Akinci Cites Threats to Withdraw from Turkish-Cypriot Leader Race

Αssociated Press

FILE- Former Turkish Cypriot leader and candidate Mustafa Akinci. (AP Photo/Nedim Enginsoy)

The former leader of the Turkish-Cypriot occupied northern third of Cyprus said Turkish government agents tried to squeeze him not to run for re-election in October 2020 before he lost a race to ultra-nationalist Ersin Tatar.

“They told my private secretary that it would be better for myself, my family, close friends and everyone to withdraw from the race,” Mustafa Akinci  told Turkish news outlet T24.

“They said that every scheme was underway to defeat me in the elections and even if I won, I wouldn’t have been able to stay in office,” he said, without indicating how that would have been done.

Akinci is a moderate who tried but failed to reach an accord with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to reunify the island divided by an unlawful 1974 Turkish invasion.

He had spoken out against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan trying to manipulate Turkish-Cypriot politics and found himself ousted by Tatar, who had Erdogan's support and said he would blindly follow the President's hardline policies.

Since his election, Tatar has abandoned the idea of trying to negotiate a reunification and said he won't talk about anything except recognition for the isolated Turkish-Cypriot state.

To help boost Tatar's campaign, Erdogan directed the reopening of part of a beach at the abandoned Varosha resort area on the occupied side and threw all his weight behind the nationalist candidate.

Akinci alleged that Turkish state institutions under Erdogan's control, nt Recep Tayyip Erdogan - including the Turkish embassy in Nicosia - ran a silent campaign against him. “Erdogan wants to manage here just like he solely controls Ankara,” Akinci said, also reported Middle East Eye.

Tatar narrowly won with 51.69 percent of the vote and has been bombastic since his victory, aggressively rejecting any idea of peace or reunification in favoring a a tactic that will continue isolation for the Turkish-Cypriots.

A report prepared by independent Turkish-Cypriot observers last week supports Akinci’s claims of interference in the election, the Turkish news site also said about the allegations.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay’s advertising and public relations staff spent three weeks on the island to support Tatar’s campaign, according to the report, which interviewed politicians, journalists and presidential candidates. 

Before the elections. Pro-Turkish government media also portrayed Akinci as a Greek agent and a traitor and election observers interviewed another presidential contender, Serdar Denktas, who claimed that Turkish government operatives - including intelligence agents - pressured him and businessmen who supported him to withdraw from the race.

Denktas, the son of the founding president of the occupied part of  Rauf Denktas, also alleged that his phone was tapped and that he was followed by cars with official plates during the campaign. 

The report also claimed that Turkey paid people to vote for Tatar as Erdogan has stepped up his meddling in Turkish-Cypriot affairs and blistered a Turkish-Cypriot court decision restricting Koran courses, demanding it be overturned.