A British-educated politician has been elected as the new leader of North Cyprus’ main opposition party, the centre right National Unity Party, or Ulusal Birlik Partisi (UBP). Cambridge University graduate Ersin Tatar replaces former TRNC Prime Minister Hüseyin Özgürgün.
At the party’s Annual General Meeting on Sunday 28 October, a four-way leadership contest saw Ersin Tatar (pictured above) emerge as the front runner after securing 37% of UBP members’ votes – 500 more than his nearest rival, incumbent Özgürgün who polled 29%. Faiz Sucuoğlu and Sunat Atun trailed in in third and fourth place respectively with 19% and 14% share of the vote. Nearly two thirds of members – 7,000 of a possible 11,889 – took part in the all-day vote.
The results were announced by AGM Chair and UBP MP Zorlu Tore in the early hours of Monday morning after the count.
UBP rules require the winning candidate to secure 51% of the vote. As none of the candidates had achieved this, Tore said a run-off between the top two, Tatar and Özgürgün, would take place the following week.
A day later, Tuesday 30 October, to everyone’s surprise Özgürgün announced he was pulling out of the leadership race, stating he felt given the initial vote it was clear the party wanted change. His decision paved the way for Lefkoşa MP Tatar to be crowned the new leader of the party immediately.
On Wednesday, Tore declared that following approval by the party’s National Executive, ErsinTatar was indeed the new UBP leader.
It is second time lucky for Lefkoşa-born Tatar, having previously stood in the 2015 UBP leadership contest, where he had again forced Özgürgün into a run-off. At that time though, Özgürgün maintained strong support throughout the contest growing his 44% share of vote in the first round to 56% in the second. However, this past year scandals involving his personal life and his inability as opposition leader to capitalise on the many failings of a weak government prompted calls for a challenge to his leadership.
Tatar graciously thanked his predecessor, with whom he had worked together for many years. The new UBP leader said he would seek “unity and togetherness” in the party, promising to work for “better days ahead”.
With the four-way coalition struggling to make headway on economic matters in particular, and UBP the single largest party holding 21 of the 50 seats in the TRNC Parliament, the new man at the helm of UBP will be hoping to lead his party back into office as soon as possible.
Who is Ersin Tatar
Ersin Tatar, 58, is a businessman, politician and a married father of two. He was born in the Cypriot capital Nicosia in 1960 and completed his education in Britain, studying economics at Cambridge University.
After graduating in 1982, he joined Price Waterhouse where he gained his professional qualifications as a chartered accountant, remaining with the firm until 1986. Tatar then worked for a time at London-headquarteredPollypeck, a company started by fellow Turkish Cypriot Asil Nadir, which in the 1980s became the fastest growing conglomerate in the world
Tatar moved to Istanbul to become Finance Director of Show TV – one of Turkey’s firstprivately-owned television channels – overseeingthe growth of the broadcaster into one of thecountry’s largest and most profitable channels.
Throughout his time in Turkey, he remained an active member of the large Turkish Cypriot Diaspora, serving as chair of the Istanbul Turkish Cypriot Cultural Association between 1997 and 2001.
In 1996, while still in Istanbul Tatar launched hisown private TV channel, Kanal T, in his native North Cyprus. It was this channel which first broke the Kulaksiz property scandal to Turkish Cypriot viewers a decade later, featuring elderly British property buyers Pauline Read and Bob French on popular peak time show Gak TV. The details of their experience of being harassed and nearly of their properties by the former landowner, construction company and their bank, with the TRNC state seemingly indifferent to their plight, catapulted the issue to the forefront of the political agenda. Tatar has remained sympathetic to the plight of British expat property buyers ever since.
Seven years later, Tatar left Show TV to resettlehis family in Lefkoşa. He entered into domestic politics soon after arriving back on the island in 2003, joining the conservative UBP.
Tatar entered Parliament in his first election in 2009. He was appointed Minister of Finance by the Prime Minister Derviş Eroğlu, a role he held until his party lost power in 2013.
Serving as an MP in consecutive Parliaments, and popular among UBP members and the wider public, Tatar threw his hat into the UBP leadership ring in 2015. At that time, the dashing Özgürgün managed to hold him off.
Benefitting from international business and financial experience, Tatar is widely considered a safe pair of hands that can offer North Cyprus a more global outlook. Under his leadership, UBP is likely to provide a far sterner test to the other five parties in parliament.