Turkish Cypriot President Rauf Denktash turning out to cast his ballot in ageneral election with high stakes for efforts to reunify the divided mediterranean island.
Denktash is a staunch opponent of the UN plan which foundered last year after opposition from the richer, more numerous Greek Cypriots in the south of the island. Denktash, who is president of a republic that is internationally only recognised by Turkey, said that this election showed how Turkish Cypriots wanted to preserve their independence, state and democracy. “We will not sacrifice our independence,” he said. Denktash’s job is not the issue in this election. Outgoing Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Talat, leads the Republican Turkish Party, and backs unification talks and closer ties to the European Union. Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974, when Turkey invaded the north in response to a Greek-inspired coup. Opinion polls suggest Talat’s party will win the largest number of votes in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. However, to form a government, it will probably need the support of its former coalition partner, the Democratic Party. The greatest threat, however, comes from low turn-out as a result of voter fatigue. It’s only 14 months since Turkish cypriots last voted in a general election. Also last April, in an island-wide referendum, Turkish Cypriots backed a UN peace plan. But Greek Cypriots gave the project the thumbs down.