Are oligarchs taking over Northern Cyprus?

Are oligarchs taking over Northern Cyprus?

Northern Cyprus will hold general elections on Jan. 7. Something extraordinary is happening. Is it a time of change, or are Turkish Cypriots succumbing to an oligarchical takeover? There is a claim that while in the past various sectoral mafia-style organizations exerted a strong influence on politics, now oligarchs have mushroomed, thanks to the casino, tourism and construction sectors, with such “advances” mostly imported from Turkey.

Politics is a very complicated game. When it is conducted on a small island where everyone is “in the know,” it becomes even more complicated. Election season is great fun, especially the period in which lists of candidates of parties are made public.

Is it conceivable that former President Derviş Eroğlu, kingmaker of center-right politics, will fail to place his choices at the top of the candidate lists for the National Unity Party (UBP)? Can we say Eroğlu’s era has finally ended in the UBP? Probably. But Eroğlu’s chief contender (or pain in the neck) Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu failed badly in the by-election and could only find himself a place on the ninth row of the candidates list.

If it was a humiliation for Eroğlu to see almost all his handpicked names buried at the lowest points of the lists, then Ertuğruloğlu, who is an all-time contender for party leadership, failing in the by-election should indicate disillusionment at the party grassroots.

On the left wing, the situation is much cleaner. Former prime ministers Ferdi Sabit Soyer, Özkan Yorgancıoğlu and Ömer Kalyoncu, have all decided not to run in the upcoming elections. Similarly, the prime minister of the multi-party government that carried Northern Cyprus to the 2013 elections and the two-term parliamentary speaker Sibel Siber have announced their resignation from active politics.

Rejuvenation will arguably strengthen the two main parties - the UBP and the Republican Turkish Party (CTP) - improving their performance in the Jan. 7 elections. As for contingency candidates, both the main parties of Northern Cyprus have preferred to nominate some old-guard politicians who might not have otherwise stood a chance.

If oligarchs have captured the biggest parties of both the left and the right, Northern Cyprus might undergo some very serious problems in the period ahead. If oligarchies brought down the Soviet Union, what impact could they have on Turkish Cyprus or on Turkey?

The difference between democratic governance and oligarchic domination might best be seen in accountability. In democracies, although dictatorial leaders might govern for a certain length of time, the possibility of eventual justice is never far away, as “the father of the baby is always known.”

In oligarchies, however, accountability is a fairy tale, and decisions are “products of shared wisdom.” And so none of the individual oligarchs involved in the decision-making process can be held responsible if the end result is bad. Of course, there might be 100 fathers of the good outcomes, but no one can find the father of the bad.

Perhaps I overdosed on pessimism after reading about last weekend’s by-elections in the two main parties of Turkish Cyprus. Perhaps I am wrong in my assessment. Other parties exist, though they are unlikely to enter parliament. Still, there are some alternatives - and therefore there is hope.

Greek Cyprus,