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As Makarios was the dominant figure in Greek Cypriot politics for nearly two decades after independence, so Rauf Denkta overshadowed all other political forces in Turkish Cypriot politics. Born in Paphos in 1924, Denktas was trained as a lawyer. He was politically active from a young age and was exiled to Turkey during the preindependence period. He was from a prominent family that lived in close proximity to Greek Cypriots, and his biographers have chronicled many grievances and humiliations that he suffered as a youth from intolerant Greek Cypriots. His activity in Turkish Cypriot politics has been continuous; he emerged as a protégé of Vice President Küçük, became intercommunal negotiator in 1968, and was vice president of the republic at the time of 1974 crisis. He was elected president of the "TSFC" in 1975, was reelected in 1981, became president of the "TRNC" in 1985, and successfully stood for election in that year and again in 1990.
Under Denktas, constitutional changes have occurred that made the parliament stronger and the president weaker, theoretically, than their counterparts in the republic in the south. Yet Denkta remained a more powerful figure on the Turkish Cypriot scene than his legal role would suggest. He retained considerable influence over the governing political party by playing personalities off against one another and preventing independent leadership of the party, despite his formal claims to being above politics. He used the force of his personal appeals to national security and national interest whenever opposition parties appeared to be gaining in electoral strength.
From one perspective, Denktas presided over an entity in which the consensus over the core issue--the settlement with Greek Cypriots--remained remarkably strong, and his powerful presence successfully reflected and symbolized national unity. But from another perspective, Turkish Cypriot political culture, with its proclivity toward factiousness and frequent questioning of the rules of the game, seemed to push for more rational and competitive democracy, and there were signs of continued resentment and resistance, in certain quarters, to a domineering father figure.
The three elections of 1990--presidential in April, parliamentary in May, and municipal in June--suggested some new political dynamics in the "TRNC." Denktas was challenged by two veteran politicians, Alpay Durduran and Ismail Bozkurt. The opposition parties, after considerable debate over strategy, backed Bozkurt's candidacy. Denktas's two-thirds approval rating thus worked to the disfavor of the opposition parties facing parliamentary elections. In what many considered an alliance of convenience, the TKP and CTP joined with the settler party--the YDP--to form the electoral alliance DMP. The alliance was formed mainly in opposition to UBP domination of the parliament and political patronage. To a lesser degree, its members were united in the view that Denktas's control of the political system had inhibited democratic competition. The main goal of the alliance was to reduce UBP control of political power; its candidates pledged, if elected, to revise the electoral law and go to new elections within a few months. The alliance did not differ with the ruling establishment on the settlement question and emphasized domestic issues, such as the alleged corruption of the UBP and what it viewed as ineffective economic policies. The parties had worked out a power-sharing arrangement among themselves should they win, including a pledge by the leftist CTP to decline a major post, such as the premiership or speaker of the parliament.
The outcome of the presidential elections hampered the DMP's strategy, and there were reports that many settlers abandoned the YDP, casting their parliamentary votes for Denktas's party. The alliance's failure at the polls (it won sixteen out of fifty seats) caused considerable internal strain, and the alliance collapsed. The two major opposition parties, the TKP and the CTP, continued to work together after the May vote; they challenged the outcome of the elections and charged Turkish mainland interference and other improprieties. They also continued to complain that the electoral law greatly favored the ruling party. Four of the DMP's fourteen deputies broke from the alliance and joined the parliament; two were from the YDP and two, including Ismet Kotak, had run on the TKP ticket.
Data as of January 1991
Cyprus Table of Contents