Turkish Cypriots vote for new president amid tensions over Varosha opening

Turkish Cypriots began voting on Sunday for a new leader as tensions further escalated after plans of reopening the coastal ghost town of Varosha, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Analysts predict a race between leftist incumbent Mustafa Akıncı, centre-left the Republican Turkish Party (CTP) leader Tufan Erhurman and right-wing candidate Ersin Tatar.

The election comes amid allegations that Turkey is trying to steer the Turkish Cypriot electorates toward Tatar, who advocates policies aligning with those of Ankara. He supports a possible two-state deal as an alternative to the long-held federal model for the divided island of Cyprus.

Akıncı, who insists that no realistic alternative to a federal solution in Cyprus exists, and Ankara are unable to resolve their disagreement over the nature of a settlement on the divided island of Cyprus, with the two sides exchanging increasingly barbed messages in the media.

Varosha’s primarily Greek Cypriot population fled during the 1974 Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus that followed an Athens-sponsored coup attempt by Greek officers to unite Cyprus with Greece. The once-popular resort town has been fenced off by the Turkish army ever since and a 1984 United Nations Security Council Resolution states that it can only be resettled by its original residents.

Polls in today's presidential elections in North Cyprus closed at 6pm. According to local newspaper Kibris Gazetesi, the turnout was 54.72% according to the Supreme Electoral Board head Narin Ferdi Şefik.