DNA incompatibility in Turkish Cyprus
Why did the left-right grand coalition of tiny Turkish Cyprus collapse? There are lots of tales but the short answer is quite simple: Gross mismanagement. At a time when Cuba has changed, the Turkish Cypriot left has insisted on remaining loyal to a Stalinist anti-private sector doctrine. Besides, as some sort of a Turkish extension of the Greek Cypriot socialist Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL), being anti-Turkey is apparently embedded in the genes of the Republican Turks’ Party (CTP).
A coalition of a “leftist” party always critical of Turkey and the National Unity Party (UBP), a conservative party that always appreciated Turkey’s contributions and support of the Turkish Cypriot “struggle for existence and a decent life,” was a very difficult experiment. One party so loyal to the Greek Cypriot compatriots and another party which considered Turkish Cypriots not different than the Turks in Anatolia of course had a “DNA incompatibility,” as outgoing Prime Minister Ömer Kalyoncu commented last week on why the coalition ended.
The failed coalition government was the first CTP-led coalition with the UBP, but it was not the first time the CTP came together with a conservative government partner. It established coalition governments twice with the Democrat Party (DP) of Serdar Denktaş. In the first coalition with the DP, with encouragement from Ankara, some DP and UBP deputies were bought, a Freedom and Reform Party (ÖRP) – long disappeared – was established, a coalition was dissolved while Denktaş was on a trip to Poland and a CTP-ÖRP government was established. The failure of that coalition brought an end to Mehmet Ali Talat’s presidency and landed the CTP in a humiliating electoral defeat in 2009. The second CTP-DP coalition government was established after the 2013 elections but also landed in failure. At the very roots of the collapse of the second CTP-DP government was an “evaporation of confidence” between the partners, as Denktaş explained at the time.
The 2013 elections produced a very strange cliffhanger distribution of a combined 26 seats for the leftwing parties and 26 seats for the rightwing parties, which since then changed a lot. Originally, the CTP had 21 seats, the UBP had 14 seats and the DP had 12 seats, while the Communal Democracy Party (TDP) had three seats. Now the CTP has 20 seats, the UBP has 18, the DP has five and the TDP has three seats. There are four independent deputies. On April 8 Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı designated UBP leader Hüseyin Özgürgün to form the new government, saying he believed with the DP and the independents the UBP has the capability to forge a coalition government.
As the president was making that comment, somewhere else in northern Nicosia former president and CTP leader Mehmet Ali Talat was echoing something else. He was lamenting that the to-be-established government would not be a UBP-led coalition of conservatives. He was stressing that the coalition would be one of former president and ex-UBP leader Derviş Eroğlu with Denktaş and independents and its prime task would be to kill the Cyprus talks.
The CTP’s campaign pledge in the 2013 polls was to be the government of Turkish Cypriots during the critical Cyprus talks process, as well as when a deal is submitted to a referendum. However, as it did in all its past coalition governments, it landed Turkish Cyprus in serious economic dire straits.
Was it indeed the DNA incompatibility that brought the end of the CTP-UBP coalition government or the massive collapse in all fields of governance in Turkish Cyprus because of several actors headed by mismanagement and Turkophobia of the CTP? Because of the past ÖRP experience the CTP and Talat knew better than anyone else what capabilities Turkey’s Islamist rulers might develop and perhaps they had reason to be scared of how water provided by Turkey should be distributed or conditions of a protocol with which Turkish Cyprus would receive Turkish financial assistance. In that case, why would they not disclose it and save themselves? The failed prime minister, as well as Talat, tried to say something. They complained that some paragraphs of the protocol, particularly the section for the dissolution of the State Planning Organization and harmonization of the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot justice systems, were never even discussed and it was a big surprise seeing them in the package. Then, it became clear that it was the prime minister’s office which had made those suggestions in writing during protocol talks with Ankara.
The UBP was very angry with the way the Cyprus talks were being continued. Yet, it was under immense pressure to remain the good guys. Now, Talat might be right, Akıncı perhaps should feel worried, but if a coalition deal between the UBP, the DP and independents can be achieved, the first victim will be the submissive style of the Turkish side in the Cyprus talks. If for example Greek Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades continues oil and gas explorations in the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone in violation of past memorandums saying he has sovereign powers, there will be a retaliation from the equal sovereign government in the northern part of the island.