The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus voted for a new parliament and government after months of political instability on January 7. The results show a sea change in thinking among the populace.

A disabled Turkish Cypriot man casts his ballot in the parliamentary election in the northern part of Nicosia in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) on January 7, 2018.
A disabled Turkish Cypriot man casts his ballot in the parliamentary election in the northern part of Nicosia in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) on January 7, 2018. (AFP)

In November, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus parliament voted 38-2 on a motion, green-lighting early elections. Under the motion, parliamentary elections originally planned for July 2018 were brought forward to January 7.

Last Sunday, voters in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus went to the polls to decide who would next govern the disputed island. 

Here are five questions on the Turkish Cyprus elections:

1- Which political parties contested the elections?

Eight political parties and 379 candidates, including nine independent candidates, are in the running, but six of the parties could surpass a five percent threshold needed for representation in the parliament.

The parties include the National Unity Party (UBP) which was established by the country’s first President Rauf Denktas. UBP makes up the current government – even though it wasn't the first party who got most of the votes in the last elections – with the Democrat Party (DP) which is led by Serdar Denktas, son of the deceased president. 

The Republican Turkish Party (CTP), a centre-left political party which won the last elections, the Communal Democracy Party (TDP), the social democrats, and Peoples' Party (HP) which was established two years ago, also ran in the elections. HP's leader, Kudret Ozersay, was the chief negotiator in the latest round of talks with the Greek Cyprus in the south, which started in 2014.

The other three parties are the Communal Liberation Party-New Forces (TKP-YG), Nationalist Democracy Party (MDP) and the Renaissance Party (YDP).

2- Why did they have snap elections? 

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) has held 38 elections in the last 40 years due to a number of reasons, including disagreements between the coalition parties. 

Three successive coalition governments have collapsed since the last general elections were held in 2013, when the main coalition CTP secured 21 seats, and garnered 38.4 percent, which meant they could not form a government by themselves.  Twenty-six seats are needed to form a government in a 50-seat parliament, according to the constitution.  

In the late August of the same year, the CTP formed a coalition government with the DP. 

Their coalition collapsed after two years. The leftist CTP then formed a coalition government with the centre-right UBP in July 2015 for the first time in their political history. 

However, it only lasted eight months and the coalition collapsed after the UBP withdrew from the government. The UBP and DP later teamed up to form a coalition government.

In late 2017, the UBP-DP coalition government accepted a proposal to hold a snap election on January 8.

3- What is the distribution of votes?

More than 190,000 people are eligible to vote in Turkish Cyprus, with a population of more than 313,000, according to the country’s high electoral board. 

The results suggest the UBP has secured 21 seats in the parliament with a 36 percent share of the vote. 

The UBP is followed by the CTP who obtained 21 percent and 12 seats in the 50-seat parliament – a dramatic decrease compared to 2013 – after not being able to form a coalition which lasts for a whole term.

The newly established HP came third, securing nine seats with 18 percent of the vote in the election. 

The ruling partner DP, on the other hand, only got three seats with seven percent of the vote. 

They were followed by the TDP's Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci, who was also supported by the CTP during the presidential elections in 2015, with three seats. The far-right YDP founded by settlers of Turkish origin, who ran for the first time, got two seats. 

4- Who are the winning and losing parties?

The UBP increased its share of votes to 36 percent from the 29 percent obtained in the 2013 elections with 14 seats. 

The centre-right party secured seven more seats in the last elections. However it still needed five other seats to form a government. 

The CTP became the second-biggest party,  represented by 12 seats in parliament, but it lost around 17 percent of the vote compared to the 2013 general elections. It had secured 21 seats in the previous election.

“We became the second party in the election and we respect the people’s decision. The election turnout is around 66 percent and we need to examine why the 34 percent didn’t go to the polls,” Erdogan Sorakin, the general secretary of the CTP told TRT World.

The DP also lost votes in the last election. It had secured 12 seats in the 2013 election and that was enough to form a government with the UBP. However, they only have three seats now.

Two new parties will be represented in the parliament this year with the HP securing nine seats and the YDP, two. 

There is no change in the number of YDP seats in the parliament which is still two.

5- Who will form a government?

According to the country’s constitution, at least 26 seats are needed to form a government. 

However, none of political parties has enough seats in the parliament.   

The current government is led by the UBP and the DP, but given they have only 24 seats, they will need two more seats to form a coalition government. 

“There will be at least a coalition of three parties. The HP has already announced they would not form a government with the UBP. Therefore, a coalition among the UBP, the DP, and the YDP stands as their best chance, but I don’t think it would be a sustainable and long-lasting coalition,” said Sorakin.

An Athens-backed Greek-led coup in Cyprus in 1974 by ultra-nationalist putschists prompted Turkey to step in to protect the Turkish Cypriot population on the island. The incident split the nation as the United Nations stepped in to keep the peace.

The Turkish Cypriot population moved north, and the Greek Cypriot population moved south. Between the two regions is a buffer zone which the UN oversees. And Nicosia is the only capital city in the world which is divided in two. The northern side is the capital of Turkish Cypriots, and the south belongs to the Greek Cypriots.

Since then, every attempt to reunify the island has stalled. 

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus government has no direct influence on the negotiations, as the president of the country is responsible for leading the talks. However, if Turkish and Greek sides do reach an agreement in the future, the government will then be responsible for completing the process. The UBP is known to be reluctant to negotiate. The process has slowed down each time a UBP candidate became the president, such as when Dervis Eroglu, the third president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was in office. 

Source: TRT World