Will polls help anything in northern Cyprus?
This Sunday the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus will go to the ballot box to elect a new 50-member legislature. Naturally, everyone thinks they have a chance of coming to power alone.
What will be the result? It does not mean much who will win unless northern Cyprus overhauls its political system and either opts for a presidential system of governance or parliamentary rule. Insisting on a system where both the president and the prime minister are elected directly by the people has proved to be insane. Ever since the founding of the TRNC, presidents and the prime ministers have been engaged in a war of attrition. The late Rauf Denktaş was fighting with his premier, Derviş Eroğlu – and both were from the same political party. Ditto for President Mehmet Ali Talat and his premier, Ferdi Sabit Soyer. With Eroğlu becoming president, he started a war with his former comrade, Prime Minister İrsen Küçük. Perhaps not only Turkish Cypriots but Ankara as well must make a decision against the hybrid form of governance and opt for either presidential or parliamentary rule. Just because the president and the premier come from the same party does not mean the two will not fight, particularly if both leaders are elected directly by the people. There is a need to precisely define the rules of the game.
Now, Ankara is involved in policy-making in northern Cyprus in the very same fashion the Turkish military was once upon a time behaving in Turkey. Thus the confrontation in northern Cyprus has two sides, the president and the premier, but indeed the Turkish ambassador is the de facto power, if not the puppeteer pulling the strings of the premier. Why? Nasraddin Hodja has an answer in his famous “who can blow the whistle?” story. Whoever pays for it of course can blow the whistle… If the Turkish Cypriot economy is mostly financed by Turkey, thanks to international isolation forced on the north by Greek Cypriots, and if there is a “demanding” Ankara, then can there be a way out? If a government wants to follow something other than what Ankara or its ambassador in Nicosia dictates, then who will pay the salaries of the civil servants? It’s so simple…
So, to become a working democracy, northern Cyprus must decide which form of governance it wants. That’s not enough. It should also find a way of becoming integrated with the global economy and cease being some sort of Turkish protectorate.
Well, it is sad for a Turkish Cypriot to admit all these things, but can there be a way out without a proper diagnosis of the problem? Greek Cypriots have been complaining of Turkey making decisions on behalf of Turkish Cypriots. The same Greek Cypriots, acting as the government of the entire island, insists on a global embargo – not only on trade but education, sports, health, indeed everything – on Turkish Cypriots. Why? Because Turkish Cypriots don’t want to become serfs of the partnership state usurped by the Greek Cypriots and insist on having full equality in the sovereignty of the island.
After all, does it indeed matter who wins in northern Cyprus? The left? What was that confession by Talat in newspapers last week that his government failed so badly that perhaps a general strike might help it find a face-saving formula to explain economic collapse of 2009? Or was it the right which has been engaged in a war of attrition, thanks to the generous contributions of Ankara and its governor-general, pardon, ambassador in northern Cyprus?
Unfortunately, most Turkish Cypriots still approach the elections with a “who will pay more?” opportunism which, I am afraid, will be of little help to solving the quagmire.