The new North Cyprus coalition

The new North Cyprus coalition

The National Unity Party (UBP) and the People’s Party (HP) of North Cyprus inked May 22 a coalition protocol and established the new government of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. While Ersin Tatar, the UBP leader, became the prime minister, the HP leader and incumbent Kudret Özersay not only maintained his foreign minister title but also added a “deputy prime minister” to it. Sunat Atun, who was expected to become the finance and treasury minister, was left out of the cabinet, signifying intense efforts on every name while the list was being drafted over the past week.

The UBP and HP coalition government has no alternative but to be successful. A left-right four-way coalition government exhausted the hopes and vision of young Turkish Cypriots, a routine outcome of leftist-led governments in North Cyprus. Its establishment was awkward as two major parties of the nationalist flank, the UBP and the HP, had 30 seats in the 50-seat parliament. Furthermore, with the addition of a further five seats of the Democrat Party (DP) and the New Birth Party (YDSP) the overall strength of the nationalists in parliament was way bigger than the required two-third majority to even change the constitution.

The absence of the DP – currently battling a very serious fraud crisis – and the often ultra-nationalist YDP – the party believed to be representing people with mainland background – stops me qualifying the government as a “Nationalist Block Government.” But it indeed is.

The two party leaders fought an uphill battle to overcome prejudices in both parties, as well as adverse efforts of many people with immense political clout. There were moments when the talks collapsed because of efforts of some incompetent but greedy political bureaucrats. Yet, common sense and intense efforts by many people – including one former Turkish prime minister – eventually produced result and the two leaders appeared in front of cameras with a coalition government protocol.

Mutual respect and a working, realistic framework, as well as goodwill, to overcome all problems through commonsense, negotiations and reconciliation are some of the ingredients for success. The two leaders so far proved they are fully aware and possess all those requirements to make the new coalition a very effective government. They were aware, right from the beginning, that despite closeness in world view as well as policies they were heading different parities with some different agenda priorities. The UBP, as the founding party of the Turkish Cypriot state, has serious image problems because of its long history in government. People tend to believe that favoritism, nepotism and such ailments have become routine for the UBP, while the HP came to being from a political movement that was launched to support clean and transparent politics and full accountability. The togetherness of the two, therefore, might be very precious, particularly for the UBP.

The HP, on the other hand, because of its “clean” reputation, might yield an award within a year if the two parties reconcile on the name of Özersay as their common presidential candidate. Indeed North Cyprus badly needs a politician with a doctorate in peacemaking and conflict resolution and a clean reputation in the presidential seat. Özersay, anyhow, was not just a former chief negotiator, he was in the Turkish Cypriot negotiations team as early as the last period of Rauf Denktaş and worked successfully under former presidents Mehmet Ali Talat and Derviş Eroğlu as well.

From the challenging public finance woes to the daunting task of restructuring and consolidation of the public sector, there are some serious tasks for the new government. The need to sign a new financial and investment protocol with Turkey – that must have been signed last October-November – will be high among the “immediate tasks.”

The UBP-HP has no alternative but to be a result-oriented and pragmatic government capable enough to decide and implement some very difficult policies.

North Cyprus badly needs a success story that must emanate from a mentality renaissance.

Yusuf Kanlı, Turkish Cyprus,