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Akinci secures crucial support, paving way for victory (Update 3)

By Constantinos Psillides

The Republican Turkish Party (CTP) announced last night it would actively support veteran politician Mustafa Akinci’s bid to become the new Turkish Cypriot leader in the second round of ‘presidential’ elections in the north next Sunday.

The decision was announced by CTP leader Ozkan Yorgancioglu after a two-hour meeting late last night to discuss who the party should support after their candidate Sibel Siber failed to make it to the second round in Sunday’s election with 22.49 per cent of the vote.

Earlier in the day Akinci appeared confident that he would secure the endorsement of the CTP, following a meeting at the party headquarters earlier on Monday.

“I believe in my heart that this endorsement will happen. I want to make clear that this is the party from which we want the biggest support,” Akinci told reporters after he met with Yorgancıoglu and the CTP’s general secretary Kutlay Erk.

Akinci came in second on Sunday with 26.92 per cent of the vote, just behind Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu’s 28 per cent.

Asked by reporters if he was happy with the meeting, Akinci responded “very” and added that he was looking for a favourable decision from CTP.

“I hope this decision gives birth to good results for society and our island,” he said.

Asked to comment on former Turkish Cypriot chief negotiator Kudret Ozersay’s decision not to back any of the remaining candidates, Akinci said that he respected it. He added that he would still meet with Ozersay. The meeting will probably take place on Wednesday, following Ozersay’s scheduled press conference.

Ozersay, a first-time candidate with no party backing, finished fourth with a healthy 21.2 per cent, running on Eroglu’s right.

By collaborating with Akinci the CTP is essentially handing him a strong advantage in the second round over his rival, incumbent Eroglu.

While Eroglu won the first round of the elections held on Sunday with 28 per cent of the vote, he was far away from the 50 per cent he had previously stated he would secure.

Eroglu, backed only by the National Unity Party, stares at almost certain defeat now Akinci has secured the CTP’s endorsement, which would give him a 49.46 per cent backing, short only 0.55 per cent of the over 50 per cent needed to win.

Akinci, a former Nicosia mayor, is considered to be the most moderate of the candidates, in stark contrast with hardliner Eroglu.

Eroglu’s failure to win in the first round has largely been put down to his former chief negotiator in the peace talks Kudret Ozersay, who ran as an independent, securing 21.23 per cent of the vote. While with Ozersay’s endorsement the Turkish Cypriot right would have a fighting chance on Sunday, the former chief negotiator already made clear that he would not back any of the remaining candidates.

The Cyprus News Agency reported the turnout for the elections was the lowest ever, with only 62.34 per cent of the population showing up to cast their ballots.

Turnout for the previous elections in 2010 was 76.3 per cent while the highest ever recorded was in 1990 with 93.48 per cent.

Akinci’s election would breathe new life into the peace talks that are expected to re-commence sometime next month. The talks were suspended last October after Ankara – acting on behalf of the Turkish Cypriots – reserved for seismic surveys a large swathe of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

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