Mustafa Akıncı, who has been at the center of the discussions as the President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) since 2015, lost his seat to Ersin Tatar in the last election. When TRNC comes along a relatively low participation rate of 45% in the first round of the presidential election, especially the position of Ersin Tatar, who has consistently promoted the strengthening of ties between Turkey and the TRNC during his campaign, has been questioned. Reactions to the submissive policies followed by Akıncı with serious concessions from independence and territories of TRNC and the negative perception created in which Turkey will get involved in the election in favor of Tatar can be considered the main causes underlying this low participation in the first round. Whereas, rather than Turkey’s involvement, the Greek Cypriot side and the European Union have come to the fore as the parties directly involved in the TRNC elections in favor of Akıncı by creating a strong public opinion and using various economic tools since the beginning of the election campaign. Nevertheless, not Mustafa Akıncı, who has taken the support of the Greek side and the European Union, but Ersin Tatar, who has Turkey’s support, has won the elections. At this point, apart from the internal dynamics of the TRNC, a critical question arises: How could Turkey beat the European Union in Cyprus?
In order to find the answer to this question, it is necessary to read the messages of the Turkish Cypriot people in these elections together with the renewed geopolitical dynamics in the world order that has been evolving into multipolarity. At the local level, TRNC elections represented a political race between those ones who display sensitivity about TRNC’s independence and equal sovereign presence on the island by maintaining strong ties with Turkey and those ones who prefer to reunite with the Greeks under the umbrella of a federation by ignoring the possibility of falling to minority status. The polarization that emerged between the two choices, especially in the second round of the election, became concrete in the form of ‘advocators of the two-state solution’ represented by Ersin Tatar and ‘federationists’ represented by Mustafa Akıncı.
Although Ersin Tatar won the first round, the total votes of Tufan Erhürman, the candidate of the Republican Turkish Party (CTP) who supported Mustafa Akıncı, and Akıncı, created the impression that the federationists were ahead. However, those who had this impression made the mistake of underestimating the possible effect of 55% of the Turkish Cypriot people to the second round, who did not go to the ballot in the first round. Although various comments were made regarding the concerns of this group, it was understood clearly how these TRNC citizens, who did not approve of the concessions made by Akıncı from independence and territory, changed the final results in the second round.
In the second round, in which the participation increased to 67%, Ersin Tatar was elected as the fifth president of the TRNC by taking 51.69% of the votes. On the other hand, the Turkish Cypriot people ended the 45-year political life of Mustafa Akıncı, who was thinking of giving away the territories taken with blood for a price. There are three important messages to be drawn from the election behaviour of the Turkish Cypriot people. First of all, the Turkish Cypriot people put a heavy barrier in front of the political understanding that would harm the independence and equal sovereignty of TRNC. Secondly, they did not allow the concessional understanding that thinks that the TRNC territories can be given to the Greeks. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the Turkish Cypriots have approved the search for new and alternative models, including the two-state structure and the recognition of the TRNC, rather than the federation-based unification model that has not yielded any result for 46 years. In brief, while the idea of ‘federal Cyprus’ which Akıncı led the flag in Cyprus is now obsolete, the tendency towards ‘two-state solution’ and/or ‘recognition’ strategies have emerged as new reality.
If the results of the TRNC elections are to evaluate in terms of TRNC, Turkey and geopolitical balances, first of all, a strong signal has been given for the TRNC that it is time for new and challenging solution alternatives to be opened to discussion at least. This election results in terms of Turkey, have revealed the necessity towards the construction of a new Cyprus policy on the basis of a two-state solution model or strategies for the recognition of TRNC. In terms of geopolitical balances, it revealed the reality that it would no longer be possible to get anywhere with the federal solution model imposed by the Euro-Atlantic axis in Cyprus and TRNC would be one of the significant actors together with Turkey in the geopolitical equation of the Eastern Mediterranean.