Left-wing candidate Mustafa Akinci has won the runoff elections in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), the country's Supreme Election Committee announced Sunday night.
The election committee announced nearly all ballots were counted and Mustafa Akinci took 60.38 percent of the vote, while incumbent president Dervis Eroglu took the remaining 39.62 percent.
The turnout of the election stood at 64.04 percent of 176,916 registered voters.
Akinci has thus become the TRNC’s fourth president since Turkish Cypriots declared independence in November 1983, and is tipped to be president to finally solve the island’s 40-year-old dispute.
The polls were held as Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots look set to revive peace talks after a six-month pause due to a disagreement over offshore hydrocarbon reserves.
In October, Turkey sent a seismic vessel to search for hydrocarbon reserves off the island’s coast in agreement with the TRNC after the Greek Cypriot side failed to heed warnings to cease unilateral action over the potential natural gas fields.
Greek Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades subsequently left the negotiation table out of protest, just eight months after he and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Dervis Eroglu read out a joint declaration vowing to reunite the island based upon a UN-backed bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.
However, it was announced earlier in April by the UN envoy to the island, Espen Barth Eide, that peace talks will resume within a matter of weeks after Turkey withdrew its vessel following a pause to Greek Cypriot hydrocarbon exploration in the area.
Having previously served as the mayor of the Turkish Cypriot side of the island’s split capital Nicosia, Akinci sailed to a clear victory over his rival Eroglu after being given support from his former Communal Democrat Party (TDP) and fellow left-wing Republican Turkish Party (CTP), whose presidential candidate Sibel Siber failed to progress to the runoff.
"We achieved change and my policy will be focused on reaching a peace settlement," Akinci told supporters during his victory speech in northern Nicosia. "This country cannot tolerate any more wasted time."
Akinci also said he received a congratulatory phone call from Greek Cypriot leader Anastasiades, saying he told him “if we can't solve this now, it will be a tremendous burden on future generations” as the jubilant crowd chanted “peace in Cyprus cannot be blocked.”
In a statement issued by Greek Cypriot administration spokesman Nicos Christodoulides, Akinci was described as “a man who through his public discourse and declarations, has referred to the need for reunification of the country.”
UN envoy to the island, Espen Barth Eide, also welcomed Akinci’s victory, expressing pleasure over "his commitment to resuming negotiations as soon as possible."
Right-wing candidate Eroglu, whose five-year reign as president has been marred by economic woes and political disunity both between and within parties, conceded defeat shortly after the election results were announced.
Despite enjoying the backing of his former National Unity Party (UBP) and Serdar Denktas’ junior coalition partner Democratic Party-National Powers (DP-UG), he could not muster enough support from voters to secure a second term, even though he was marginally voted the most popular candidate in the first round of voting last week.
Congratulating Akinci on his victory, 77-year-old Eroglu also said this was the last election of his political career, while expressing his pride for seeing the peace process with the Greek Cypriots through to its current point.
The island of Cyprus has been ethnically divided since a military coup by the Greek junta in a bid to unite the island with Greece in July 1974 led to Turkey exercising its right under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee to conduct a military intervention in the island.
Almost a decade after Turkey secured the northern third of the island and a population exchange between Turkish Cypriots in the south and Greek Cypriots in the north, failure to reach an agreement with the Greek Cypriots to restore the constitutional government led to the Turkish Cypriots declaring independence - which is only recognised by Turkey.
A number of attempts to restore the constitution have failed since then, with the latest example being the Cyprus referendum of 2004 prior to the Greek Cypriot administration’s accession to the EU. While the majority of Turkish Cypriots voted to reunite the island, which would have secured the withdrawal of Turkish troops, the Greek Cypriots voted against reunification.