Scores of Turkish Cypriots complained yesterday that they were denied the right to vote in the European Parliament elections because they had no registered address, officials said.
Some Turkish Cypriots crossing over from the Turkish-held north protested when they found out they could not vote in the election.
But Interior Minister Sotiris Hasikos told the Cyprus New Agency that under the voting law only those with an address were allowed to vote.
Reportedly there were tensions at one Nicosia polling station -- especially established for Turkish Cypriots crossing over – when some people were informed they could not vote as their name was not on the electoral registrar.
Hasikos said Turkish Cypriots turned away for not having a home address numbered 150 at midday. According to CNA several Turkish Cypriot trade union members refused to leave a polling station when told they could not cast a ballot and the police had to intervene to calm nerves.
“The elections are being conducted based on the law…we can’t put the elections in danger because one or two people are shouting,” said Hasikos.
He said among the 95,000 Turkish Cypriots with Cyprus ID cards, 58,000 were automatically registered to vote but 10,000 of these did not give a home address. Those Turkish Cypriots living in the free areas had to register to be placed on the electoral roll, said Hasikos.
A large number of Turkish Cypriots did not give an address when applying for their ID, and many gave an address in the government controlled areas. He said Turkish Cypriots were given ID cards without being checked whether they lived on the island or not, “because our aim is not separation but reunification”.
This was the first time that so many Turkish Cypriots have had the right to vote in a Cyprus election held in the government-controlled south and there were five Turkish Cypriot candidates vying for MEP.
One of those candidates, publisher Sener Levent told CNA “these elections are not legal” saying that 37,000 Turkish Cypriots were denied the right vote as they were not placed on the electoral registrar. “The government must be accountable to the courts on this issue” adding it “feared an influx of Turkish Cypriot voters”.
Another candidate Deniz Birinci said: “This is a huge infringement of human rights and of peoples democratic and civil rights.”
She believes the mistake happened when addresses were copied from the official records to the computer system.
“The government of Cyprus, despite all our efforts and complaints still insists on not allowing these people to vote. This is completely unacceptable. I call on all the authorities and the EU to keep an eye on what’s going on here today,” said Birinci Parliament passed in March a bill on the European elections amending previous legislation allowing for the automatic registration of Turkish Cypriots if they did not reside in the government controlled areas.
Previous legislation provided that all citizens of the Republic have the right to vote but must apply to be included in the electoral roll once they reach the age of 18.