Nationalist wins in northern Cyprus: division cemented?

Former Prime Minister Ersin Tatar has won the run-off vote for the presidency of the internationally unrecognised Republic of Northern Cyprus with 51.7 percent, defeating incumbent president Mustafa Akıncı. While Akıncı advocates the reunification of the divided island, Tatar, who is a close ally of Turkey's President Erdoğan, wants a two-state solution.

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Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Akıncı made too many concessions

Hürriyet Daily News believes it knows why Akıncı lost the election:

“It was Akıncı who eroded almost all Turkish Cypriot red lines in the Cyprus talks. It was he, in more than 60 years of history of the Cyprus talks, who gave a map to the Greek side on territorial concessions for the first time without feeling the need to consult with the Turkish Cypriot government and parliament or with the Ankara government. It was he who said that Turkey's guarantor status was not 'sine qua non' and could be substituted with an international force. He narrowly lost, but he did.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

A referendum on cultural identity

Northern Cyprus faces a cultural shift with Akıncı's defeat, comments the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“ Akıncı knew he had the backing of those voters who, like him, want reunification in a federal state. On the one hand the older northern Cypriots who still remember the times when both ethnic groups lived together on the island. On the other, a younger, educated generation who see their future in an EU state rather than in an isolated state, recognised only by Turkey and totally dependent on Ankara. This section of the northern Cypriot population is liberal, lives secularly and values freedom of expression and freedom of the press. ... It is not for nothing that the election was considered a referendum on the future cultural and political identity of this part of the island.”

Yetkin Report (TR) /

Weariness and resignation won the election

Murat Yetkin describes in his blog the opportunities that were wasted in Cyprus:

“Akıncı was in favour of continuing negotiations, but his calls for a solution through dialogue found no response among Greek Cypriots and the EU did not see him as a primary contact. Tatar, on the other hand, represents the part of the population that has given up hope that the negotiations will lead to a result and therefore sees close cooperation with Turkey as its future. ... In his first post-election speech Tatar called on the EU to be 'fair'. This is undoubtedly more the proclamation of an attitude than an appeal that he hopes will be fulfilled. It may be that under the Tatar government there will be no more using the continuation of negotiations as leverage against the Turkish Cypriot government.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Further tensions inevitable

The election will hardly promote peace, the taz's Turkey correspondent Jürgen Gottschlich fears:

“Finding a solution to the dispute over raw materials in the eastern Mediterranean would be decidedly easier if the Greek and Turkish Cypriots overcame the division of the island and reunited with a joint government. However unlike the former president, the left-leaning Mustafa Akıncı, Sunday's election winner, the conservative Ersin Tatar, is no longer willing to do this. He's banking on Erdoğan, and if necessary a union with the Turkish motherland rather than talks with the Cypriots on the other side of the Buffer Zone.”

HuffPost Greece (GR) /

In the end it's Erdoğan who calls the shots

As far as the Cyprus issue is concerned the outcome of the elections makes no difference, argues Prof. Christodoulos Yiallourides in a guest commentary for HuffPost Greece:

“Both Greek public opinion and the Greek Cypriots are of the opinion that Tatar's victory will increase the divisions, whereas if Akıncı had won the talks for a solution to the Cyprus problem would have taken a 'positive' course. ... But even if Akıncı had won, the options for action by him and others would be extremely limited, since Ankara has the last word in the negotiations. ... Any development regarding occupied Northern Cyprus is absolutely and undeniably determined by the Turkish President.”