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Ankara-backed hardliner ousts incumbent in Turkish Cypriot runoff

Turkish Cypriot presidential candidate Ersin Tatar casts his vote at a polling station in northern Nicosia on October 18, 2020.
Turkish Cypriot presidential candidate Ersin Tatar casts his vote at a polling station in northern Nicosia on October 18, 2020. © REUTERS Stringer
3 min

Right-wing nationalist candidate Ersin Tatar, backed by Ankara, scored a surprise victory in a run-off presidential election Sunday in breakaway northern Cyprus, official results showed. 

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Tatar, who advocates a two-state solution on the divided island, won 51.73 percent of the vote, ahead of incumbent Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, who had been tipped to win a second term. 

Tatar appeared to have benefited from a higher turnout in the runoff, managing to rally supporters from the approximately 200,000-strong electorate who may not have voted in the first round.

In his victory speech, Tatar said any future peace accord should take into account the “realities" in and around the war-divided east Mediterranean island.

“It won’t be difficult to reach a settlement at the negotiating table if our friends the Greeks and Greek Cypriots properly analyse the strategic, economic and social balances in our region,” he told supporters in the Turkish Cypriot half of the capital, Nicosia.

“They should know that if they continue these intransigent attitudes, we won’t give up our rights,” he added.

Tatar also urged the European Union and the United Nations to be “fair” and change tack on how to assist negotiations because their previous approach has failed. 

“You will no longer ignore the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people," Tatar said.

Erdogan hails Tatar's victory

Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognises a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north that is economically and militarily dependent on Ankara. The island’s internationally recognised government has its seat in the Greek Cypriot south and is part of the 27-nation European Union.

Akinci, 72, a backer of a federal deal with Greek Cypriots, conceded defeat to Tatar in a speech to supporters at his campaign headquarters, congratulating his opponent on his victory. 

“We went through an election contest that wasn’t normal (...) These results mark the end of my 45-year political career," Akinci said. "I wish good luck to our people.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took to his official Twitter account to congratulate Tatar for his election victory. 

“Turkey will continue to make all necessary efforts to defend the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people,” Erdogan said. 

Nearly five decades of UN-facilitated attempts at achieving reunification based on a federal framework have failed. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to soon call a meeting to bring together the two sides and Cyprus’ “guarantors” – Greece, Turkey and Britain – to scope out chances of resuming talks.

A negotiations reboot could help ease soaring tensions in waters off Greece and Cyprus over sea boundaries and energy exploration rights after Turkey redeployed a research vessel near the Greek island of Kastellorizo. 

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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