Believe it or not, I became a voter two years ago, just in time for the parliamentary elections of 2016. I am now a staunch voter and will try and convince people wherever I go on the importance of voting.
Why do I vote?
I vote for two very significant reasons. First of all, as a Turkish Cypriot, born and bred in the south, up until 2006, I could not exercise my right to vote.
Secondly, as a woman, exactly 100 years ago (1918), women in the UK fought, and fought hard to take the first steps in women’s suffrage (the right of women to vote in elections). Then when Cyprus gained its independence in 1960, women on the island gained the right to vote.
In 2003, when Cypriot citizens (of all communities) were called upon to vote in a referendum on the Annan Plan, I was 18 years old and not interested in politics. I was interested enough to realise though, that more than likely I was not allowed to vote.
Some years later I realised that a fellow villager of mine (from Potamia/Bodamya) – prominent activist and journalist, Ibrahim Aziz had taken the Republic of Cyprus to the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that he could not exercise his right to vote. Aziz won and I could now exercise my right to vote in the Republic.
According to the details of the case, in January 2001, Aziz applied to the Interior Minister, requesting to be registered in the electoral roll in order to exercise his voting rights in the parliamentary elections of May 2001. In February of the same year, the Interior Ministry refused to enrol him. The Ministry specified that, by virtue of Article 63 of the constitution, members of the Turkish Cypriot community could not be registered in the Greek Cypriot electoral roll.
Aziz suggested that the realities of Cyprus must be taken into consideration; the fact that these realities rendered the compilation of an electoral list of the members of the Turkish community impossible.
Meanwhile, last week marked the centenary of women’s suffrage in the UK, calling on all women with the right to vote, to remember how in the not too distant past, a group of determined women fought for that right: they were arrested, force fed in prison and probably much worse. Most importantly, they made vital and brave steps in creating the electoral system we know today.
In this country’s very recent presidential elections, less than 1 in 4 women (registered voters) exercised their right to vote. Essentially, they took this right for granted.
Despite the fact that for many years I neglected looking into whether I could vote as a citizen of the Republic, I cannot help but make up for lost time now. How can I not?