Ersin Tatar, the Turkish Cypriot presidential hopeful, led the weekend’s election but failed to gain an encouraging share of votes for the second round despite open support from Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan.
Thus, his 32 percent lead was also a real disappointment for Erdoğan, with incumbent Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı reaching some 30 percent, despite a pressing campaign by Erdoğan-supporter columnists and TV pundits who rushed to declare him a “traitor.”
Akıncı seems to be holding an advantage for the Oct. 18 polls, since Tufan Erhürman, the candidate of left-leaning social democrat Republican Turkish Party (CTP), gained some 21 percent and is likely to back independent Akıncı in the second round.
Akıncı used to be the head of the Communal Liberation Party (TKP), a socialist movement, before going independent.
The turnout in the first round, meanwhile, was at a record-low 55 percent.
Pushing too hard ruins the game
Like Erhürman, it would be a surprise to see Kudret Özersay supporting Tatar in the second round because he has already resigned from his seat as the foreign minister in reaction to Tatar for opening Varosha to the public ahead of the elections with the support of Erdoğan.
The Turkish Cypriot prime ministry partly reopened the shoreline of Varosha, the resort town that was shut down after the separation of the Turkish and Greek sides of the island in 1974. Özersay, saying that Tatar hijacked his Varoshe idea together with Erdoğan, got more than 5 percent in the first round.
It is also possible to say that most of the Tatar supporters went to the ballot boxes in the first round. Some of those who did not might be the voters who voted for Akıncı in 2015 and handed him a 60 percent lead but now want to warn him not to distance Turkish Cyprus too much from Turkey and not to give too much credit to the European Union and the Greek side of the island, since the 40-years of talks brought no results yet.
The moment that Erdoğan disrupted the game by forcefully was the “opening” of the freshwater pipeline (remotely from Ankara) and the Geçitköy Dam, which had been repaired months ago and started working again.
Maybe Turkish Ambassador to Nicosia Ali Murat Başçeri would hesitate to say it clearly, but Turkish Cypriot voters are very irked by a new wave of mostly ultra-religious people from Turkey, as Tatar wants to grant him citizenship and the right to vote. Let’s wait and see if the Erdoğan-Tatar duo will be able to pull a rabbit out of the hat to win in the next round.
Election lessons to Turkey
Recently, political rumors spread that Erdoğan would not go to an election that he might lose, or he would not leave the seat if he lost. Such rumors have a negative effect on the financial markets, which already hit a new bottom each day. It is clear that these claims that totally lack resources and have no basis drive the oppositional sections of the society to frustration. Such allegations had spread before the 2019 local elections, especially during the rerun for the Istanbul mayor’s seat. Those claims at the time did not come true.
The economic situation has the biggest share in the election results, but it is not the sole element. In 2002, it was not only the financial crisis that drove the members of the Trilateral Coalition government out of parliament and brought the AK Party to power. It was also the political decay and the voters’ reaction to the soldiers pushing the game too much. The Turkish Cypriot election on Oct. 11 was like proving this true again in a laboratory environment.
The economic outlook of Turkey is not bright, this is obvious. But the political outlook is also not bright at all. How long can the favoritism of relatives, countrymen, or religious groups last as the opposition faces pressure through the judiciary? These will all play a role in the next elections.
And the opposition
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is accused of not speaking up enough. A similar accusation was on the table ahead of the 2019 local elections. He is accused of not giving enough credit to the voters on the right of the CHP’s political spectrum and neglecting the expectations of the party’S grassroots. He had faced the same criticism ahead of the 2019 local elections that brought him and the CHP their first poll success after long years. But it is also a fact that not only the CHP but also the opposition groups expect more from Kılıçdaroğlu and it is a question mark how he can do more with a new party administration that was formed after the party congress in late July.
Meral Akşener, the head of the İYİ Party (Good Party) was doing fine but a party congress has turned into a hurdle for her, too. Now, she is trying to resolve some internal issues, that are welcomed both by Erdoğan and this election partner, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) head Devlet Bahçeli. Akşener is also trying to remain on the field.
Ali Babacan, the leader of the Democracy and Progress Party (Deva Party), stands out these days when it comes to being on the field. After overcoming the Covid disease, his public meetings in the southwestern provinces of Diyarbakır and Batman made an impact. It is noteworthy that these breakouts came after a joint press conference with Kılıçdaroğlu on “early elections.”