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Ironduke
14 Dec 03,, 04:41
Turkish Cypriots go to the polls

Elections are taking place on Sunday in the unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

At stake is the unification of the island and, for Turkish Cypriots, the chance to join the EU in May with their Greek Cypriot compatriots in the south.

Supporters of the governing National Unity Party still reject outright the latest UN plan to re-unite the island.

But opposition parties are seeking quick talks on re-unification in the hope of avoiding continuing isolation.

Polls suggest that neither side will have a clear majority, and a coalition may be necessary.


The position of President Rauf Denktash will not be affected by the vote.

But opposition leaders say that if they win they will replace him as negotiator and push for a settlement that could take the north into the EU as part of a re-united Cyprus.

Mr Denktash's supporters, on the other hand, say the UN-backed plan will lead to domination by the south.

They also believe Brussels has colluded with the Greek Cypriot government in imposing international trade embargoes on the unrecognised republic, stifling the Turkish Cypriot economy.

'Not entirely fair'

The opposition claims the government is bringing in people from mainland Turkey to swing the vote in its favour.

"I do not believe the elections will be entirely fair however hard we try," Emine Erk, legal adviser to the main opposition Turkish Republican Party, told the BBC.

The BBC's Tabitha Morgan says that over the last few years several thousand citizenships have been given not based on any residency requirement.

"Those people do not necessarily have any connection with north Cyprus - they don't live here, they don't have anything at stake on the island," says Mr Erk.

"They can theoretically become citizens, get themselves on the electoral list and come over and vote on our future and then go back again."

While these elections involve fewer than 150,000 voters the outcome is important for the future of Europe as a whole.

If the governing party wins then only the southern part of Cyprus will join the EU next May.

And without a settlement on Cyprus, Turkey's chances of being given a date when it can begin negotiating its own accession to the EU start to look very small indeed.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3317125.stm