Turkish Cypriot Elections

EU Welcomes Election Outcome

Dovish Turkish Cypriot Premier Mehmet Ali Talat claimed victory in parliamentary elections Sunday in a result that was swiftly welcomed by the European Commission.

photo: AP
Talat and his wife casting their votes

​​Talat, a strong supporter of a UN reunification plan for the divided island that was voted down by the rival Greek Cypriot community last April, said the results were a vindication of his center-left Republican Turkish Party's reconciliation efforts and called for renewed peace talks on the island.

"This is an important success," Talat told reporters.

His party's showing was a significant advance on the last polls in December 2003 in which it emerged the largest with 35.2 percent of the vote but was forced to form a coalition with the more nationalist Democrat Party of Serdar Denktash, son of veteran hardline leader Rauf Denktash.

But the final results still gave his party just 24 of the 50 seats in parliament, two short of a majority, again forcing it to form a coalition.

But a 5.8 percent showing for another smaller pro-UN plan faction, the Peace and Democracy Party, gave it one MP, offering Talat the possibility of a more dovish coalition partner.

Olive branch to Greek Cypriots

He immediately held out an olive branch to Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, whose majority Greek Cypriot community overwhelming rejected the UN reunification blueprint at his urging in a referendum last April, saying the election result showed the Turkish Cypriots' continuing desire for a solution.

"I want to call on the Greek Cypriot side leadership to take our hand, which we are extending in peace to them and we will continue to put our best effort for reconciliation and a solution to the Cyprus problem," he said.

Talat called on the international community to make good on its promises to reward the Turkish Cypriot yes vote in last year's referendum by easing the economic isolation of the breakaway state declared in 1983 but recognized only by Ankara.

"It is not up to me but up to the international community to help us end the isolation," he said. "We will use our pressure more decisively and more extensively" to achieve that.

EU tries to help Turkish north

The Greek Cypriot no vote meant that a divided island joined the European Union in May last year, denying the Turkish Cypriots the full benefits of membership.

The European Union has since tried to restore direct preferential trade with the Turkish Cypriots but has run into legal obstacles raised by a 1994 court decision and the opposition of the internationally recognized Cyprus government.

The European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, swiftly welcomed the outcome of Sunday's vote, saying: "The results indicate a clear desire of the Turkish Cypriot community to continue preparations for their full integration into the EU.

"The results also show that the Turkish Cypriots are committed to the reunification of Cyprus," it added.

Analysts had voiced concern that following the referendum debacle, large numbers of Turkish Cypriots would stay away from the polls in disillusion, but the electoral commission said turnout was around 80 percent.

April presidential elections decisive

Early elections were called after Talat's two-party coalition lost its slim parliamentary majority last May, shortly after the UN reunification plan was voted down.

The results were a slap in the face for nationalist former Premier Dervis Eroglu whose right-wing National Unity Party had been expected to give Talat a close run but secured just 31.6 percent of the vote and 19 seats.

photo: AP
Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash getting ready to cast his vote on Sunday

​​Analysts expressed doubt that the election result would lead to any immediate resumption of the peace process on the island, cautioning that that would have to wait until after presidential elections in April, when hardliner Rauf Denktash is to stand down after four decades leading his community.

Denktash's center-right Democrats won 13.4 percent of the vote and six seats, and the remaining three parties failed to pass the five percent threshold for parliamentary representation.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops occupied the island's northern third following a Greek Cypriot coup seeking union with Greece.

Deutsche Welle staff

© DEUTSCHE WELLE/DW-WORLD.DE 2005

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