Failed protocol, water and municipalities

Failed protocol, water and municipalities

Tuğrul Türkeş, Turkey’s deputy prime minister in charge of Cyprus, was apparently puzzled with developments on Cyprus and admitted that he could not understand the Turkish Cypriot mentality. His late father, Alparslan Türkeş, the legendary “Başbuğ” of Turkey’s nationalist movement, was a Turkish Cypriot, and the younger Türkeş has been considering himself as someone ethnically connected to the island. Yet, he was confused…

Türkeş’s latest contacts on the island further perplexed him. If a finance minister negotiates an agreement with the executives of another country, the agreement he signs becomes a bilateral agreement which, under rules of international relations, must enter into force following parliamentary approval. The ruling coalition government of Turkish Cyprus has apparently introduced new rules into the game of politics. Before an agreement signed between a Turkish Cypriot minister and the minister of another state can be referred for parliamentary approval, the agreement must first be discussed at length in the party assembly of the socialist Republican Turks’ Party (CTP).

Perhaps there might be a benefit in a finance minister briefing the party assembly of the senior partner of a coalition government on an important agreement before the issue is handled in parliament. Yet, if the issue is negotiated, voted on and rejected by the CTP party assembly, there are definitely some odd points that must be raised.

1 - Was the finance minister such an untrustworthy person that the CTP wanted to examine, in detail, before an agreement that minister made, with governmental authorization, concluded with Turkey was referred to parliamentary approval? If that is the situation, and if the CTP Party Assembly rejected the agreement signed by that finance minister, should not such a development indicate distrust in the finance minister and require him to step down?

2 - If the prime minister instructed the financial protocol with Turkey be signed and if the finance minister consulted him about terms of the deal before signing the protocol and the deal was vetoed by the CTP Party Assembly meeting under Mehmet Ali Talat, should not the prime minister take that as non-confidence and step down?

3 - Thank God only Turkey recognizes Turkish Cyprus and no other country will negotiate any protocol or agreement with members of the coalition government. But if, as has become apparent, there is a “parallel” and “more powerful” second government in Turkish Cyprus headed by CTP leader (who is not a member of parliament and cannot under law become prime minister) Talat, should Ankara start negotiating everything with this “parallel” power center?

4 - If that is the case, should not the junior member of the coalition government, the conservative National Unity Party (UBP) of Hüseyin Özgürgün, stop being a window dressing and abandon a government which has become trivial and lost its governing capability anyhow? If the senior partner of a coalition government that assigned a finance minister to negotiate a financial protocol signed with another country convenes its party assembly to negotiate it, and worse votes to kill it before even consulting its coalition partner, is there indeed a need for that coalition partner to stay onboard?

The problem is not of course the financial protocol with which the CTP-led government will get millions in cash from Turkey, with the promise of structural reforms and support to the social assistance system. The last time the CTP was in government, in 2005 on, with great skill in governance it landed Turkish Cyprus in such great economic problems that in 2010 conservatives came back with a very easy victory, almost without doing anything. Now, the same inability in governance is in force, this time in collaboration with the UBP and Özgürgün.

In the background of this financial protocol and how to manage the water Turkey is providing the island question – irrelevant, but for some incomprehensible methods the CTP-led government mixed up the two issues – indeed lays a very simple and opportunistic political maneuver.

Municipalities have been in a very difficult situation all through the island. The CTP and President Mustafa Akıncı’s Democratic Communal Party (DTP) are holding some key municipal posts that are suffering acute financial problems. There is no cash in the state’s coffers to distribute to these bankrupt municipalities either.

One way to solve this problem is to authorize them to distribute the water provided by Turkey with a suspended pipeline. The CTP-led government wants a public company and a consortium of municipalities to distribute the water or the current water administration to distribute the water and pay dividends to municipalities and thus finance bankrupt municipalities.

Türkeş says he could not understand how the protocol issue was mixed up with the water issue… If he really wants to be considered a Turkish Cypriot and understand the way those “big men” are involved in “petty politics,” he obviously need to travel more to Cyprus, or better yet, hire a CTP former executive as his advisor.