National Union Party wins election in north of Cyprus

Right-wing coalition on cards as Turkish Cypriots back status quo cautiously

A Turkish Cypriot man casts his ballot for the parliamentary election at a polling station in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is only recognised by Turkey. Photograph: Birol Bebek/AFP/Getty

A Turkish Cypriot man casts his ballot for the parliamentary election at a polling station in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is only recognised by Turkey. Photograph: Birol Bebek/AFP/Getty

 

Turkish Cypriots have voted narrowly for the status quo in a snap parliamentary election by giving the ruling National Union Party 21 seats of 50 in the assembly, enabling it to form a right-wing coalition with the Democratic Party with three seats, and the Rebirth Party, representing mainland settlers, with two seats.

However, the 24 seats held by the leftist opposition, the Republican Turkish Party, the People’s Party and the Communal Democracy Party, could scupper coalition policies, rendering a right-wing government unstable and precipitating a fresh election.

A National Union-led coalition will be most vulnerable on domestic issues if it attempts to protect the status quo although the focus of the election campaign was on corruption and clientism. In power for 27 years, the party has been accused of buying votes and securing support by providing jobs and building permits for supporters.

Many Turkish Cypriots have been alienated by efforts of Turkey’s ruling AK Party to impose religious schools and press the largely secular, liberal Turkish Cypriot community to become devout and adopt conservative social practices.

Turkish Cypriot teachers protested at the beginning of the school year against mosque construction at a time there were not enough schools. A massive mosque rising north of Nicosia has prompted demonstrations outside the Turkish Cypriot parliament.

Divided island

On the stalled negotiations to reunify the divided island, Cyprus president Nicos Anastasaides, chief negotiator for the Greek Cypriot side, warned a centre-right government could “try to influence [the] decisions” of his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci, a leftist who favours the formation of a federal state with the internationally recognised Cyprus republic.

The right calls for either independence or association with Turkey, which occupied the northern 36 per cent of the island in 1974 following a failed coup by the Athens junta.

Although talks between the two communities collapsed in disarray last summer, it had been expected negotiations could resume after the presidential election in the republic which Mr Anastasiades, who backs a federal solution, is expected to win.

Greek Cypriots have blamed the failure of last year’s talks on the role played by Ankara in the governance of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state recognised by Turkey .

Up to 30,000 mainland Turkish soldiers are based in the north, the economy depends on Turkish financial infusions, and a large percentage of the 190,000 registered voters are of mainland origin and vote for right-wing parties.

Turkish Cypriots – who argue they are outnumbered by mainland settlers – warn they will emigrate, leaving only mainland Turks in the north. Thousands have applied for and received passports from the Cyprus republic, an EU-member.