THE self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus started a vote Sunday for a new leader amid heightened tensions on the divided island and in the wider eastern Mediterranean region.
The election in the breakaway TRNC that is recognised only by Ankara comes three days after Turkish troops controversially reopened access to the seaside ghost town of Varosha for the first time in decades.
That move sparked anger in the majority Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus, which exercises its authority over the southern two thirds of the island and has been a member of the European Union since 2004.
TRNC authorities opened 738 polling stations at 8:00am (0500 GMT) for what they call a presidential election, and voting was to close at 6:00 pm (1500 GMT).
If no candidate obtains at least 50 percent of the vote, the two leading candidates will face off in a second round on October 18.
Residents, masked and some wearing their own gloves amid the Covid-19 pandemic, began casting their ballots at a school in north Nicosia, AFP journalists reported.
Some 198,867 people are registered to vote in the TRNC, which was established on the northern third of the island when it was occupied in 1974 by Turkey in reaction to a coup to annex Cyprus to Greece.