THOUSANDS gathered in Nicosia in the north on Sunday to celebrate the victory of independent candidate Mustafa Akinci as the new leader of the Turkish Cypriot community.
Akinci, 67, former mayor of the northern part of Nicosia from 1976 to 1990, won with a comfortable 60.5 per cent of the votes in the second round of elections, defeating his opponent, incumbent Dervis Eroglu who gathered 39.5 per cent.
He came in second on the first round with 26.9 per cent of the vote, just behind Eroglu’s 28 per cent, but the support he gained from the Republican Turkish Party (CTP) and followers or other first round candidates, secured him the victory.
Around 64 per cent of the 177,000 voters in the north went to the polls, and despite attempts to slander Akinci’s campaign last week with rumours that he and his supporters plan to remove the Turkish and so-called TRNC flags from the Pentadaktylos range when he is elected, he managed to garner the majority of votes even from districts whose majority residents are settlers.
In Nicosia, Morphou, Kyrenia and Famagusta he won more than 60 per cent of the votes, while in Trikomo, the only district in which Eroglu had the lead, he lost only by 38 votes.
Several Greek Cypriots crossed to the north on Sunday to participate in the victory celebrations.
In his victory speech, Akinci said that despite the slandering rumours heard last week, “when a time for change occurs in a society, no power can prevent it”.
“We achieved this great change together… We are stepping into a new period of responsibility. We are turning a new page,” Akinci said.
He added that he received congratulatory calls both from President Nicos Anastasiades and UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide and that he is to discuss resuming negotiations.
“Turkish Cypriots suffered in 1963 and Greek Cypriots suffered in 1974; it is time to heal these wounds,” he said.
He added that future generations should share the blessings of the island.
Following the election results, Eroglu publicly congratulated Akinci and said that even though he is withdrawing from the political scene, he will continue to voice his opinions and that he is also willing to consult Akinci and keep him up to date with the results of the negotiations.
Akinci is to be sworn in before the Turkish Cypriot assembly on Thursday.
The moderate politician’s victory made headline in all Greek Cypriot papers on Monday. With the exception of daily Simerini whose headline was “Turkey has the final say again,” the rest of the papers had more optimistic messages.
Politis’ headline read “Second spring, gazing at the solution” and mentioned that the excitement and anticipation in the north resembled that of 2003.
Phileleftheros and Alithia wrote of a new page, while Haravgi said that the dialogue will see a new dynamic and prospect.
With the exception of daily Milliyet, Akinci’s victory did not make front page in the Turkish press. Milliyet wrote that with Akinci’s victory the increased will of Turkish Cypriots for a solution to the Cyprus problem is interpreted. Hurriyet said that a hectic schedule awaits Akinci. Cumhuriyet and Sabah also mentioned the elections, while the rest of the papers did not mention anything.
The change in the political scenery that promises to push forth for a solution of the Cyprus problem, which seems to be in a standstill for more than five decades, has also drawn the attention of international media.
The Guardian wrote that victory of the leftist former mayor prompts renewed optimism for reunification of the island, while German’s Deutsche Welle said that “Cyprus rejoices as unifier Akinci wins in north”. Al Jazeera, BBC and Euronews also posted articles on Akinci’s victory on their websites.