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Cyprus closely watching situation in Turkey, government says

Supporters of the Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) cheer during a gathering to celebrate their party's victory during the parliamentary election, in Diyarbakir, Turkey,

By Jean Christou

The government said on Monday it was monitoring and evaluating the uncertain situation created after the elections in Turkey on Sunday.

Government Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides, speaking to reporters during President Nicos Anastasiades’ visit to Paphos, said: “We are closely following developments in Turkey and assessing the situation as it develops.”

He said the fluid situation could lead to multiple interpretations. “We should wait to see how it is reflected in specific developments… if it leads to the formation of a new government or a new election,” he added. “I reiterate, it is something we are watching very carefully.”

In Sunday’s election the ruling AK Party lost its parliamentary majority, which has ushered in the biggest period of political uncertainty in Turkey since AK Party swept to power 13 years ago.

According to a Reuters report, the AKP now faces what could be weeks of difficult coalition negotiations with reluctant opposition parties as it tries to form a stable government, or could seek to go it alone as a minority government ahead of an early election.

It said if it was to enter into a coalition, the AKP’s most likely junior partner would be the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), with which it shares a certain degree of conservative and nationalist ideology.

If Prime Minister and AKP leader Ahmet Davutoglu is unable to form a stable government, tradition in Turkey dictates that Erdogan could ask the next biggest party in parliament – the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) – to try to do so. Or it could team up in a coalition with the MHP and the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which made it across the 10 per cent threshold and entered parliament for the first time in Sunday’s vote.

While it is unlikely that the MHP and HDP could set aside stark differences, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc challenged the three opposition parties to try to form a coalition, saying the AKP was ready to step into the void if they failed, Reuters reported.

As far as the effect this would have on fledgling Cyprus negotiations, according to James Ker-Lindsay, political analyst and Senior Research Fellow at the London School of Economics, his immediate reaction was that it was too soon to tell.

“There is no doubt that this could change the situation regarding Cyprus for the better or for the worse. However, we will have to see what coalition eventually emerges, or if the country faces new elections,” he told the Cyprus Mail.

In the event of a coalition, he said, there were two main scenarios to consider. An AKP/HDP coalition could be very moderate on Cyprus and highly supportive of solution, Ker-Lindsay said.

“In contrast, if we see the MHP enter a coalition with the AKP they could inject a very unwelcome hard line element into the mix. They would treat Cyprus as a fundamental security issue for Turkey, and not simply as a matter for the Turkish Cypriots to decide. This would be especially unfortunate as it does seem that the AKP is willing to see a solution in Cyprus and get the issue off the table once and for all.”

The Cyprus issue has always been dogged by elections or political upsets either in the north or south of the island or in Turkey and to a much lesser extent in recent years, in Greece, making it almost always difficult to align all four parties in one direction at the same time.

The current round of talks between President Nicos Anastasiades and newly-elected Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci was seen as ‘one of those rare windows of opportunity’ with Turkey on board and Greece in the background.

What the developments in Turkey meant in the immediate short term, Ker-Lindsay said, was that there was likely to be almost no interest in Cyprus from Turkey, which was not necessarily bad news.

“This could actually be rather beneficial for the sides. Now would be a very good time to press ahead with talks with minimal outside interference from Ankara,” he said.

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