Electioneering in North Cyprus

Electioneering in North Cyprus

North Cyprus will be going to the ballot boxes on July 28 to elect a new 50-member parliament which unfortunately will be composed of old names. Frustrated with the inability of the political system to produce fresh names and fed up with the vicious circle, many people tend to boycott the polls.

On a small island with a tiny population, election times are indeed quite fun. Unlike Turkey where most voters don’t know who will be elected with the vote s/he would cast, every vote is so important that candidates hunt success through a vigorous door-to-door campaign, pledging even the stars and moon. Not only have politicians been making lunatic pledges, they also act as if they have a magic wand to change everything from night to day or from black to white with one touch. At a village café, a veteran politician was proudly explaining to a not so small crowd of people that he was such a big politician that with one request he convinced Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to construct a water pipeline from Turkey to northern Cyprus. At another café another candidate was claiming that it was he who masterminded the water pipeline, as well as an electricity connection to Turkey which he proudly declared would be achieved in 2014 as well.

The pipeline will be completed by March 2014 according to Turkish officials but rumors are that the foreign partner of the consortium building it has been pointing to the September 2014 completion target in the contract. These foreigners don’t understand Turkish style horse-trading tactics. If Erdoğan wanted it be completed by March 2014, it must be completed. That’s it… Anyhow, it was good to see Turkish Cypriots so interested in this election campaign on who the brain behind the water pipeline is. Once constructed this pipeline will bring life to north Cyprus and, as its capacity could be increased by six-fold, Anatolian water might be a good bonus for peace to Greek Cypriots as well.

Interestingly enough the Cyprus problem is not apparent at all in this election period. Parties are rather focused on economy issues, or the fate of the austerity package signed with Turkey under which very tight budgetary controls should be implemented. Would the new government continue the program intact? Including those who harshly criticize the Turkey-TRNC protocol, in private talk politicians from all parties underline the need to continue the program without major alterations. Hypocritical? Probably so but how could they say they would abide by the protocol knowing that the electorate largely has been opposed and critical of the protocol, or how could they say they would scrap it altogether knowing that without it they must forget the much-needed Turkish cash.

The protocol is valid until 2015 and particularly the privatization section has been very much opposed by labor unions, leftist parties as well as by a large section of the media. Months after the Ercan airport privatization remains very hot in discussion platforms this way or the other with corruption, favoritism and such charges. Would the new government continue the privatization program despite the unfavorable domestic climate?

Will the telecommunication department be privatized, for example? Or, what will happen to the electricity department? Water will start to pour in 2014 but the distribution network is only partly completed. Time is running out. What will be the attitude of the new government; will it opt for a build-operate-transfer model, or what? Days left to voting day but these issues are not on the agenda of the campaign yet… But candidates are exposing their skills at swearing at each other…