Turkish Cypriot hard-liner wins presidential election

Supporters of Dervis Eroglu celebrate Eroglu's victory in the Turkish Cypriot presidential election on April 18, 2010 (AFP Photo / Birol Bebek)
Voters in the self-proclaimed Turkish republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have elected Dervis Eroglu as their next president.

Prime Minister Dervis Eroglu won on Sunday, April 18 with just over 50% of the vote and avoided a run-off with the current president Mehmet Ali Talat.

It is considered that the result of the elections might have a major impact on the negotiations process of reuniting the divided island due to the personality of Mr. Eroglu, who favors the independence of the breakaway Turkish north republic.

On the other hand, Mr. Talat was a strong adherent of reunification and had closer ties with the European Union. He was fully supported by his counterpart Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and the EU leaders. Moreover, it is claimed that even Turkey – that officially stated non-interference in the electoral process – indirectly supported Mr. Talat. The peace settlement on the island could remove one of the main obstacles in Turkey's relations with the EU and help revive the stalled process of negotiations on Turkey's accession to the EU.

Analysts consider Mr. Eroglu’s victory over the current president to be symptomatic and fully representative of a disappointed mood of people over Mr. Talat’s promises to reunite Cyprus and to end the isolation. During the elections the prime minister was supported by the leader of the Democratic Party Serdar Denktash, and his father, a former longtime leader of Turkish Cypriots Rauf Denktash.

Mr. Eroglu assured his voters that he is unlikely to abandon negotiations aimed at reunifying the divided island. After the election the next president of the region pointed out to Turkey’s NTV television channel: “We will always work in co-operation with our motherland Turkey.” He also added that “no-one must think that I will walk away from the negotiating table. The talks process will continue.”

“I will work with goodwill for a solution that takes my community's rights into account,” said Mr. Eroglu.

The main issue now is not about the negotiations that are likely to be continued as both sides are willing to talk about the position that the newly elected leader of North Cyprus has. Eroglu’s solution to the problem is a confederation of separate Greek and Turkish Cypriot states. This is something unacceptable to the Greek part of the island.

Talking to the media in Nicosia, Greek Cypriot government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said, “Significant problems will be created in the negotiations” because of Eroglu being against “the federation and in favour of the establishment of two separate states in Cyprus.”

Observers consider the result of the election to have some implications for Turkey’s desire to join the EU. Greek Cypriots have already been a member of the Union since 2004 and enjoying membership benefits might block Turkey’s membership bid.

The island has been divided for years. On July 20, 1974, Turkey launched an invasion with 40,000 troops against Cyprus. The invasion was presented as a counter action to the coup that was staged in Cyprus by the military junta, then in power in Athens, for the overthrow of President Makarios. Since 1974, 37% of the island is under Turkish control. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) has not been recognized internationally. The Cyprus problem often tops the agenda of international bodies, such as the UN General Assembly, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth and the Council of Europe.