Presidential race gets underway in Northern Cyprus

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Almost 65-70 percent of the Turkish Cypriot people vote for the conservative-nationalist or centrist politicians.

YUSUF KANLI

By YUSUF KANLI

Finally, former Prime Minister and Republican Turks’ Party (CTP) leader Tufan Erhürman declared his presidential candidacy and got an overwhelming endorsement from his party. Thus, the first official candidate for the April 2020 presidential race has stepped forward.

The incumbent Mustafa Akıncı is expected to become soon the second leftist candidate, though some people started to speculate that he might not seek reelection. Naturally, how strong the Turkish Cypriot people will embrace the Erhürman candidacy, how much public support his candidacy receives might be the decisive factor in Akıncı deciding whether or not he might run for a second term. Five years ago, Akıncı supporters were rather successful in creating a rift within the CTP over the name of Sibel Siber, the presidential candidate of the party, former parliament speaker and prime minister. With the conservative-nationalist flank badly divided between President Derviş Eroğlu and then-independent candidate Kudret Özersay and because of the feud between Eroğlu and then-Prime Minister İrsen Küçük, many people in the National Unity Party were discreetly supporting Akıncı rather than voting for their former party leader Eroğlu, Akıncı won the presidency in the run-off vote.

Almost 65-70 percent of the Turkish Cypriot people vote for the conservative-nationalist or centrist politicians. Yet, Akıncı’s tiny social-democratic Communal Democracy Party (TDP) has been often masterly exploiting the inner fight for power or dominance both in the socialist CTP and the conservative UBP and winning the seat of Nicosia mayor, or the presidency – as was the case in 2015. Now, the success of Akıncı’s survival and reelection plan might face a serious setback with Erhürman entering the race.

On the conservative-nationalist or centrist politics area so far, there appears to be officially no candidates, but in reality the prime minister and the deputy prime minister and foreign minister are in a serious race. There is a web of presidential hopefuls in that flank who may come forward if and when the two strong political leaders agree at the end of the day on a joint candidate – a personality respected by the grassroots of both parties.

Prime Minister Ersin Tatar, the leader of the UBP, and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay, also the former chief negotiator at the Cyprus talks, were in Ankara yesterday (Wednesday) to discuss the release of the remaining portion of the 2019 financial assistance as well as finalize a new cooperation protocol, expected to be officially signed early in 2020 and under which Turkey will finance some key infrastructure investments in Northern Cyprus.

It is no secret that Ankara has been lukewarm to the prospect of Özersay, a politician walking in the footsteps of late Founding President Rauf Denktaş of the Turkish Cypriot state, becoming president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. There are some serious perceptional problems between Ankara and Akıncı. Since the Crans Montana collapse of the Cyprus talks in 2017, Ankara has been demanding that besides the federation option, other settlement prospects (including a two-state resolution) must be in the negotiations.

This is not a view shared by Akıncı, a committed federalist.

Would Ankara stay away from this contest between the Turkish Cypriot premier and deputy premier or tell the two that if they compete in the presidential race against each other not only both might fail in getting elected to the top post but the two-way government might collapse as well.

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