The Denktaş factor
“Brother, you know I have decided to run for president. I need your support,” he said right away.
We might agree or disagree on various issues, but Serdar is indeed like a half-brother to me. We were in our early teens when we first met. We attended the same high school. We went engaged in all adolescence-related shenanigans. Serdar was more handsome, plus he was good at music, playing the guitar. Thanks to him, we were great at escaping or at least reducing the penalties imposed on our vagabond attitudes, but we were often envious of him because he was always at the center of attraction for all the beautiful girls.
Serdar never considered politics. Indeed, he became a good banker for a period. But the unfortunate demise of his elder brother Raif in a car crash in December 1985 forced him to indulge in politics. Father Rauf Denktaş was against Serdar’s involvement in politics, but there was little he could do as the family and the supporters forced the only surviving son take such a step.
“I might differ with Serdar on some issues. He has more tolerance and believes in pluralist democracy. But, on the national issue and the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people, we are on the same page. There’s no difference at all,” the father once told me on the terrace of his Kyrenia retreat. Indeed, after he quit active politics, he served for a long period as an unpaid chief adviser to Serdar, who was at the time the foreign minister in a left-right coalition government. It might appear rather strange, but the former president, father Denktaş, was sending papers full of analyses and advice on daily issues to the minister, his son, who was tutored by the same father according to the principles of resistance and devotion to the national cause – namely, defense of the rights, interests and, of course, partnership of the Turkish Cypriots in the territory and sovereignty of Cyprus.
“Brother,” I said, “Do you have any doubt about my support? Helping you in any way is a service I owe to your father…”
Serdar Denktaş’s candidacy for the presidency might indeed appear a romantic venture. The Democrat Party he was heading up until a year ago reluctantly said it would support him. There are two other strong candidates and one who does not have particularly strong support but does boast a consolidated 5-6 percent of the electorate. So far, all polls show that National Unity Party (UBP) leader and Prime Minister Ersin Tatar might get as high as 25 percent of the vote and together with incumbent Mustafa Akıncı, might end up as one of the two candidates in the runoff, which would be held on Oct. 18, one week after the first round. People’s Party (HP) leader and Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay appears to be trailing behind Tatar with around 17-18 percent of the vote. Yet, Serdar Denktaş was confident that if he can make it to the second round, he could easily win the election. Indeed both Tatar and Özersay have so antagonized their supporters against the other that whoever makes it to the second round might not get much support from the supporters of the other, whereas Serdar Denktaş might indeed get the support of both parties.
There is a similar paradox on the left as well. The incumbent Akıncı has been first in all polls with around 28-29 percent of the vote, while Republican Turks’ Party leader Tufan Erhürman might have, according to the polls, as much as 19-20 percent of the vote. Whoever of the two goes to a second round against a conservative candidate will most likely be a magnet for the leftist vote, as well as conservatives unhappy with the surviving right-wing candidate. But what if the two leftist candidates get to the second round? Most likely, then, Erhürman would emerge as the winner.
The election period has officially started. Candidates have started touring villages and demanding support. Still, there are weeks to go before the list of candidates running in the poll is finalized. Pressure from the conservative grassroots for a consensus candidate is continuing. Serdar Denktaş, a figure around whom not only the center-right but the left could also unite, should be considered if almost all center-right groups, as well as the CTP, want to bring an end to Akıncı’s presidency…