Soon after the New Year, both sides of the divided island of Cyprus are set to hold pivotal elections just weeks apart.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is heading for early general elections on Jan. 7, 2018, while its Greek Cypriot neighbors are due to hold the first round of presidential elections three weeks later, on Jan. 28.
In November, by a vote of 38-2, the TRNC parliament passed a motion greenlighting early elections submitted by the National Unity Party (UBP), which leads the coalition government, and main opposition Republican Turkish Party (CTP) leader Tufan Erhurman.
Under the motion, general elections originally planned for July 2018 were moved up seven months to Jan. 7.
Since its last general elections back in January 2013, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has had three different coalition governments under three separate prime ministers.
There are currently 50 seats in the TRNC parliament, with the CTP holding a plurality of 20 seats.
On the Greek side of the island, Nicholas Papadopoulos of the center-right DIKO party and Stavros Malas, backed by the communist-linked AKEL party, are the main opponents of current Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades, who is the candidate of the ruling center-right Democratic Rally party (DISY).
A second round will take place on Feb. 4, if needed.
If Anastasiades wins the Greek Cypriot elections, peace negotiations with Turkish Cyprus are expected to restart.
Cyprus has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, with the latest initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the U.K. collapsing earlier this year.
Turkey blames Greek Cypriot intransigence for the talks’ failure, also faulting the European Union for admitting Cyprus as a divided island into the union in 2004 after the Greek Cypriot administration rejected a peace deal.
The Eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the island's Turks, and Ankara's intervention as a guarantor power.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is currently recognized only by Turkey as an independent state.AA