The era of young politicians in Turkish Cyprus
One of the core difficulties to the solution of the Cyrus problem is power-sharing. Turkish Cypriot politicians have been pushing their Greek interlocutors for better power-sharing formulas once the island is finally united. Ironically, they have now placed themselves in a domestic experience of power-sharing.
The right-wing National Unity Party (UBP) won the parliamentary elections but failed to secure a majority to form a government, prompting four of the other five parties that entered parliament to set up a coalition. The common denominator of this coalition seems to be their opposition to what they claim to be bad governance and corruption of the UBP. As a result, good governance, clean politics and ending clientelism stand out as the main priority in their government’s program, which is scheduled to be voted in parliament on Feb. 14.
So Valentine’s Day will be the start of a crowded marriage but will also mark the start of a new era in Turkish Cyprus with young figures like Tufan Erhürman, Kudret Özersay and Nami Özdil taking the helm to govern the country.
While the four parties are not on the same page on the tenets of the solution to the Cyprus problem, interestingly they seem to have reached an understanding on how to move ahead on the property issue, which is at the heart of the decades-long division of the island.
According to the government program, the coalition will revive the Immovable Property Commission (IPC) whose workings were stalled in the course of the past four to five years. Established in the mid 2000’s to evaluate Greek Cypriots’ claims and accepted by the European Court of Human Rights as an effective remedy, the IPC is basically a nightmare for Greek Cyprus. If all Greek Cypriots with property left in Morphu (Güzelyurt) applied to the IPC and were compensated one way or another (but mostly in cash rather than the return of the properties) what incentive would be left for the Greek Cypriot administration to push for the return of Morphu to the South? Apply this to all the Greek Cypriot properties left in the North.
That’s why the Greek Cypriot administration has been tremendously anxious about the workings of the IPC, threatening potential applicants with sanctions in its initial years.
As threats proved fruitless, it seems they are about to introduce some incentives to prevent potential applicants by compensating the loss of the use of properties.
If your opponent is alarmed by a specific measure and introduces moves to counter it, that proves your measure does the job in putting pressure on your opponent. In that case what do you do? Do you work for the full exercise of that measure, or do you just neglect it to the point of rendering it obsolete?
What happened in the Turkish Cypriot case was the latter. Some 6,000 applications are waiting to be resolved by the IPC. Obviously the prospect of peace during the talks between presidents Mustafa Akıncı and Nikos Anastasiadis has slowed down the workings of the commission, but the domestic resistance of current property owners, slow bureaucracy and the financial aspect of the issue stalling the commission have also contributed.
The government program pledges to do all the domestic arrangements necessary to revive the IPC and says measures will be taken for a new financial model to support it.
On the latter point, the Turkish government does not want to be the full sponsor and wants Turkish Cypriots’ contribution too. What happens is that once the original Greek Cypriot owner of a property is compensated (with a sum that is way below its current value) that property’s value triples or quadruples in a day as it no longer becomes a contested property, elevating the current owner to the category of a “wealthy person.” Ankara’s proposals to impose taxes in such cases have been turned down so far as imposing taxes is never popular among voters.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay hinted in his first interview that such measures could be taken. If the workings of the IPC will gain steam, it could be a game changer in the Cyprus solution and that will be the success of the new generation of politicians in the North.
Love inspires optimism, as the new government is set to start working officially on Valentine’s Day. This might be a good sign to be hopeful.