Gains for Turkey

Given the situation in the occupied part of northern Cyprus, a landslide defeat by the breakaway state’s leader Rauf Denktash in the weekend polls was hardly likely. Since 1983, the Turkish-Cypriot leader has, on behalf of Ankara, fashioned a status quo that has been effectively controlled by the military. The regime is upheld socially by the large number of settlers whose vast majority backs the Turkish-Cypriot nationalists led by Denktash. The fact that more than half of the breakaway community realizes that northern Cyprus would only stand to gain by joining the EU (via accepting a settlement) is indeed reflected in last Sunday’s election results. It is also a fact that Denktash can no longer claim to represent (either in Turkey or abroad) the will of the Turkish-Cypriot people for a state that would remain under Ankara’s supervision and outside the EU so as to safeguard the «national interests» of the motherland – always threatened by Greek «encirclement.» Denktash has no reason to be satisfied with the recent electoral result. Nevertheless, he was not subject to any dismal defeat, as his opponents had hoped. It remains to be seen how Ankara will deal with the dead heat in the breakaway state, in terms of its Cyprus strategy: Will Ankara stick to its intransigent position or will it adopt a more flexible policy, taking into consideration societal pressure for a solution and EU membership? In any case, the polls allowed Turkey to score a point. It is hard to question the legitimacy of the «state» it has established on the occupied part of the island. The international community treated last Sunday’s vote as a valid one, while foreign governments and international organizations assessed the outcome in similar terms. This development will not be ignored in future negotiations of a Cyprus blueprint.