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New Turkish Cypriot leader Tatar backed by Erdogan

By AFP - Oct 18,2020 - Last updated at Oct 18,2020

NICOSIA — Right-wing nationalist Ersin Tatar, backed by Ankara, beat Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci at the polls on Sunday after advocating a two-state solution on divided Cyprus.

Tatar, who advocates a two-state solution on the divided island, won 51.74 per cent, official results showed, ahead of Akinci, who had been tipped to win a second term

He was already premier of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is recognised only by Turkey, in an uneasy partnership with Akinci, who had backed the island's reunification in UN-brokered negotiations with the Greek Cypriots.

It was a role obtained after the collapse of a coalition government in May 2019 and one where he had the support of Turkey, the only country who recognises the TRNC.

Tatar courted controversy just days before the first round of the presidential election on October 11 when he visited Ankara and made an appearance alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turnout was 67.3 per cent and the result was quickly welcomed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had openly backed Tatar against Akinci.

"I congratulate Ersin Tatar who has been elected president... Turkey will continue to provide all types of efforts to protect the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people," he wrote on Twitter.

In a first round on October 11, Tatar won 32 per cent of the vote ahead of Akinci, who garnered just under 30 per cent in a field of 11 candidates.

Born in Nicosia in 1960, Tatar graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1982 after completing his high school education in the United Kingdom.

He stayed in England after graduation, where he later became a chartered accountant.

Prior to his political career, he also worked as a general coordinator in Istanbul at the Show TV broadcaster between 1992 and 2001.

He also set up his own Kanal T channel in 1996 in Nicosia.

His first entry into politics came in 2003 when he joined the National Unity Party (UBP), which he has led since 2018.

But he won political office in April 2009 when he was elected MP for Nicosia for the UBP, and served as finance minister between 2009 and 2013.

Amid tensions in the eastern Mediterranean which are exacerbated by the island's division, Tatar has defended Turkey's gas exploration as an attempt to ensure Turkey and Turkish Cypriots' rights are protected.

After the collapse of peace talks in Switzerland in July 2017, Tatar said negotiations "cannot continue from where they were left off".

"If there will be a solution for Cyprus, it has to be on the basis of equal sovereignty," Tatar said.

He called for the Republic of Cyprus in the south to "change their mentality" and to understand that Turkey must remain an "effective" guarantor for Turkish Cypriots.

Tatar is married and has two children.

The self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was established after the north was occupied by Turkey in 1974 in reaction to a coup that aimed to annex Cyprus to Greece.

Although the breakaway state is recognised only by Turkey, its elected president is regarded internationally as the Turkish Cypriot leader.

Akinci, who favours a reunification with the Republic of Cyprus — an EU state — had been tipped to secure a second term, having won the backing of Tufan Erhurman, a fellow social democrat.

Days before the first round vote, Erdogan and Tatar at a meeting in Ankara announced the controversial reopening of the fenced-off ghost town Varosha for the first time since Turkish forces invaded the north.

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