.N.-sponsored peace plan and over the past four years, particularly, Greek Cypriot leadership, repeatedly declared they did not want a settlement based on political equality, rotating presidency, effective partnership in sovereignty and the like. If those are some of the key components of a federal settlement, then can those two candidates offer hope for a negotiated resolution?
The same two candidates support a change in the guarantee system and Turkey’s guarantor status. One, Akıncı wants it to be replaced with a multi-national one. Can Turkish Cypriots accept an end or change to the guarantee system?
One candidate, Akıncı, is constantly engaged in a war of words with Ankara. Another candidate, Prime Minister Ersin Tatar, has apparently totally surrendered to Ankara. Is the one who has been having problematic relations with Ankara or the one who succumbed to Ankara serve better to the Turkish Cypriot people? Is it possible to defend Turkish Cypriot dignity by confronting Turkey all the time while Turkish assistance is a must for almost the entire investment budget?
One of the candidates, Kudret Özersay, is saying that if it has become clear that a wholesome settlement will not be possible perhaps compartmentalizing the problem might help to bring about a settlement.
Four candidates, the entire conservative and centrist candidates support a two-state settlement. Arıklı and Tatar are rigid, Özersay has been stressing two states in the EU might be the best option, while Denktaş has been rather ambiguous, only contending “I can do it.” How?
As I said, who to vote is a very difficult decision to make. Yet, I believe the first vote will be inconclusive. If the second vote will be between Akıncı and Tatar, it might be an easy win for Akıncı if Tatar cannot get the support of Özersay. If the second round is between Akıncı and Erhürman, the latter will win because all conservatives would prefer him to Akıncı. If Akıncı and any of the other three centrist or conservative candidates with the support of the “undecided party” make it to the second round, in that case, the surprise candidate might score a high electoral success.