The island has been divided since Turkey unlawfully occupied and seized the northern third in a 1974 invasion but now a Turkish-Cypriot candidate – hoping to get votes from Greek-Cypriots – is aiming to win a European Parliament seat in May 26 elections.
University of Cyprus professor Niyazi Kizilyurek is running on the ticket of the Communist AKEL, with the ruling Conservatives of DISY saying it was done in a desperate bid by the party to gain votes on the occupied territory.
“A Greek Cypriot party having a Turkish Cypriot running with it is unique in our history, but I want to appeal to all Cypriots,” Kizilyurek told the French news agency Agence France-Presse about his historic bid.
“It is the first time that Greek and Turkish Cypriots can vote together as we have ethnically divided voting … we are also campaigning together which is also unique,” he added.
While the legitimate side of Cyprus belongs to the European Union that Turkey wants to join – while refusing to recognize the Cypriot government and barring its ships and planes – Turkish-Cypriots are considered EU citizens and have the right to run and vote in the European elections, even though under the current constitution they cannot participate in parliamentary ballots in the south.
There are an unprecedented nine Turkish Cypriots in the running to be MEPs including publisher Sener Levent – well-known for challenging the policies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — along with five other candidates in his Jasmine Movement, said AFP in a feature.
Most Turkish Cypriots who wish to vote will have to cross over into the government-controlled south for the May 26 ballot.
Kizilyurek, a self-confessed European federalist, is campaigning on both sides on a platform to reunify the island although the talks collapsed almost two years ago at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they would never remove an army on the occupied side and wanted the right to militarily intervene when they wanted.
“AKEL is the only party representing Turkish Cypriots as equals, and backs the federal solution in Cyprus and the communities living together … we need to get back to negotiations as soon as possible,” said Kizilyurek.
Hubert Faustmann, Professor of Political Science at the University of Nicosia, said there has been a backlash from extreme nationalists Elam, who may be poised to win their first MEP seat with right-wing populism rising in Europe.
“The candidacy of Niyazi and his good chances of being elected have triggered nasty attacks by Elam,” Faustmann told AFP.
“But for the first time since the breakdown of the constitutional order in 1963, a Turkish Cypriot could get elected to office in the Republic of Cyprus and give Turkish Cypriots a voice in public affairs,” he also added.