How people elect parliaments
The first legislative election for 2018 has seen Turkish nationalists maintain their narrow majority in the parliament of Northern Cyprus.
The vote for parties favouring re-unification with the Republic of Cyprus fractured, after a brief period since 2013 where pro-reunification forces formed the government.
The region of Northern Cyprus, home to around 300,000 people with a predominantly Turkish ethnic background, is not a world-recognised nation.
The area split off politically from Cyprus in 1974, and has been militarily backed by Turkey. UN peacekeeping forces have prevented cross-porter violence for the 43 years since the partition.
Only Turkey recognises Northern Cyprus as a nation. All other UN members decline to do so, and have passed numerous resolutions seeking a peaceful reunification of the island.
The northern jurisdiction nonetheless maintains a stable polity, rated as free and democratic by international observers.
The 50-seat Meclesi (assembly) is elected by party list seat allocation, with voters having an unusual ability to vote simultaneously for dozens of individual candidates, across parties and even from across other electoral districts that that in which each voter lives.
The basic division in Northern Cypriot politics is between Turkish nationalism – which is generally politically conservative – and pro-unification political parties – which are generally social-democratic in character.
Since the previous election in 2013 the Meclesi had had 26 supporters of Turkish nationalism to 24 pro-unification members, based fairly accurately on aggregate votes of 51% for nationalists and 49% for re-unification parties.
But after a mid-term period when the leading pro-unification party was able to form government with the support of the minor nationalist party, the nationalists re-aligned, and were again back in power under Prime Minister Hüseyin Özgürgün for last Sunday’s elections.
The new elections have again seen the nation very closely divided, with 51% voting for nationalist candidates and 49% for re-unificationists, just as in 2013.
Nationalists voters have however apparently punished the Democratic Party for its flirtation with other parties, reducing it from a strategically powerful 12 seats to just 3. The 9 seats the Democratic Party lost appear to have been translated to the major governing nationalist party, the National Unity Party (which grew from 14 to 21 seats), and a new minor nationalist movement which won 2 seats.
The nationalists therefore still hold 26 of the 50 seats, but will need to co-operate.
The re-unificationists have however suffered a major split, with the Republican Turkish Party crashing from 21 seats to 12.
The new People’s Party, which is pro-reunification but also described as ‘populist’, has taken 9 seats, and may offer the Özgürgün government another option for controlling the Meclesi.