Serdar Denktaş, the son of the founder of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) Rauf Denktaş, has stepped down as leader of the opposition Democratic Party (DP).
It paved the way for former TRNC Tourism Minister Fikri Ataoğlu to take over. Mr Ataoğlu’s candidacy as party president was unopposed.
The change of leadership took place at the party’s annual congress, held at the Lefkoşa Atatürk Arena, on Saturday afternoon.
Among those present were DP Founding President Mustafa Adaoğlu, former TRNC Speaker of Parliament and a former DP President Hakkı Atun, and DP General Secretary Afet Özcafer.
DP was formed in 1992, after key members split from the right wing National Unity Party (UBP), then led by Derviş Eroğlu. DP’s politics has remained centre right.
Serdar Denktaş became DP leader in 1996, taking the party into coalition government nine times, most recently between February 2018 and May 2019 when DP formed part of a four-way coalition under the premiership of Republican Turkish Party (CTP) leader Tufan Erhürman.
He has been active at pivotal moments in TRNC history, including when the border between North and South Cyprus opened in April 2003, and opting to remain neutral during the UN-backed Annan Plan referendum of April 2004 to unite the island, even though his father President Denktaş vehemently opposed it.
In recent years, Mr Denktaş has been accused of misusing his power for personal gain, which he has strongly denied. He expressly referred to this in his final speech as leader on Saturday.
“Today there are people waiting for me to announce my [TRNC] presidential candidacy. But I’m not ready to do that. I have two options. First, for the next five years, I can remain without an official position, mixing with the public while I clean my name of the slanders thrown at me. The other option is to become an independent candidate and to take the Presidency in the second round. Both options are difficult and arduous. I will make this decision in a short time and share with you.”
Serdar Denktaş’s sister Ender wishes him every success , while welcoming the new DP leader Fikri Ataoğlu, hoping it will be auspicious for the country & nation
About new leader Fikri Ataoğlu
His successor Fikri Ataoğlu was born in Avtepe, in the Karpaz peninsula, in 1962 and is a high school graduate, opting for a career in business. He spent two years working in London soon after leaving school, before returning to North Cyprus.
An avid sailor, he is a board member of the Famagusta Seafarers’ Association and a member of the Cyprus Turkish Petroleum Association.
His business interests include Berna LTD. Gas Station, Yapı (Construction) Market, Ataoğlu Oksijen Sanayi and Pet-Mak LTD, serving as chairman of the board of directors for each of these firms.
Mr Ataoğlu has been an active member of DP since its formation in 1992 and was first elected an MP for Gazimağusa in 2013. He was appointed Tourism and Environment Minister in the UBP-DP coalition government of 2016, and remained in that position into the next Erhürman-led government.
In addition to Turkish, Mr Ataoğlu also speaks English and Greek. He is married and the father of three children.
Main photo top, outgoing Democratic Party (DP) leader Serdar Denktaş (left) with new leader Fikri Ataoğlu at the DP Congress, 30 Nov. 2019 Photo © Facebook / Ender Denktaş Vangöl