A group of Turkish Cypriots who crossed over the border from the North held a protest at being unable to vote in the European Parliament elections on Sunday, ‘EU Business’ reports.
Officials said that dozens of Turkish Cypriot voters had not registered an address when applying for Republic of Cyprus identity cards thereby excluding themselves from voting.
Mehmet Pasa, 44, said he was given no reason why he was prevented from voting at a polling station in Nicosia.
“I came here to cast my vote but I couldn’t. When I demanded an explanation, they said I was making trouble and they asked me to get out,” he told AFP.
At one Nicosia polling station, set up for Turkish Cypriots crossing over, some were informed that they could not vote as their names were not on the electoral register.
Several Turkish Cypriot trade union members refused to leave when told they could not vote and police had to intervene.
However, Interior Minister Sotiris Hasikos told CNA news agency that only those with a registered address were allowed to cast a ballot under Cyprus’s electoral law.
Hasikos said by midday, 150 Turkish Cypriots had been turned away because the system had no home address for them.
“The elections are being conducted based on the law … We can’t put the elections in danger because one or two people are shouting,” he said.
The minister said that of the 95,000 Turkish Cypriots issued with Cyprus ID cards, 58,000 were automatically registered to vote but 10,000 of them had not given a home address.
Turkish Cypriots who lived in the south had to register to be on the electoral roll, said Hasikos.
In March, the South Cyprus Parliament passed a bill on the European elections allowing for the automatic registration of Turkish Cypriots who did not live in the south.
But a large number of them did not give an address when applying for their ID.
Previous legislation said all citizens of the Republic of Cyprus had the right to vote but must apply to be included in the electoral roll once they turn 18.
President Nicos Anastasiades lamented the problem of low turnout across Europe, including in Cyprus, where initial figures showed 42.37 percent took part in the EU vote.
“This is a problem which needs to be addressed by the leadership in Brussels,” he told reporters.
This is the first time that so many Turkish Cypriots have had the right to vote in an election in the south. There were also five Turkish Cypriot candidates running for office.
One candidate, publisher Sener Levent, who got the most votes of the five Turkish Cypriot candidates, told CNA “these elections are not legal” because 37,000 Turkish Cypriots were denied the vote as they were not placed on the electoral register. The government must be accountable to the courts on this issue,” he said.
Another candidate Deniz Birinci said: “This is a huge infringement of human rights and of people’s democratic and civil rights …
“I call on all the authorities and the EU to keep an eye on what`s going on here today.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey seized its northern third in response to a Greek-engineered coup in Nicosia seeking to unite the island with Greece.