Turkish Cypriots are holding parliamentary elections Sunday in a vote
likely to boost hardliners and complicate efforts to resolve the
long-running division of Cyprus.
The opposition National Unity Party is leading in opinion polls, and
the ruling Republican Turkish Party trails by a wide margin as Turkish
Cypriots vote in legislative elections.
The ruling party backs
Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, who in U.N.-backed talks with
the island's majority Greek Cypriots, has promoted reunifying Cyprus as
a federation of two ethnic regions. But the National Unity Party
backs a two-state model rejected by Greek Cypriots.
Analysts say a strong election showing by the opposition could weaken Mr. Talat's negotiating position.
Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities are engaged in U.N.-sponsored
peace talks aimed at ending the island's 35-year division. The
negotiations, which restarted last year, have been described as the
'last chance' for Cyprus peace.
But with nationalists, who want
northern Cyprus to remain a single state, predicted to take seats from
Mehmet Ali Talat's ruling party there are concerns the peace talks
could quickly run into serious difficulties.
London School of
Economics senior research fellow James Ker-Lindsay says whatever the
outcome at the polls, Talat will remain the chief negotiator for the
Turkish Cypriots. But, he says, a weakened party in parliament may
mean that his power to bargain for unity will be compromised.
it is obviously going to limit Talat's ability to act in a lot of ways,
you know parliament is going to have a much greater say in all of this
and really can tie his hands," said Lindsay.
Kursat, a candidate standing for the newly established Peoples
Political Party (HiSP) in Famagusta, like so many others, is
disillusioned with the ongoing peace talks and thinks it is time for
north Cyprus to stand alone.
Greek side people do not want us; they said in the memorandum [2005
Annan Referendum] four years ago, they said no, what it means? They do
not want us," he said.
Most Turkish Cypriots seem
to have lost confidence a solution can be found in recent years. And
some have bitterly complained that a promise made by the European Union
to end the isolation of north Cyprus remains unfulfilled.
joined the European Union as a divided island soon after the
internationally recognized south rejected a U.N. reunification plan in
2004, even though the Turkish Cypriots in the north overwhelmingly
Hardline nationalists have
also complained of foreign interference in these elections, in what
they say is an attempt to keep the ruling party in power.
Former Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash agrees.
are a lot of interferences, suggestions by the Americans, by the
European Union to sustain the present government," he said. "They say it is the
present government that can make peace with the Greek Cypriot side."
month, the Greek Cypriot president sent a clear message to Ankara that
Turkey will not be able to join the European Union unless it ends its
occupation of the northern sector of Cyprus.
But Kursat, like many in northern Cyprus, does not think Turkey will ever enter the European Union.
do not think that Turkey will get into the European Union, ever.
Because the European Union communities do not want Turkey, because, you
know, Turkey is a Muslim country, the European Union is a Christian
group," said Kursat. "I do not think so."
than 161,000 voters will cast ballots with 345 candidates from seven
political parties and eight independent candidates are competing for
the seats at the breakaway state's parliament.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the northern
part of the island in response to a military coup that was backed by
the Greek government. South Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004
and the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is only
recognized by Turkey.