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Outcome of Turkish Cypriot election hangs in balance

By Elias Hazou

THE OUTCOME of the ‘presidential elections’ in the north still hangs in the balance, with the latest poll showing that the favourite Dervis Eroglu lacks the critical mass to clinch victory from the first ballot.

The breakaway regime holds elections this coming Sunday, and if none of the candidates secure an absolute majority, a runoff ballot will be held a week later.

This looks to be the likeliest scenario, as Eroglu, leader of the ruling National Unity Party, is stuck at 35 to 37 per cent of the popular vote, according to a survey published last week.

In order to be confident of avoiding surprises in the second round, Eroglu’s numbers should be around the 39 per cent mark, political analysts told daily Politis.

Traditionally, the right wing in the north has garnered around 50 per cent of the vote. But this time, the National Unity Party is falling short of that target by some 15 per cent, as far as the first ballot is concerned.

Most of the leakage has gone to Eroglu’s chief adversaries in the race, Sibel Siber and Mustafa Akinci.
Siber, the candidate of the centre-left Republican Turkish Party, currently has 25 to 27 per cent of popular support.

Akinci, head of the Communal Democracy Party, is hovering around the 25 per cent mark, but his candidacy appears to be gaining momentum and he could beat Siber for a place in the runoff vote.

In total, seven candidates are running for ‘President’. In addition to Eroglu, Siber and Akinci, the contenders are Kudret Ozersay, former chief Turkish Cypriot negotiator, Mustafa Onurer, Mustafa Ulas and Arif Salih Kırdag.

The total number of voters is 176,912. The north holds ‘presidential elections’ every five years. In 2010, Eroglu, running on the ticket of the National Unity Party became the new leader of the breakaway regime TRNC with 50.35 per cent of the votes.

Hardliner Eroglu wants the fenced-off town of Varosha to be part and parcel of a comprehensive solution on Cyprus. Akinci and Siber prefer that Varosha be discussed in a parallel process.

On the island’s hydrocarbons reserves, Eroglu proposes that the two communities share equitably in future revenues, which would be directed to financing the cost of reunification and reconstruction. He has accused the Greek Cypriot side of refusing to share the island’s wealth.

For his part, Akinci – seen as a moderate -advocates a ‘rational’ approach to the contentious hydrocarbons issue, seeing agreement on this as an incentive to bring the two communities closer.

On the same, Ozersay says that if the peace process has a structured timetable and a expiry date, it would be better for natural gas to be set aside until after a solution. However, if the talks turn out to be open-ended, the two communities should devise a formula for joint exploitation of hydrocarbons.

Halted peace negotiations are to resume next month. The talks were suspended last October, when Ankara – acting on behalf of the Turkish Cypriots – reserved for seismic surveys a large swathe of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

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