Turkish Cypriots pick leader as stakes soar in Mediterranean Sunday, 18 October 2020
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Turkish Cypriots began voting Sunday in a leadership runoff to choose between an incumbent who pledges a course less bound by Turkey’s dictates and a challenger who favors even closer ties to Ankara.

The stakes have soared as a battle over energy rights in the eastern Mediterranean has intensified over the last year.

Veteran incumbent Mustafa Akinci, 72, is a champion of Turkish Cypriots who oppose Turkey’s complete domination of their affairs. His hard-line challenger Ersin Tatar, 60, advocates fully aligning Turkish Cypriot with Turkish policies.

The Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north that is economically and militarily dependent on Ankara. The island’s internationally recognized government has its seat in the Greek Cypriot south and is part of the 27-nation European Union.

The tussle between Turkish Cypriots who seek to retain more say in how they’re governed and those who want to walk in lockstep with Turkey has been a prominent feature in past leadership races.

But this contest seems more polarized than ever. Akinci has alleged that Turkey has engaged in “unprecedented” interference throughout the campaign in favor of Tatar and that he and his family received threats to drop out of the race.

Tatar edged out Akinci in the first round of voting by less than three percentage points. Akinci appears to have an edge after clinching support from the third-place candidate. But analyst Tumay Tugyan says the contest could go either way as Tatar courted a significant pool of voters from the approximately 200,000-strong electorate — especially in rural areas — who may not have...

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Turkish Cypriots Pick Leader as Stakes Soar in Mediterranean

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