Turkish Cyprus PM fails to win majority
Northern Cyprus looks set to be ruled by a right-wing coalition sceptical of reunifying the island after the party of the isolated statelet’s prime minister failed to gain an overall majority.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, established as a result of Turkey’s 1974 invasion of the island in response to an Athens-backed coup, voted in a snap election forced by tensions in the previous coalition.
The National Unity Party (UBP), previously in coalition with the stridently nationalistic Democratic Party, which won 7.8 per cent and three seats, has been widely linked to corruption and malpractice.
The vote precedes a presidential election later this month in the Greek-majority Republic of Cyprus, with peace efforts on hold until both elections are completed.
The right-of-centre UBP of Prime Minister Huseyin Ozgurgun secured 36 per cent of the vote and 21 seats, short of the 26 seats needed for a majority in the 50-member chamber, according to preliminary results.
The pro-reunification, centre-left Republican Turkish Party (CTP) won 20.9 per cent of the votes and 12 seats.
The reformist People’s Party came third with 18.1 per cent with nine seats. It and the CTP have ruled out cooperating with the right-wing parties before the election.
For the first time during an election campaign, debate over how to overhaul the system of government dominated talk of reuniting the island.
In recent years, protests have taken place outside the Turkish Cypriot parliament, largely attended by young people condemning mainland Turkish attempts to enforce Islamic norms. Turkey’s ruling AKP party has, for example, tried to impose single-sex swimming pools at the statelet’s universities.
“In the past, there were efforts to make us more Turkish because it was felt we weren’t Turkish enough,” Turkish Cypriot Ersa Aygin told the Guardian. “Now we’re not Muslim enough and the answer is more mosques, more religious classes, more Koran courses. The only thing we want, and can’t be, is Cypriot.”
Many residents express frustration with international isolation.
Following the collapse of peace talks in Switzerland last July, seen as the “best ever” chance of reunification, thousands of Turkish Cypriots applied for EU citizenship by acquiring Republic of Cyprus passports. Many have left the statelet for jobs elsewhere.
“Unless there is a solution soon, there will be no Turkish Cypriots to have a solution with,” said Cyprus watcher James Ker-Lindsay. “Northern Cyprus will simply become a Turkish province – a place of mosques and settlers. We are in a race against the clock.”
St Nicholas Cathedral (1291-1371) in Nicosia until its conversion into a mosque. Picture credit: Wikimedia