After decades of dominance in the political life of the Turkish Cypriot community, Rauf Denktaş announced that he would not run for re-election in 2005. The post-Denktaş era was already a reality. The road had been paved more than two years earlier, since the final weeks of 2002. The power of the Turkish Cypriot leader and his ability to exert influence in the political, military circles, but also in the wider Turkish society, began to be shaken by from the day Tayyip Erdogan was elected Prime Minister of Turkey. Erdogan appeared to adopt a new approach to the Cyprus issue, setting aside the common line of Turkish Cypriots and Ankara, according to which the Cyprus issue was resolved in 1974, after the island’s invasion and occupation by the Turkish Army. He stated that Turkey is constantly facing the problem, which does not allow the country to proceed with her plans, and it was necessary to find a solution.

The election of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) coincided with the most important development in the history of the Cyprus Problem: The UN Secretary-General presented to the Cypriot parties an integrated and comprehensive plan for resolving the problem, known as the Annan Plan, on 11 November 2011. The ultimate goal was a final solution and accession of Cyprus to the European Union as a united country in 2004.

Developments also had a negative effect on Denktaş’s position in the Turkish Cypriot society, as well. The support and trust of the society he was enjoying was dramatically weakening, and the power of the almighty leader began to shake. The policies he followed seemed outdated and out of the reality of that period. As the date approached of the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union, efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus problem increased. A momentum was developing that favored the forces working in the above direction. In the last months of 2002, unprecedented mobilizations began to take place in the Turkish Cypriot community, with the participation of tens of thousands of people. Their main demand was for a solution to the Cyprus Problem and for a united Cyprus to join the EU.

The events, combined with health problems that Denktaş faced during this period, led to his de facto partial side-lining, without however him loosing a say on critical issues. At meetings with the United Nations in March 2003, the newly elected President of the Republic of Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos stated that he would accept the Annan plan, after being given some clarifications, while Denktash rejected it. The consolidation of Erdogan’s power made it possible to project people who could be Denktaş’s successors. The latter, however, played a role until the April 2004 referenda.

The stage in the Turkish Cypriot society featured a permanent fragmentation of the political forces. The right and the left wing forces emerged almost equal in influence following the elections in December 2003, which gave Ankara an even greater leverage in their involvement in the life of the Turkish Cypriots.

Denktaş was seen as an obstacle to the prospects that seemed to open up. At the same time, however, the result of the referenda in April 2004, with the rejection of the Annan Plan by the Greek Cypriots and the accession of a divided island to the EU, had a negative effect on the movement and the hopes for a solution. The momentum was not totally neutralized, and in February 2005, the left-wing Republican Turkish Party (CTP) – New Forces, led by Mehmet Ali Talat, won the election with 44.5%, compared to 31.7% for the conservative National Unity Party. . The result seemed to give the leader of the RTK the lead in the upcoming contest to become the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community.

Candidates for the Turkish Cypriot leadership in April 2005 were:

Mehmet Ali Talat, leader of the Republican Turkish Party (CTP), since 1996. The party was founded in 1970 as an opposition force in an environment where there was little room for political life. From a left-communist party, it had meanwhile evolved into a social democratic movement, abandoning its radical rhetoric of previous decades.

Derviş Eroğlu, leader of the National Unity Party (KEE – UBP), since December 1983. The founder of the party was Rauf Denktash, with a conservative-nationalist ideology. Eroğlu had repeatedly come into political confrontation with Rauf Denktash. He also faced him in 1995 in a contest for the leadership of the Turkish Cypriots and lost in the second round, with 37.5%, against 62.5%. In 2000, the two qualified for the second round again, but Eroğlu withdrew, leaving the victory to Denktash. Following the 2004 referendum, the NUP adjusted its policy, adopting a positive stance on the Turkish Cypriots’ accession to the EU before Turkey’s accession, but also on the need for a negotiated solution to the Cyprus problem.

Mustafa Şenol Arabacıoğlu ran as a candidate for the Democratic Party (DP), which was founded in 1992 by politicians who split from the National Unity Party. The split, one of the many suffered by the NUP- UBP, was the result of a conflict between Eroğlu and Rauf Denktash. Denktash’s son, Serdar, has been the party leader since 1996.

Nuri Çevikel, leader of the New Party (NP – YP), which received 1.8% of the vote in February 2005.

Hüseyin Angolemli, as leader of the center-left Community Liberation Party (CLP- TKP). The party was founded in 1976 and its highest percentage was 15.4% (1998).

Zehra Cengiz (Socialist Party of Cyprus – SPC- KSP) and independents Zeki Beşiktepeli, Arif Salih Kırdağ and Ayhan Kaymak completed the list of candidates. Nine is an all times record number of candidates in this kind of election.

With the Republican Turkish Party having already won the February showdown with a significant lead over the NUP, and with Eroğlu a key rival, who was already facing internal party controversy, Mehmet Ali Talat achieved a comfortable win in the first round with 55.6 %. His opponent secured only 22.7%, while his party had received 31.7% two months earlier.

At first glance, the result was a triumph for Talat, but careful analysis of the data indicates that he won because there was no other choice for many voters, while, at the same time, the momentum of the supporters of the solution showed a significant weakening. The abstention rate was slightly over 30%, which, however, was ten points higher than in February, affecting more Nicosia and its environs, as well as other areas that have been in favor of a solution and accession to the European Union. Talat had also a significant influence in communities with settlers from Turkey, where he received about one third of the vote. Over the time results show that 85-90% of the settlers’ vote has been given to conservative parties. However, the recent exercise of power by Talat’s party allowed for its penetration into and influence in settlers communities, generally isolated from the overall society.