The 2020 elections featured some peculiarities for several reasons. The first reason was their postponement from April to October due to the coronavirus threat. This interrupted the election campaign and postponed it by six months.

Particular factors that shaped the conditions under which the 2020 elections were held related to Mustafa Akıncı’s positions in respect of the relations between Turkish Cypriots and Turkey and developments connected to the Cyprus issue after 2015. In particular, the failure to reach a solution and the stalemate after talks in Crans Montana, in July 2017, were followed by rising tensions in the eastern Mediterranean due to activities in search of hydrocarbons.

Mustafa Akıncı was elected in 2015 with a proclaimed position that Turkey-Turkish Cypriots relations should be based on mutual respect, instead of dependence. This was one of the four main positions of his campaign. This was also the position of the party he headed for years. The Communal Liberation Party, CLP – TKP, was opposed to integration with Turkey. Akıncı himself had come in the past into a public row with the military commander of the security forces, when he stressed that in a democracy only elected by the people officials must have a say in government. Less than six months later (mid-2001) he was no more in power.

Akıncı has over time confirmed in practice a relatively autonomous course and a critical stance towards Ankara policies, such as in the Crans Montana talks, and his public position on the effects of wars, taken on the occasion of the Turkish army’s invasion of Afrin. These occasions were mere pretexts affecting his relationship with Ankara. More important reasons for the rift are obviously the increasingly radical policies pursued by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and a growing effort to intervene in the lives of the Turkish Cypriots. Erdoğan’s high level of authoritarianism is clearly at odds with the beliefs of a politician who is characterized by a commitment to the fundamental principles of democracy.

The climate of tensions between the two sides in Cyprus and between Greek Cypriots and Turkey after the collapse of the talks in Crans Montana with escalation of Turkey’s reactions to the continuation by the government of the Republic of Cyprus of activities in search for hydrocarbons. Ankara’s initial rhetorical protests or statements gradually took the form of direct intervention in exploitation zones defined by the Republic of Cyprus as EEZ. The latest element in the escalation of tension was the opening by the Turkish side of a coastal part of Famagusta, three days before the first round of elections. Mustafa Akıncı, for his part, stressed the need to comply with United Nations resolutions asking the return of the city to its rightful residents.

Another issue of discord between the Turkish Cypriot leader and Ankara remains the type of solution to the Cyprus problem. The former insists that the only solution to pursue is the Bi-Zonal Bicommunal Federation, while the Turkish leadership seems to favor other options, including a two-state solution.

In the 2020 election a record number of persons ran as candidates. They are the following:

The leader of the National Unity Party – UBP, Ersin Tatar. He succeeded Hüseyin Özgürgün as party leader, in October 2018 and is the head of government. He basically follows the party’s traditional nationalist positions, for the recognition of an independent Turkish Cypriot state and close relations with Turkey.
Tufan Erhürman, leader of the left-wing Republican Turkish Party – CTP, who succeeded Mehmet Ali Talat in November 2016.

Serdar Denktaş, leader of the Democratic Party – DP from 1996 to September 2019. The Democratic Party was formed in 1992 after a split in the National Unity Party – UBP. Its first leader was Hakkı Atun.

Kudret Özersay, former interlocutor on the Cyprus Problem, founder and leader of the People’s Party – HP, since 2016. He had also contested the elections in 2015.

Erhan Arıklı, leader of the settlers’ Rebirth Party – YDP, re-created after splitting from the Democratic Party – DP. Originally founded in 1985, the Renaissance Party – YDP joined the then newly formed Democratic Party in 1993.

Fuat Türköz Çiner is the leader of a small group called the Nationalist Democracy Party – MDP.

Four independent candidates completed the list of contenders, Arif Salih Kırdağ, Alpan Uz, Ahmet Boran and Mustafa Ulaş.

The election campaign was episodic. In addition to its suspension in March, with the postponement of the contest, it was marked by actions of Ersin Tatar, who even avoided a televised discussion between the candidates. Some actions were taken in co-operation with Ankara, aimed at strengthening his candidacy, and were disapproved by the Supreme Electoral Council. In particular, in a move to impress voters, Tatar repeatedly went to Ankara to transfer financial aid and to announce with Erdoğan the opening of a coastal part of Famagusta. Following the action in Famagusta, Kudret Özersay left the coalition government headed by Tatar.

For his part, Mustafa Akıncı stressed in his campaign the need to respect the will of the Turkish Cypriots to manage their affairs. His key position was to seek a solution through talks in order for peace to prevail on the island. He publicly stated that he had been threatened with messages from Ankara that it would be better for him and his family not to be a candidate.

Ankara’s direct intervention in favor of Tatar provoked a public reaction from Serdar Denktaş too, who described such actions as unacceptable.

According to the results of the first round Ersin Tatar was first with 32.34%. He managed to increase the share that Eroğlu had received in 2015 by a rate of 14.9%. In general, he increased Eroğlu’s share in all groups of communities, with a larger increase rate (25.5% – from 27.2% to 37.5%) in communities with mixed population of settlers from mainland Turkey and Turkish Cypriots from the south. Second big increase was in the city of Nicosia, by 20%, i.e. from 21.8% to 26.2%.

Mustafa Akıncı secured 29.8%, 2.5 points less than Tatar. He increased its overall percentage by a rate of 10.6% compared to 2015. His largest increase was achieved in Nicosia, by 21.9%.  He raised his 2015 high percentage, 34.4%, up to 42%. Second big increase was in traditionally Turkish Cypriot communities, by 12.8%, i.e. from 30.2% to 34.4%. However, it suffered losses in two groups of communities, with a majority of settlers (loss by 12.5%) and a population of settlers (loss by 54.3%, from 12.4% he was down to 5.7%).

Tufan Erhürman got 21.71%, a percentage which is by 3.6% lower than that of Siber Sibel in 2015 (22.5%). However, he increased the 2015 percentage in all communities except where settler population is in equal numbers or superior to Turkish Cypriots, or is living in non-mixed communities.

Comparison of % share in elections 2020 and 2015 – First round

Total Lefkosia Ammochostos TC60 0-2% 2-10% 10-20% 20-30% 30%+
Registered 112.46 111.75 108.87 112.66 113.84 115.33 110.38 114.62 111.62
96.02 88.35 93.43 89.91 93.56 93.16 96.18 98.03
Abstention 110.84 106.15 115.21 114.00 124.63 110.14 110.85 105.84 102.88
Valic 97.92 98.48 97.79 97.94 98.46 97.55 98.13 97.24 97.23
Ersin Tatar 114.90 120.06 114.47 113.71 108.48 107.81 125.48 117.29 118.70
Mustafa Akıncı 110.62 121.87 113.54 113.92 108.02 106.53 112.79 87.54 45.66
Tufan Erhürman 96.35 105.19 106.22 100.97 104.64 103.50 94.33 74.28 45.71
Kudret Özersay 27.01 24.26 26.53 25.15 28.71 29.63 21.80 31.40 41.90


Comparison of votes in elections 2020 and 2015 – First round

Total Lefkosia Ammochostos TC60 0-2% 2-10% 10-20% 20-30% 30%+
Ersin Tatar 5544 1030 279 1061 235 829 946 426 738
Mustafa Akıncı 4028 1742 192 1250 184 797 354 -57 -434
Tufan Erhürman -196 353 -2 241 124 435 -123 -291 -933

Kudret Özersay suffered disastrous losses compared to his 2015 share of 21.3%, as he was limited to 5.74%, which means a loss of 73%. He suffered higher rates of losses in communities with a mixed population of Turkish Cypriots from the south and settlers (by 78.2%) and in Nicosia by 75.7%, i.e. his share was reduced from 21.3% down to only 6%.

Erhan Arıklı, with 5.41% got a small part of the votes of the settlers. As we move to communities where the share of settlers in the population increases, its percentage rises. In communities with a majority of settlers he received 13.3% and among non-mixed settlers population his share was 18.5%.

Finally, Serdar Denktaş was limited to 4.17%, with higher percentages in communities with Turkish Cypriots from the south (5.2%) and settlers (6%).

At first glance, Tatar is the winner of the contest. If we take into account that Özersay lost 15 points, while Tatar won only four compared to Eroğlu’s percentage, then we conclude that the latter’s benefit was limited. The loser belongs to the center-right and the leader of the right was naturally expected to reap much greater benefits. This argument is supported by the fact that Serdar Denktaş received only 4.17% and Arıklı 5.41%. Assuming that these percentages belong to Özersay’s share (a working hypothesis), this means that Akıncı also received a share of about 1.5%. If we adopt another scenario, that in the four points that Tatar won, one or two points is a gain of votes not coming from Özersay’s 2015 vote, this increases Akıncı’s share from the latter.

Akıncı losses in the settler communities or where they constitute the majority, seem large in percentages. But because the specific areas are small in numbers, his losses in numbers are small. That is, he lost 434 votes in non-mixed settler communities and 57 where they are a majority. These losses are clearly related to the presence and the high percentage of the candidate of the Rebirth Party. Settlers showed their preference to Tatar, the leader of the right and Arıklı, the candidate from their own population group.

In terms of votes, Tatar increased Eroğlu’s votes by a total of 5,544 and Akıncı increased his 2015 own votes by 4,028. Akıncı’s gains were higher in Nicosia, 1250 votes against 1061 of Tatar, and in communities with Turkish Cypriot population, where he won 1250 more votes than in 2015, against 1061 for Tatar.
The picture clearly shows a momentum in favor of Akıncı, despite the fact that he does not have his own party. It also indicates that its main strength is in Nicosia town and in communities with a Turkish Cypriot population. These communities are more massively populated compared to those where Tatar is predominant. Akıncı is also expected to have the votes that Erhürman received and a significant share of the vote of others, even from settlers. We should recall that Akıncı won 38% in purely settler communities in the second round of 2015. In this election he will probably get lower percentages from settlers, but in numbers this has little value in total votes. In conclusion, Akıncı is in a much better position to win the election.