THE ELECTION of the first Turkish Cypriot as a Member of the European Parliament provoked quite a reaction in Greek Cypriot society, a large section of which seemed unwilling to accept it. Social media was flooded with comments questioning Niyazi Kizilyurek’s allegiances and the wisdom of Greek Cypriots electing a Turkish Cypriot who would promote the interests of his community at the expense of the Greek Cypriots; everything is a zero-sum game.
This criticism, clearly unsettled the Akel leadership which called a news conference on Thursday at which party chief Andros Kyprianou appeared with Kizilyurek in order to offer reassurances to Greek Cypriots and allay their fears. The reaction undermined the prospects of co-operation between the two sides, said Kyprianou and assured that Akel and its Turkish Cypriot MEP would “operate in a way that would turn this co-operation into one of historic significance for Cyprus and the Cypriot people.” History would be their judge he declared.
Kizilyurek, meanwhile explained that he would not be operating on his own. “There is no Kizilyurek separate from Akel and without total co-operation and consensus with Akel,” he said, pledging that his priority was to “help the two communities come closer together.” It was what everyone expected to hear, especially after the attacks by Disy and the government on his candidacy during the campaign and their claims that he was making promises to Turkish Cypriot audiences that went against the interests of the Cyprus Republic.
Although Disy’s and the government’s attacks and disparaging comment about “borrowed” votes in reference to the Turkish Cypriot registered voters that would back Kizilyurek may have encouraged Greek Cypriot suspicion and distrust surrounding his candidacy and subsequent election, they were not the cause of it. The suspicion and distrust was already there as it is part of the culture, cultivated over decades by politicians and media. Although nobody mentioned it, there was also anger over allowing a Turkish Cypriot to end the Greek Cypriot monopoly on European Parliament seats.
None of this is very encouraging. Resentment, suspicion and distrust are so ingrained in people minds it is difficult to see any prospects of closer co-operation, let alone reunification. Reaction to Kizilyurek’s election in the north was similar, deputies seeing his election as an attempt by the Greek Cypriots to establish the unitary state and targeting the Turkish Cypriots through “osmosis.” In view of this it will be very interesting to see how Kizilyurek will achieve his stated objective of “helping the two communities come closer together.”