The first round of Presidential elections in the Republic of Cyprus was held on 28 January 2018 with the participation of nine candidates. The incumbent President Nicos Anastasiades received 35.50 percent of the votes, while AKEL backed independent Stavros Malas got 30.25 percent. DİKO leader and candidate Nicolas Papadopoulos was the third candidate, who garnered 25.74 per cent and lost the chance to be in the second round. The voter turnout in the first round was 71.88%, which was the lowest for a presidential election and abstention reached 28.1%.
Since no candidate secured 50 plus one vote, the run-off election was held one week later on 4 February 2018 between President Nicos Anastasiades and independent Stavros Malas. The winner was Nicos Anastasiades (71 years old), who received 55.99 per cent of the votes (215.281) and will stay in his post on a second five-year term. Independent Stavros Malas (51 years old) lost the election to his rival with 44.01 per cent (169.243). The turnout in the second round was a little bit higher than the first one, 73.97%. Abstention votes reached 26.03%, invalid votes 2.65%, blank votes 2.99%.
President Anastasiades told his followers after the results were announced that he was willing to reactivate the inter-communal peace talks, which collapsed in Switzerland last July. The AKEL criticized the President’s handling of the Cyprus problem especially during the election campaign that he bears the responsibility for the failure of talks. Mr. Anastasiades said: “The biggest challenge we face is reunifying our country. I will continue to work with the same determination in a bid to achieve our common goal – ending foreign occupation and reunifying our state. There are no winners or losers, just Cyprus.”
Now that Mr. Anastasiades gained more of the centrist voters, he assured his supporters that he was willing to cooperate with everyone in order to achieve the common goal – ending the Turkish occupation and reunifying the island. Mr. Anastasiades repeated that he would seek a peace deal that doesn't include Turkey's demands for a permanent troop presence and the right to intervene militarily in a federated Cyprus.
The inter-communal talks have been going on since June 1968. The two communities living on the island, Turkish Cypriots (18%) and Greek Cypriots (80%), were trying to reach an agreement on a new constitution for the island republic, first on a unitary basis until 1974 and then on a federal basis since 1974, when the island was occupied by Turkish troops after a failed coup d’Etat against President Makarios.
Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, told in an interview with the Greek Cypriot Kathimerini newspaper on 4 February 2018 that the new Cyprus negotiations under UN parameters could only begin, when Greek Cypriots change their mentality and are willing to share power with their counterparts in the North of the island.
After the United Nations Security Council renewed the mandate of the U.N. Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for a period of six months on 30 January 2018, Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News reported that Turkish Foreign Ministry underlined in a written statement that any process in the coming period for the resolution of the decades-old Cyprus problem should be based on “current realities” and on the fact that Turkish and Greek Cypriots have differing conceptions of a new federal state.
Actually, here is the crux of the matter: “Current realities” are the partition of the island since 1974 with the proclamation of a breakaway state on the Turkish occupied northern part, which is ethnically cleansed from the indigenous Greek Cypriots and has more than 300,000 Anatolian settlers. Instead of a garrison of 650 Turkish soldiers, which was a part of the Treaty of Establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960, there are at present more than 35,000 Turkish troops stationed in the occupied area. What else Turkey wants now for the so-called security needs of the Turkish Cypriots, who are afraid of possible future attacks by the Greek Cypriot nationalists, to have a permanent sovereign base in the Northern part, similar to the one, proposed originally in the Acheson Plan of 1964. This has been a part of the Natoization plans of the island!
The Turkish Cypriot side went further in the inter-communal talks and asked the four freedoms for the Turkish nationals, who would remain in a re-united Cyprus. If this is accepted, it will open the way for an uncontrolled migration from Turkey to Cyprus or to the other EU member states. This possibility was already dealt in an article by Christoph B. Schiltz in German daily “Die Welt”, dated January 9, 2017, which stated that many bureaucrats in Brussels started to ask questions like "Will Erdogan step into the EU through Cyprus? Will Cyprus be Erdogan's Trojan Horse?"
Since most of the constitutional issues are agreed upon, the issues of security and guarantee of the new Federal Republic is the most important aspect of the next phase of the inter-communal talks, which could be resolved with an international conference, with the participation of the five permanent members of the United Nations.
In the new five-year term of President Nicos Anastasiades, I hope that a compromise can open the way to a genuine federal solution. The longer the partition lasts, the more the division solidifies.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been trying to influence the secular Turkish Cypriot community through religious and nationalist activities in the occupied area. The Turkish Cypriots have increased their complaints against the cultural and demographic changes, the alienation and islamization, designed by the occupying power, Turkey. (*)
(*)Erdogan expressed his anger to the criticism of the Turkish Cypriot “Afrika” newspaper, which published an article on 21 January 2018 saying that Turkey’s operation in Syria was like Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus. When Erdogan was informed about this, he called “on my brothers in North Cyprus to give necessary response”. The result was an attack by a group of local and Anatolian fascists against the office of the newspaper and against the “Parliament”.
This extreme nationalism and culture of intolerance is foreign to the secular Turkish Cypriots. That’s why around 5,000 Turkish Cypriots attended a march defending peace and democracy. The march was organised by the Trade Union Platform, which represented more than 20 Turkish Cypriot trade unions and associations. It was also backed by the New Cyprus Party, the United Cyprus Party and the Socialist Liberation Party, which are not represented in the “Parliament”. The demonstrators marched towards the ‘parliament’ building and chanted ‘shoulder to shoulder against fascism’, and for solidarity, democracy and peace.
(published in In Depth – Special Issue – Bimonthly Electronic Newsletter, Cyprus Center for European and International Affairs, University of Nicosia, Volume 15, Issue 1 – February 2018)