The complex issue of the so-called Turkish settlers in Cyprus figures prominently in public debate on both sides of the divided island, as well as in international deliberations on the Cyprus problem. The political sensitivities that surround the issue combine with a lack of reliable information and data to mar these discussions. This report on the political integration of the ‘settlers’ in northern Cyprus seeks to contribute to more informed discourse and to stimulate further research on this important issue.
An examination of the voting patterns of the Turkish ‘settlers’ since their arrival in Cyprus shows that an ethnic voting pattern prevailed until 1990. Since then, however, ‘settler votes’ have been distributed among a range of mainstream political parties, with a majority of votes going to conservative parties. The analysis also reveals that the claim that the ‘settlers’ in Cyprus constitute an extension of the official politics of mainland Turkey is erroneous. The report shows that the ‘settlers’ are more integrated into the Turkish-Cypriot political community than is often believed. Beyond Numbers also suggests that the discussion on the ‘settler issue’ would benefit from a distinction between those who are temporary residents (among them, numerous ‘guest workers’ and university students) and those who have obtained citizenship – and hence the right to vote – in the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ (TRNC). While the ‘settler’ label only meaningfully applies to individuals within the latter category, the electoral lists examined for this report indicate that voters originating from mainland Turkey constitute no more than 20–25% of the total electorate in northern Cyprus. ‘Settler’ influence on politics in northern Cyprus is thus both less and less uniform than is often claimed. Mete Hatay is a Project Leader at the PRIO Cyprus Centre. In 2003 and 2004, he worked extensively with PRIO’s Public Information Project aimed at providing accurate and non-partisan information on the ‘Annan Plan’. He has for many years conducted research on different minority groups in Cyprus.