North Cyprus cauldron boiling

North Cyprus cauldron boiling

The combined vote of the two leading candidates in April 19’s inconclusive first round of voting in the Turkish Cypriot presidential race hardly made up 55 percent of the valid votes. Incumbent Dr. Derviş Eroğlu came first in the race with 28.2 percent of the vote, while a candidate making a late comeback to politics, Mustafa Akıncı, came next with 26.9 percent. Both were independent candidates, but were also backed by three political parties. The second runner-up was Parliament Speaker Dr. Sibel Siber, the candidate of the ruling socialists. The fourth on the list of losers was the only “winner” of the vote, an independent candidate with no political party supporting him, Kudret Özersay, the former Turkish Cypriot negotiator in the intercommunal talks and a newcomer to politics, who scored almost as well as any of the parties. He received over 21 percent of the vote. These figures show there will be a runoff vote April 26 to elect the president of the Turkish Cypriot state.

What do these figures indicate? Was there a message sent when 38 percent of Turkish Cypriots preferred to go on a picnic or stay at home on election day, making the presidential vote the least-ever participated in elections in northern Cyprus? If there was, to who was that message addressed? If the combined vote of the two leading conservative parties, with Eroğlu’s vote hardly producing 28.2 percent of electoral support, and an independent newcomer to politics alone tallied 21.2 percent of the vote, was there not a clear defeat? Particularly if the combined vote of these two parties exceeded 50 percent in last year’s mayoral elections, why was there a sharp decline in Eroğlu’s vote? Was it not he who was straight elected in the 2010 vote, leaving socialist Mehmet Ali Talat in the ballot box?

Similarly, if the mayoral vote of last year’s ruling Republican Turks’ Party (CTP) was over 30 percent in last year’s mayoral polls, how did it dip almost ten points within a year? Did Siber lose because she was a woman or did she lose because of an internal fight between the “die-hard ideologists” led by former president Mehmet Ali Talat and the “pragmatists of the party” led by former Prime Minister Ferdi Sabit Soyer? 

Conceding defeat, CTP leader Özkan Yorgancıoğlu declared he would abide with the expressed will of the people and step down “at an appropriate time.” Tufan Erhürman from Talat’s loyalists is expected to assume the party leadership -- and probably the prime ministry – at a party convention to be held “soon.” Such a development might constitute the first phase of a Talat return to active politics. As a consequence of the first round of presidential voting, an early election – which may carry Talat to parliament again – is being discussed. When? Probably next year.

Indeed, the CTP’s imminent task is how to vote in the April 26 runoff voting. The party executive has decided to “actively support” Akıncı in the runoff but will that bold declaration actually reflect the mood of the ruling party? Will it help the tiny Communal Democracy Party (TDP) of Akıncı capture the presidency as well? Last year, the mayoral seat of Nicosia’s Turkish sector went to the TDP because of an exhaustive fight between the CTP and the National Unity Party (UBP)-Democrat Party (DP) election alliance. If two important posts are held by the TDP, will not the TDP pump the perception of becoming the first party of the left? If there is an early parliamentary election, will not the TDP cash in on this perception to produce more parliamentary seats than the CTP? Thus, a CTP declaration of support might not be actual CTP support for Akıncı. However, as Özersay most likely filled his sails in the April 19 elections, with conservatives no longer feeling comfortable with Eroğlu, his supporters might support Akıncı rather than making a U-turn to Eroğlu. Why? These conservatives wanted – like the left wing supporters of Özersay as well – a change in the current political cadres. Even the 71-year-old Akıncı, who left active politics some 15 years ago, by making a comeback in 2015, represented someone “new” for many people.

On the other hand, in April 26’s second round of voting, many voters casting their votes might remember the Cyprus talks will be kicked off in May once again and a “newcomer” Akıncı presidency, unaware of the latest stage of Cyprus peacemaking dossier, will be equipped with a new team of negotiators as well. Thus, the election might not be a total victory for Akıncı, should, in the last few days, the Eroğlu campaign concentrate on reminding the voters of the day after and the Cyprus talks. Still, it could be said that Akıncı might be an inch closer to victory than Eroğlu.

Until the second vote, the cauldron of politics will keep boiling… and probably continue, as all parties will have to reform themselves and prepare for a probable early election next year.