Presidency debate in North Cyprus
There was a very interesting article in the Turkish Cypriot news portal “vekibris.com.” The article was written by Hasan Erçakıca, a former presidential spokesman.
In a way the Greek Cypriot president is an elected dictator with vast powers if he manages to get onboard in his government majority of parliamentary parties. Thus, often Greek Cypriot governments are left-right coalitions.
Until the 2005 elections when for the first time founding President Rauf Denktaş – because of differences with Ankara – decided time was up to abandon active politics, the Turkish Cypriot presidency was some sort of an above-politics communal leadership post, not involved much with daily governance issues but focused mostly on the national cause, the Cyprus talks. The parliamentary system, with an elected and thus strong president, was producing problems even when Denktaş was in office, but somehow no crisis erupted during those years. Yet since Mehmet Ali Talat, the second president, assumed office there has been strong disagreements between the presidents and the governments even at times both subscribed to the same political ideology. Since incumbent Mustafa Akıncı was elected in 2015, things got even worse with the Turkish Cypriot president not only frequently quarrelling in media headlines with the local government but also with the Turkish government and the president in Ankara.
Hasan’s latest article was indeed the last of a series of articles he wrote and in which he made a recollection of all those nasty developments of the recent past, each time concluding his writings saying Turkish Cypriots should decide whether to establish a full-fledged presidential system or redefine the parliamentary system, stop popular election of the president and convert it into a ceremonial post.
As of April 26, the tenure of the incumbent Akıncı is legally over. The constitution says the president is elected for a five-year period and can be reelected. Yet, a presidential term cannot exceed five full years. If the seat is vacated for any reason, parliamentary speaker becomes acting president and takes the country to elections within 45 days. Elections were scheduled for April 26 but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they could not be held. Instead of the president stepping down and parliament speaker assuming caretaker role, parliamentary parties and the president agreed in violation of the constitution to extend Akıncı’s tenure and reschedule elections for Oct. 11.
As Hasan put it, Akıncı’s presidency since April 26 is not only a lame duck but a duck without feathers as a discussion has started on the unconstitutionality of the extension. If the Constitutional Court of North Cyprus decides within days that the extension of Akıncı’s term was against the constitution, then the transition of presidency to a caretaker and elections in 45 days will become an absolute necessity. Even Akıncı, in remarks to the media, agreed that the extension was in violation of the constitution but had to be done under a force major situation.
Hasan has been my friend since the 1970s, when both of us were attending university in Ankara. Hasan has always been a socialist. Yet, unlike most Turkish Cypriot leftists, he has always supported socialism with national awareness. That is, though a bit far left than myself, like me, he has always been a “patriotic leftist,” whatever that might mean. Yet, while I might be considered a “Turkish Cypriot nationalist” because of my communal patriotic sensitivities and perhaps obsessions against the Greek Cypriot unwillingness to share power, sovereignty and the island with Turkish Cypriots, Hasan has long been a supporter of a federal resolution. Lately, he realized as well that only a two-state settlement might work on Cyprus if the aim is to establish a sustainable peace that might as well contribute to a betterment of relations between Turkey and Greece in particular and Turkey and the West in general.
If the Greek Cypriot side has a presidential system and if there will be need to harmonize the administrative systems of the two entities in any settlement (be it a federation, confederation or two-states in the EU), perhaps time is up for Turkish Cypriots to make a fresh start by reorganizing their state, including the governance system.