Akıncı clarifies, or further confuses
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı wrote a letter to Republican Assembly Spokesperson Sibel Siber, answering some of the questions the head of the legislature wrote to the president in early January. Akıncı probably hoped to reduce some of the confusion and clarify some key issues, but the way he answered the contentious issues most likely stirred new controversy and added to the existing confusion. However, the letter demonstrated the point to which the Cyprus talks have come.
The upcoming Ankara visits of United Nations’ new secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, and his special envoy on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, might help change the current freeze in the Cyprus talks, but it is no secret that the five-decade process has ground to a halt once again. The problem is that no one wants to be the party to declare the demise of this latest effort and get the blame.
In his letter, Akıncı claimed that contrary to the claims of his opponents, there was progress in the most recent talks and that the two sides managed to establish very important convergences, though there was still ground to be covered. That’s wishful thinking from a leader who has skillfully demonstrated his advanced ability to show empathy with the “other side” at the expense of abandoning some key demands of his own people.
One contentious issue, weighted or cross-voting, was wrongly presented by some adversaries as a mechanism that might produce a 40 percent block vote in the Turkish Cypriot elections Akıncı said. He said that through cross-voting, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots would each have a 20 percent impact on the outcome of only the leadership election of the other community. Since the 20 impact would be valid only in the leadership election and not in the parliamentary vote, the fear that Turkish Cypriot parliamentary elections would be dominated by the Greek Cypriot electorate was wrong. Because, he said, the “maximum” amount of 20 percent of Greek Cypriots that might settle in the Turkish Cypriot area would only be able to vote in local mayoral elections, not in parliamentary elections, because there was an understanding of the two leaders that, apart from local elections, legislature, executive and legislative elections in both two constituent states of the federation would be conducted on the basis of “internal citizenship.”
Did anyone understand anything out of this? If there is no permanent derogation, if anyone takes such an arrangement to the European Court of Human Rights, he would get it annulled because it would not be acceptable under any norm for a citizen of Cyprus to be denied the right to run and vote in parliamentary elections in the locality of his residence. The solution to this problem might be either in keeping Greek Cypriots in their region or if such an arrangement is to be made, then such an arrangement must be made as a primary law in the European Union. Is that not clear?
Cross-voting was delivered bona fide by Akıncı and his team to the Greek Cypriot side as a demonstration of their commitment to produce a new “Cypriot nation.” It might be a useful tool in 10-15 years if the two sides succeed this time in co-governance, but while distrust and animosities are running high, such a mechanism could only help leftist parties, as Turkish Cypriots would not vote for a nationalist Greek Cypriot candidate and vice versa. Thus, Turkish Cypriots will be condemned to have a pro-Greek leftist, someone like Akıncı, as their leader because the 20 percent Greek Cypriot vote would always go to someone like him.
Sibel was attacked in the pro-settlement media and by supporters of Akıncı for hitting the president in the back with a “you are conducting talks with the mandate entrusted in you by parliament” letter. In her letter to Akıncı, Siber stressed that Turkish Cypriot parliamentarians wanted to ask many questions to Akıncı when he last briefed the legislature on the Cyprus talks but that the president said he did not have much time, did not accept questions and left parliament in haste. Thus, she said she was compelled to put the questions of parliamentarians in writing.
Another important contentious issue Siber raised was Akıncı’s alleged waiver of the veto power of the Turkish Cypriot side of the legislature and administrative decisions, a right that constituted the backbone of the 1960 Cyprus Republic. Reports that the president and the vice president of the federation would not have voting rights in the Council of Ministers was evaluated by the deputies as an end to the veto right of Turkish members. Akıncı contended that since all legislature and administrative decisions would enter into force with signatures of both the president and the vice president, before any decision was made, it would be a requirement to seek the approval of the two leaders. Really? If there is no veto power, this arrangement can only produce problems. Why would a federal presidency occupied by a Greek Cypriot agree to reconcile with the Turkish Cypriot vice president with no voting right while in a 10-member cabinet, any decision can be taken with a “yes” vote from just one of four Turkish Cypriot members?
Siber was a former socialist prime minister and a former contender for the presidency. If her party had supported her, she would probably be sitting in the presidency today. Indeed, Akıncı was invited to return to politics from a self-imposed isolation by some people scared at a probable Siber presidency. Those nationalist, conservative kingmakers must be very sorry seeing the reasonable questions posed by Siber and Akıncı’s awful “empathy presidency.”
Is it not just a very bad joke?