Disgrace in Northern Cyprus
The Turkish Cypriot parliamentary elections last month produced a rather scattered parliament. Some 70 percent of the electorate voted for center-right parties demanding Turkey’s continued guarantor status as well as the presence of Turkish troops in Northern Cyprus.
For the first time since the early 1990s, the cumulative left vote fell below 30 percent, demonstrating the continued frustration with the performance of the Republican Turks’ Party (CTP) and disapproval of the policies of President Mustafa Akıncı, the “honorary” leader of the Communal Democracy Party (TDP).
The newly-established People’s Party of former chief negotiator Kudret Özersay (HP) scored a major victory in its first election, emerging as the third major party. The Democratic Party (DP) of Serdar Denktaş suffered a humiliating defeat but still managed to enter parliament with three seats. The victor was the National Unity Party (UBP), which added to its parliamentary seats by increasing its vote share by almost 12 percentage points. The other party that entered parliament with two seats was the New Birth Party (YDP), largely supported by settlers from mainland Turkey.
The cumulative vote of the center-right exceeded 70 percent, allowing the parliamentary strength of the center-right’s three parties to exceed the qualified majority needed to change the constitution. However, claiming that the UBP and its leader Hüseyin Özgürgün are “corrupt” and involved in favoritism, nepotism and irregularities (including distributing citizenship to unqualified applicants) Turkish Cyprus’ two leftist parties and two center-right parties shunned all prospect of forming a coalition government with the UBP.
As a result, after two weeks of uncertainty Özgürgün handed back the duty of forming a government to the president, and Akıncı designated CTP leader Tufan Erhürman – who had already completed coalition talks with the HP, the TDP and the DP – to form the government. Within less than a day Erhürman had presented the cabinet list, got it approved by the president, and a new government was formed.
If the basic amalgam of the four-way government was to fight the corruption, favoritism, nepotism and arbitrary rule habits of the UBP government, should it not behave in a manner shunning all such bad habits on the island?
After the UBP leader asked for an appointment to offer a coalition partnership to the HP, Özersay said he would not even offer a cup of coffee to waste time with Özgürgün? Özersay said his party had campaigned on a platform pledging clean and transparent governance, would remain loyal to campaign pledges, and would not discuss a government partnership with the UBP as long as Özgürgün remained its leader.
Özersay and the other three leaders were perhaps right. Northern Cyprus needs a clean and respectable new start.
The opening ceremony of the Turkish Cypriot parliament under 80-year-old Hüseyin Angolemli’s acting speakership was a sham. A group raided the legislature and deputies intentionally changed the words of the oath or turned the ceremony into a rally ground. Angolemli has been a respectable personality in Turkish Cypriot politics. But his performance as acting speaker was appalling.
Under the bylaws and the constitution, the speakership council and the speaker are elected from candidates nominated by party groups. Angolemli’s TDP has only three seats, while a party needs a five-seat presence to establish a parliamentary group. Could it be normal and in conformity with their pledge to be a clean and transparent government upholding the rule of law to try to change election rules, elevating Angolemli to acquire the eligibility to get elected?
So even though I will abide by a self-imposed rule to avoid criticism and give any new government 100 days in office before judging it, I must say that the first action of the new government should not have been to walk into such gross irregularity. I would have expected it to concentrate on acute issues such as how to bring electricity from Turkey, how to increase the standards of roads and decrease deadly traffic accidents, how to undertake a serious education reform to boost standards of the appalling secondary education, how to change labor union laws and end the fiefdoms of union leaders, and how to reform the chaotic health sector. Indeed, the recent murder of an African student demonstrates the acute problems of universities in Northern Cyprus.
Am I wrong, Özersay?