Reshaping politics in Turkish Cyprus

Reshaping politics in Turkish Cyprus

Politics is reshaping in Northern Cyprus. After last weekend’s inconclusive first round in the contest for the leadership of the main opposition National Unity Party (UBP), eyes were on Saturday’s second round of voting. After the vote, however, chair Hüseyin Özgürgün withdrew his candidacy, leaving former Finance Minister Ersin Tatar alone in the race. Thus, on Saturday morning, the convention of the UBP will convene for the second round of voting technically, but instead of the vote, as Tatar is left as the sole eligible candidate, he will be announced as the winner. 

One main impediment of the over 70 percent nationalist-conservative seats in parliament coming together in a two- or three-way coalition government with a clear parliamentary majority was the rampant allegations of wrongdoing, corruption, favoritism and nepotism – charges that are not alien to anyone following politics in this part of the world. The second largest party of the nationalist flank, the People’s Party (HP) of the former chief negotiator and current Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay, as well as the Democrat Party (DP) of Serdar Denktaş, was staunchly against a coalition with UBP as far as Özgürgün remained leader. The New Birth Party (YDP), which is mainly supported by people with mainland Turkish background, has been against entering any coalition, demanding early elections right away.

With Tatar as the leader of the strongest conservative party, which has 21 seats in parliament – just five short of a clear majority – a coalition with the HP, which has nine seats, might unleash winds of political change in Turkish Cyprus. The current leftist President Mustafa Akıncı, coming from the three-seat Communal Democracy Party (TDP), and Prime Minister Tufan Erhürman, the leader of the socialist Republican Turkish Party (CTP) that has 12 seats, might find themselves sidelined by a conservative and nationalist majority.

The Greek Cypriot side has been in efforts to provide legitimacy to their unilateral hydrocarbon activity in the Eastern Mediterranean by somehow reviving the Cyprus talks with a “loose federation” suggestion. The U.N. secretary-general’s temporary Cyprus advisor, Jane Holl Lute, who arrived on the island yesterday, will re-test whether talks could kick off again. Yet, it is clear that neither Anastasiades has a sincere intention to share power or indeed anything with Turkish Cypriots nor Akıncı – rendered a lame duck among Northern Cyprus’ political spectrum – any longer has capability of delivering any sort of a federal deal considered dead and buried by the majority of Turkish Cypriots and scorned by Ankara.

Tatar most likely would not want to go to an early election as more than one government alternative that can rule comfortably might be produced with the distribution of seats in the current parliament. However, the rise of prospect of a nationalist-conservative front government supported by Ankara might make life difficult for Akıncı. On the other hand, if at the end of a new round of exploratory talks Lute comes up with a suggestion that she still could not see the required political will for a compromise solution and thus a base for the resumption of talks with prospect of success in a foreseeable timeframe, Akıncı may call it quits and drive the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus into an early election atmosphere. In such a case, most probably, not only a presidential early election but an early parliamentary election will be in the cards.

There are already strong efforts by the kingmakers of conservative Turkish Cypriot politics for a total overhaul that might produce Özersay as the joint candidate of at least the UBP and HP for the presidency, while the two parties might announce a pre-election alliance and commitment to form the post-election government.