Turkish Cypriots angry over EU vote in Cyprus

Nicosia (AFP) - Scores of Turkish Cypriots complained they were denied the right to vote in European Parliament elections in divided Cyprus on Sunday because they had no registered address, officials said.

A group of Turkish Cypriots crossing over from the Turkish-held north of the island held a protest.

Mehmet Pasa, 44, said he was given no reason why he was prevented from casting his ballot 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 a trouble and they asked me to get out," he told AFP.

But Interior Minister Sotiris Hasikos told the official CNA news agency that only those with a registered address were allowed to cast a ballot under Cyprus's electoral law.

At one Nicosia polling station, set up for Turkish Cypriots crossing over, some people were informed 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.

Hasikos said the number of Turkish Cypriots turned away because the system had no home address for them numbered 150 by midday.

"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.

Hasikos 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.

Those Turkish Cypriots living in the government-controlled south had to register to be on the electoral roll, said Hasikos.

Parliament in March passed a bill on the European elections allowing for the automatic registration of Turkish Cypriots not living 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.

Sunday was the first time so many Turkish Cypriots have the right to vote in an election in the south, and there were five Turkish Cypriot candidates running for office.

One candidate, publisher Sener Levent, told CNA "these elections are not legal" because 37,000 Turkish Cypriots were denied the vote as they were not placed on the electoral registrar.

"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."

The Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974, when Turkey seized its northern third in response to a Greek-engineered coup in Nicosia seeking to unite Cyprus with Greece.

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