The election of Mehmet Ali Talat and the win of his party two months earlier coincided with a difficult period in the efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus Problem. The rejection by the Greek Cypriots of the Annan Plan one year earlier and the presence of Tassos Papadopoulos as President of the Republic, a key figure in the rejection of the Plan, appeared as obstacles in any effort to make progress in finding a solution. Nevertheless, with Papadopoulos’ initiatives, it became possible to sign an agreement that re-iterated the framework of principles for the solution of the Cyprus Problem. The pursuit of the reunification of Cyprus on the basis of a Bi-Zonal Bicommunal Federation and political equality as defined in relevant United Nations resolutions was reaffirmed. The leaders undertook to promote talks, while, at the same time, technical committees would address issues affecting ‘citizens’ daily life’. The agreement did not break the deadlock, and 14 months elapsed before the two leaders met in early September 2007, at the invitation of the Greek Cypriot leader. Despite the meeting, the stalemate persisted due to disagreements over the establishment and role of the technical committees and the procedural issues related to the resumption of talks.

In February 2008, Tassos Papadopoulos failed re-election, and the election of Demetris Christofias as President of the Republic was hailed by various quarters in Cyprus and abroad as an “opportunity for a solution”. Many invested in the fact that the two leaders, Talat and Christofias, had a common ideological basis, they both belonged to the left, while they did not bear responsibility for the creation of the Cyprus Problem. Of course, many missed the fact that they were now leaders of their respective community and sought to serve general, not partisan, goals and interests.

Despite their ideological affinity, the two leaders faced significant difficulties in their efforts to agree on procedural issues, and the the resumption of talks was finally achieved in early September 2008. The expected progress was limited in scope and focused on individual issues.

Mehmet Ali Talat and Demetris Christofias did not avoid statements and counter-statements that created tensions in their relations and caused difficulties in the talks. The climate was affected to some extent negatively after the victory of the National Unity Party in early elections in the Turkish Cypriot community in April 2009. The winner was Dervis Eroglu, who after the loss of the NUP-UBP leadership in 2006 was considered that his presence in politics was over. However, he returned as party leader in November 2008, and a few months later brought the NUP – UBP to power with 44.1%, against 29.2% for the Turkish Republican Party, now led by Ferbi Sabit Soyer.

The defeat was attributed by analysts to bad political choices by the TRP – CTP and decisions that favored its followers and executives. At the same time, the significant loss of influence (15 points) was a serious blow to confidence and trust in the party and Talat himself.

Candidates in the April 2010 contest, opponents of Mehmet Ali Talat, to claiming the leadership of the Turkish Cypriots were the following:

Dervis Eroglu, who at the age of 70 had returned to politics as a mighty candidate, in 2008.

Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu, who led the NUP – UBP from November 2006 until November 2008, when Eroglu returned to the head of the party. Ertuğruloğlu‘s decision to run led to his expulsion from the party.

Four independent, three of whom had already run in the 2005 election, completed the ballot. They were Mustafa Kemal Tümkan, Arif Salih Kırdağ, Zeki Beşiktepeli, and Ayhan Kaymak.

The main feature of the confrontation was external interference, with explicit or tacit support for the candidacy of Mehmet Ali Talat. This came from the United Nations, the European Union, the US government and the governments of other countries, with statements or actions that favored the incumbent Turkish Cypriot leader. Not only did these interferences not bear fruit, they may have contributed to the defeat of Talat, as a reaction of the voters. It is noteworthy that the turnout rate in the contest was 76.4%, increased by seven points when compared to 2005.

Apart from the above, the problem faced by NUP – UBP with the candidacy of Ertuğruloğlu did not prevent Derviş Eroğlu from winning the eelction in the first round. He won marginally, with 50.4%, while Mehmet Ali Talat was restricted to 42.9%.

It is interesting to see the analysis of the results:

Despite the general view among Greek Cypriots that Eroğlu’s win was due to massive vote by settlers from Turkey, the results show that he won the majority among all groups. Only the town of Nicosia and suburbs gave Talat the lead but not the majority. This is the area where most Denktash’s supporters shifted in 2003 their vote to become the most dynamic pro-solution and change group.

Interestingly also, traditional Turkish Cypriot communities, that had had little or no contact with Greek Cypriots appear almost equally divided between the two candidates, while those displaced from the south in 1974 deserted Talat in larger numbers, giving Eroğlu 50% (Talat 44%). Their 2004-05 overwhelming support for a solution in spite of the fact that they were to change again residence in case of a settlement had evaporated; they might have been disappointed by developments or their aspirations changed in the new post-2003-2004 context of no solution.

Thus, Turkish Cypriots shifted in bigger numbers to Eroğlu, while settlers, continuing their crushing support to conservative candidates, gave him 64%. The new element is that Talat’s share in 2005 and 2010 (32%, 27.6%) showed a breakthrough in this group, from which left wing parties and candidates could usually hardly get more than 15%. This change might be partly due to the exercise of power by CTP and Talat. However, while the critical mass of settlers vote can decide close to call contests in favour of conservatives, the vote break-down over the years does not justify claims that National Unity Party’s (Ulusal Birlik Partisi – UBP) or Denktash’s / Eroğlu’s superior support rely exclusively on them. Both, the party and the leaders have been almost consistently voted by the majority of Turkish Cypriots as well.

After the election, but also years later, Talat repeatedly claimed that his defeat was due to Christofias’ policies and stance in the Cyprus talks. These policies, he claimed, had disappointed the Turkish Cypriots, depriving him and his party of their trust and vote, he said. Despite the impact that the course of the Cyprus talks has on Cypriots’ political behaviour, by blaming the other side for his defeat, Talat missed the opportunity to self-evaluation, for assessing the role his choices in domestic politics had on the vote.