Some of Mustafa Akıncı’s parting words after losing Sunday’s presidential elections (2nd round) were ‘good luck to the people of Cyprus’.
Indeed. And so ends Akıncı’s 45 years in politics.
Akıncı was considered by many Cypriots as the last hope for reunification under a bizonal, bicommunal federation (BBF). The only Turkish Cypriot leader to stand up to Turkey (and one that received plenty of threats because of it).
Since Sunday, we have all had a chance to take stock and decide what this means for the future of Cyprus. What does it mean to have someone at the helm who believes in a two-state solution and Turkish guarantees? Someone who says he represents all Turkish Cypriots, yet also claims to be Turkey’s man in Cyprus and encourages further involvement from Turkey. His beliefs seem to run contrary to everything that Turkish Cypriots have been endeavouring to achieve for so long now; for the ‘yavru vatan’ (baby state) to finally grow up.
Undeniably, we cannot brush aside the way in which these elections were won. Last week, Akıncı mentioned that the elections were not won under ‘normal conditions’. During the election period, money and political power were used in order for Ersin Tatar to make the political gains he finally did, something which was well-known across the border. Aside from Tatar’s blatant electioneering tactics: opening up the beach front of Varosha/Maraş in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
Turkish Cypriots are divided and have taken to social media to express it with posts like “Ersin Tatar does not represent us. He was elected due to AKP’s interference in the elections and the violation of democratic procedures #notmypresident”. While others felt the need to express that their votes were certainly not bought.
In some of Tatar’s first statements following the elections, he called attention to his so-called Turkish heritage saying “I am a child of a Turk, I am a Turk”, very much echoing the late Rauf Denktaş’ words: “I am a child of Anatolia. I am Turkish in every way and my roots go back to Central Asia.” How will Tatar connect with members of the community who identify with being Turkish Cypriot or Cypriot? Indeed, by identifying himself with what he believes to be the motherland, he will alienate those who do not feel Turkish.
However, the same can be said for president of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, who has made many references to so-called Cypriot Hellenism.
As much as we would like to believe that Tatar’s win (and Akıncı’s loss) sounded the death knell for the peace process, we would be deluding ourselves. The negotiations have not recommenced since the disappointing failure at Crans Montana in 2017.
This is a time for self-reflection. Did we do our part? Let us not forget that in March 2018, Akıncı appealed to Anastasiades to co-sign the Guterres framework as a strategic agreement, but he refused, leaving Akıncı in the lurch to face Turkey and a rightist government. Has anything been done to educate the public on the benefits of BBF? If we conducted a door-to-door survey, I would be very surprised to find anyone who could explain the meaning of BBF let alone its benefits.
Where do we go from here?
Varosha, in the district of Famagusta has been a ghost town since the 1974 war, which divided the island into the Republic of Cyprus in the south and the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in the north. It had previously been a bustling resort town, with the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Brigitte Bardot holidaying there.
AKP – The Justice and Development Party abbreviated as the AK Parti, is a conservative political party in Turkey.