Kinderland vote approaching
Turkey has entered the election frenzy for the June 7 parliamentary elections, the outcome of which perhaps will shape not only the life of Turks but also the place of Turkey in the global political game.
There is another important election too, the outcome of which might not have global impact but perhaps will be helpful in finally putting a in order the troubled Cyprus, which is the joint home of Turkish and Greek Cypriots.
Already there are talks that some international “big brothers” have been in the game to help out Espen Barth Eide, the U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy to Cyprus, to resume the stalled Cyprus talks in May, immediately after the Turkish Cypriot presidential elections that have now entered a final phase.
On the third Sunday of April, electors will go to the booths to vote and either give the incumbent Dr. Derviş Eroğlu another five years in office or choose one of the other five candidates. Either way, electors will open a new era- if not for the entire island then at least for the northern third - the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus or the “Kinderland” of the “motherland” Turkey.
The talk is that if the Greek Cypriot leadership can be convinced to return to the negotiation table through a discreet “face saving formula” – which is already known by everyone – then the undeclared target will be to sort out the more-than-50-year-old Cyprus problem by May 2016, submitting the deal to the approval of the two peoples in separate referenda. Otherwise? No one has yet said it openly, but the Turks say “everyone should go their separate ways, enough!”
Will that ambitious target succeed? Will the Greek Cypriots be able to bury their obsessive “all mine” attitude and share the governance, sovereignty and territory of the island with the Turkish Cypriots, who they should also recognize as their “political equals”? Not likely, but let’s give a final try anyway…
It is very strange, the federal settlement is the first option of neither the Turkish Cypriots nor the Greek Cypriots, but for some strange reason the international community has been pressuring them to walk along the federalism road. But this couple does not want to be together. One party tried to kill the other for years, but failed. The “big brother” of the other came and severely punished the aggressor, but was never able to impose a resolution. Talks since 1968 have not been able to bring about a unitary or federal resolution. Has not the time come for a “velvet divorce”?
Anyhow, these issues are secondary in the Turkish Cypriot presidential elections. All candidates pledge to work for a settlement and all claim to be supportive of a “federal” settlement. Can anyone claim the opposite? Definitely not.
Consecutive public opinion polls conducted over the past few weeks show Eroğlu, with around 32 percent support, to be ahead of all other candidates. Parliament Speaker Sibel Siber is been the second most popular candidate with around 22 percent support. Veteran politician Mustafa Akıncı has been third in all polls, with around 15 percent support, while former chief negotiator in the Cyprus talks, Kudret Özersay, is fourth with around 5 percent support. Support for the other candidates has so far been negligible, while the party of the “undecided” remains high at 13 percent. Some 10 percent appear determined not to vote at all.
After the undecided votes are weighted, the two front runners may get an additional five-six percentage points, but none might win outright in the first vote.
Furthermore, just one day is a very long time in politics, let alone three weeks, during which many things may change. Still, most likely the first round of voting will be inconclusive and there will be a second run off a week later between the two strongest candidates of the first vote, Eroğlu and Siber.
Eroğlu’s 32 percent is of course closer to the required 50 percent plus to win, but anything is possible in politics. Could there be a surprise? Very unlikely, but it’s possible?
What will happen in the runoff? The supporters of Akıncı and Özersay will shape the outcome. Akıncı was the social democratic leader of the 1980s. His party, however, has long become a socialist one. Siber is supported by the Republican Turks’ Party, which was a socialist party in the 1980s and 1990s but has transformed into a broader center-left party. There appears to be a kind of blood feud between the two groups, so the question is whether Akıncı’s supporters will turn out for Siber or stay away from the voting booth in the runoff? Most likely they will not vote. Özersay, an academic who has worked with all presidents as a member of the negotiations team or as a chief negotiator, will be supported by the center-right. His supporters most likely will not vote for Eroğlu as they mostly consider him “too old” or just demand “change.”
In this case, victory will be assured for Eroğlu. We will see.