TURKISH Cypriots go to the polls tomorrow to elect a president, although it is unlikely that a run-off would be avoided. None of the seven candidates has been tipped to secure anywhere near the absolute majority required, which means the two front-runners will contest the top post seven days later.
The National Unity Party’s (NUP) Dervis Eroglu, who is seeking re-election, is top of most opinion polls, with a forecasted 35-37 per cent of the vote, although analysts argue that he would need closer to 40 per cent to be confident of winning the run-off. In the 2010 elections, Eroglu crept over the line on the first Sunday with 50.35 of the vote, as he stood for change, after five years of leftist Mehmet Ali Talat, who was obliged by Turkey to pursue unpopular spending cuts.
The candidate of the other big party, the Republican Turkish Party, is a woman, Sibel Siber who had briefly served as prime minister of the north for a brief period in 2013. Siber is trailing Eroglu by about 10 percentage points in the polls, as is veteran politician Mustafa Akinci of the Communal Democracy Party. Whichever of these two makes it to the second round would have a chance of edging Eroglu.
In this respect, the candidacy for the former chief negotiator Kudret Ozersay is seen as significant even though he has no chance of entering the run-off. However, some say that he has made the run-off likely by taking votes from Eroglu and ensuring against him securing an absolute majority. The 76-year-old Eroglu would still be the favourite in a run-off, although the Turkish government, which is not too fond of him, could try to influence voting on the second Sunday.
Perhaps the Turkish Cypriot voters will show they have tired of Eroglu who had served as prime minister, on and off for 18 years since 1985 and as president for the last five. If he wins a second term he will be in his eighties by the end of it. Akinci has been in politics for even longer than Eroglu, having been mayor of north Nicosia from 1976 to 1990.
Siber is a relative newcomer and she is the first woman to challenge the top post in the north. She may however not enjoy the support of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party as she does not wear a headscarf.
This is why the election of a female president in the north would be an extremely interesting prospect.