Will it help Tatar?
Heavy construction equipment, a Turkish ambassador, top generals of the Turkish Cypriot Security Forces and the Turkish Peace Force Command, the Famagusta mayor and the propaganda chief of the National Unity Party were waiting at the entrance of a long-deserted boulevard along a coast for news from Ankara.
Moments after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ersin Tatar “re-inaugurated” the Turkey-North Cyprus water pipeline after the completion of nine months of repair work, the two leaders announced that the once-splendid touristic resort Varosha, a suburb of Famagusta, would be opened as of today. The two connected via satellite the group waiting at the entrance of Varosha boulevard to listen to an oral report. A moment ago the two had a satellite audiovisual connection with the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot ministers waiting at the reservoir in Northern Cyprus for a ceremony to mark the “re-inauguration” event.
The Electoral Super Board – the High Court – announced earlier, however, that election bans were in effect and any ceremony would be a breach of electoral bans. Yet, the Ankara ceremony, as well as the audio-visual connection to the ceremonies both at the reservoir site and at the entrance of the Varosha boulevard were televised live by the state-owned Bayrak TV and through Bayrak by most of the private channels. Of course, laws and regulations can be placed aside if wanted by Turkey’s supreme political leader.
The U.N. deplored the Varosha move, naturally cared less with the violation of electoral bans in North Cyprus. Greek Cypriots, who believed they can stall the peace process as long as they wished and until the Turkish Cypriots surrendered and accepted a peace on Greek Cypriot terms, were appalled, started to complain. Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı, often on odd terms with Ankara, was angered seeing the resumption of waterflow but more so at the “opening of Varosha” as a major advantage provided by Ankara to Tatar in Sunday’s presidential elections.
Moments after the Ankara-organized live televised set of ceremonies, the parliamentary group of the People’s Party (HP) —meeting in emergency — decided to withdraw from the coalition government, accusing Tatar of acting unaware of political etiquette and being totally naïve that before such actions like opening a military area to settlement, the coalition partner should be consulted, parliament must be informed and a Cabinet decision should be taken on the issue.
Indeed, there is no Varosha opening at all. Erdoğan and Tatar ordered the work machines to clear the boulevard along the Varosha beach so that as of today people can swim at the Varosha beach. That’s all. A section of that beach was already open to the public anyhow. Tatar himself knew well that Varosha is a Turkish Cypriot territory pending a settlement in Cyprus and can be opened to settlement to its original residents, tenants and land owners, who are mostly Greek Cypriots. To achieve that the military area status of the region must be lifted and sufficient amount of funds must be provided to the Property Commission to finance settlement of land and property claims.
All these were, of course, desperate last-minute efforts by Tatar to win the upcoming presidential vote. So far, only the ultra-nationalist groups and UBP supporters appear to be happy with the Varosha decision, while the resumption of water flow through the re-inaugurated suspended pipeline from Turkey to North Cyprus was hailed by everyone.
If in all public opinion polls he was second to Akıncı in the first voting and in the runoff on Oct. 18 he was slated to win comfortably, why did he undertake such a move that might draw backlash at home?
After all, his National Unity Party “buried in the ballot box” İrsen Küçük, a former party leader and prime minister who was at odds all the time with the then Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu. At the time, Küçük was collaborating with Ankara against Eroğlu, a president not so much on good terms with Turkey. If they did it once, why would the UBP electorate not do it again?
There was up to 40 percent undecided voters in the latest public opinion polls. The latest developments perhaps might help improve the percentage of people participating in the presidential vote Sunday, a development that might herald bad news for Tatar and his supporters.