Turkish Cypriots vote for new leader
NICOSIA - Agence France-Presse
Supporters of Turkish Cypriot leader and leadership candidate Dervis Eroglu shout slogans during a rally in Nicosia at the Turkish Cypriot north part of the island of Cyprus, Friday, April 17, 2015. AP PhotoVoters in the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) went to the polls on April 19 to elect their new leader from seven candidates including incumbent Dervis Eroglu.
Polling stations opened at 8:00 am (0500 GMT) and were to close 10 hours later.
About 176,000 people are eligible to vote in the breakaway TRNC, which occupies about a third of the eastern Mediterranean island.
In 1974, in response to an Athens-engineered coup seeking a union with Greece, Turkish troops invaded northern Cyprus, with the TRNC later unilaterally declaring independence in 1983.
Only Turkey recognises the TRNC, which relies on Ankara to provide one third of its annual budget.
If no single candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, a second round of balloting will take place on April 26.
Eroglu's main challengers are Sibel Siber -- the sole woman candidate, the head of parliament and a former prime minister -- and Mustafa Akinci, an independent.
Whoever wins the election will be hamstrung by a geopolitical snarl that generations of leaders and successive UN chiefs have failed to untangle.
The island has been split since 1974, with about 1,000 peacekeepers monitoring a ceasefire line that cuts through the heart of Nicosia, Europe's last divided capital.
Decades of talks have failed to unify the island, including a plan by then-UN secretary general Kofi Annan which was approved by Turkish Cypriot voters in 2004 but overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots.
Cyprus joined the European Union that year still a divided island and, although the north is technically part of the bloc, Turkish Cypriots are denied nearly all of the benefits of EU membership.