Turkish Cypriots cast ballots in election eclipsed by economic woes

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) on Sunday held a snap legislative election, state-run Anadolu news agency reported, four years after the republic, recognised only by Ankara, last held the poll.

Campaigning for Sunday’s election, in which 403 candidates from eight political parties are vying for 50 seats in parliament, has been focused on the TRNC’s economic problems, Anadolu said.

TRNC was established in the northern third of Cyprus after Turkey’s 1974 invasion, in the wake of a Greek Cypriot coup that attempted to unify the island with Greece. The Republic of Cyprus, which Turks call the Southern Cyprus Greek Administration, is internationally recognised and a member of the European Union.

The TRNC relies on international students and tourism for most of its economy, and has been hard hit by economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions.

The republic’s roughly 204,000 voters, who are mainly concerned with health, safety and economic welfare, have demonstrated a lack of interest in the poll, Agence France-Presse (AFP) said on Sunday, citing analysts.

“Compared to the previous elections in northern Cyprus, there is much less energy and enthusiasm in the air," ‘it cited political scientists Ahmet Sozen and Devrim Sahin writing for Italian think tank ISPI.

"People are depressed because the cost of living is too high," it cited 72-year-old retiree Dervis Dizliklioglu as saying. "I hope that those who are elected will work effectively for the good of the people."

In 2020, Ankara-backed Ersin Tatar, who advocates a two-state solution, won the TRNC presidency, aligning the republic more with Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s handling of the Turkish economy, on which the TRNC heavily relies, that has emerged as the primary issue ahead of Sunday’s poll, AFP said.

Inflation in Turkey measured at its highest in almost 20 years last month, and a free-falling currency, that lost 44 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar last year.

TRNC’s right-wing National Unity Party (UBP), which envisions a two-state solution to the island's division, will do the best in the election for a new parliament, where it holds 21 seats, according to AFP.

The UBP will be followed by the centre-left Republican Turkish Party (CTP), which favours a settlement with the Greek Cypriots, it said.

Voting in the republic is set to end at 6 p.m. (1600 GMT) and preliminary results are expected on Monday.

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