By Simon Bahceli
A COALITION between the centre-left Republican Turkish Party (CTP) and the political maverick Serdar Denktash’s Democrat Party (DP) looked likely on Monday as both parties made gains in elections held in the breakaway state on Sunday.
With voter turnout at just 69 per cent – the lowest in two decades -, no party claimed outright victory. However, by gaining the largest share of the vote (38.4 per cent), giving the party 21 seats in the 50-seat ‘parliament’, the CTP will be the first party charged with forming a ‘government’.
Turkish Cypriot ‘president’ Dervis Eroglu said after Sunday’s poll that he had “not been surprised” that his former party, the UBP, had been voted out of office.
“If a ruling party suffers an internal crisis during an economic crisis, it is not surprising their share of the vote fell from 44 to 27 per cent,” he said, adding: “It is time for the parties to begin a dialogue that will address the country’s problems”. He blamed the low turnout on the fact that the election had taken place during Ramadan and while many were abroad on summer holidays.
It is unlikely the CTP will attempt for form a ‘government’ with former rulers the UBP, whose ousting from power through a no confidence vote just over a month ago led to Sunday’s early poll. Moreover, a coalition with Mehmet Cakici’s centre-left Communal Democratic Party (TDP) is out of the question as the party only received only 7.4 per cent of the vote, gaining it a mere three deputies in the 50-seat ‘parliament’. This leaves only Denktash’s DP as a likely option for the CTP.
Claiming victory, the CTP said on Monday it would “lay out its principles at a press conference” to be held today, after which it would begin negotiating with possible coalition partners. Its leader Ozkan Yorgancioglu pledged to form a “transparent government, reformist government”.
Having more than doubled his number of deputies in ‘parliament’ from 5 to 12 Serdar Dentash was on Monday claiming the position of “real victor”. His party is seen to have benefited from the mass defection from the UBP that led to the election, and from voter dissatisfaction with the two major parties. His eleventh hour declaration that he opposed Ankara’s privatisation plans for the north may also have boosted his popularity. It is likely Dentash will bargain hard for an influential post in the new ‘government’, likely that of ‘foreign minister’.
What was perhaps most striking about Sunday’s poll was the voters’ use of the “mixed vote”, whereby voters could choose from a selection of candidates rather than giving their vote to one single party. It is not clear yet how many voters used the mixed vote option, but the figure is believed to be at least double the approximately eight per cent who used their vote in this way in the 2009 election and it is credited for propelling twenty new younger faces into the 50-seat chamber. Many of the new 20 deputies were born after the division of the island in 1974.
One such CTP deputy Birikim Ozgur told the Cyprus Mail his party’s main objectives were a federal solution to the Cyprus problem and the making of sweeping changes to the north’s constitution, which he said the party would seek to put in place through a referendum next year.
“Our constitution does not uphold freedoms and still ties the police to the military; such things have to be changed,” he said on Monday. He added that his party would review the ways in which a protocol that exists between the north and its benefactor Turkey works.
“Our party has designed a social-economic programme that addresses more accurately the needs of the Turkish Cypriots. We will communicate this to Ankara and we expect their respect and support on this,” he said. He added that while agreeing with Ankara that over-employment in the public sector and lax budgeting had led to the imminent collapse of the north’s finances, some of Ankara’s approaches to dealing with genuine problems had and would affect the Turkish Cypriot community adversely.
“We will have to sign a pledge that our government will adhere to the Ankara protocol that has already been signed by previous governments, but we will do our best to alter the parts that are damaging to us,” he said, referring to agreements in the protocol to sell off most of the north’s ‘state-owned’ assets to Turkish conglomerates.
“By voting the UBP out of office, the people have clearly expressed that they do not want to see the protocol implemented the way the UBP was implementing it,” he added.