'Turkish intel threatened North Cyprus candidates to drop out of 2020 presidential race'

A group of Turkish Cypriot activists, lawyers and academics has released a report detailing Turkey's intervention in the presidential elections in the breakaway island last year. According to the report, former leader Mustafa Akıncı and candidate Serdar Denktaş were threatened by the Turkish intelligence and told to withdraw from the elections.

Former Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı (R) and current President Ersin Tatar at a handover ceremony in October 2020.

Duvar English

A team of academics, NGO representatives, lawyers and researchers has released a report documenting Turkey's intervention in the Turkish Cyprus presidential elections last year.

The report said that people who described themselves as Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) officials had threatened Turkish Cypriot presidential candidates to withdraw from the 2020 October elections.

Former Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı's private secretary Cenk Gürçağ detailed a meeting that he held with MİT officials in September 2020.

Gürçağ told the report that he was called on Sept. 17, 2020 by a person named “Ahmet” who described himself as a representative of MİT and was summoned to a meeting at Merit Park Hotel.

Gürçağ said that there were three people at the meeting who described themselves as “Kemal,” the head of MİT foreign operations, “Ali,” the head of MİT Greece and Cyrus department, and “Hakan,” a specialist.

MİT officials reportedly asked Gürçağ to tell Akıncı that he needs to withdraw from the elections for “the sake of himself, his family and close colleagues.”

“We do not want Akıncı there. He will not win anyway. It will be ensured that he will not win. Even if he does win, nothing will be the same as before. We even know about the breath of everyone close to him. We would like you to tell this to Mustafa Akıncı. It will be the best for him, his family and close colleagues to withdraw from the elections,” MİT officials reportedly told Gürçağ.

“Tell him [Akıncı] to write about this [withdrawal from the elections] on his Facebook this evening. We come from the top. Nothing is more important than Turkey's survival,” MİT officials told Gürçağ.

Akıncı told the report that following Gürçağ's experience with MİT officials, he summoned Ankara's ambassador but was told: “It is Ankara's instruction for me not to come.”

Akıncı said that such interventions of Ankara in the elections had been previously kept secret but was now willing to take all the risks in the face of what Gürçağ told him.

Another candidate, founding Turkish Cyprus President Rauf Denktaş's son Serdar Denktaş, also confirmed the interventions in the elections, saying he was contacted by a MİT official and similarly told to withdraw from the elections.

Just three days before announcing his candidacy, on Sept. 4, 2020, Denktaş held a meeting with a MİT representative at a friend's house.

“I was told, 'If you withdraw from the elections, you will be able to establish the good relations which you have not yet established with Turkey (Recep Tayyip Erdoğan),” Denktaş told the report.

On Oct. 18, 2020, right-wing nationalist Ersin Tatar, backed by Ankara, scored a surprise victory in the run-off presidential election in the breakaway island, ousting pro-reunification incumbent Akıncı.

Turnout was 67.3 percent and the result was quickly welcomed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who had openly backed Tatar against Akıncı.

“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,” Erdoğan wrote on Twitter following Tatar's victory.