Cyprus Mail

Decoding Turkish Cypriot politics

'foreign minister' Kudret Ozersay

By Ozay Mehmet

UNLIKE the Greek Cypriots who opted for continuity, Turkish Cypriot electors have voted for political change. The political winds have brought into leadership a whole new and younger generation of politicians. The old generation of Rauf Denktash is all but gone, the future is now in the hands of youthful, dynamic academics and professionals.

Who are the new leaders? What does it all mean? Will it lead to political settlement of the CyProb?
Some names are familiar: Kudret Ozersay, the number two politician, is a former chief negotiator, a political science professor. Another well-known figure, Ozdil Nami, the most recent chief negotiator, resigned this post to assume responsibility in charge of the economy and energy portfolio. Mustafa Akinci, who accepted Nami’s resignation, significantly has decided not to replace Nami, keeping all options on negotiations open for the time being. Effectively, Turkish Cypriots are not bursting with enthusiasm for resumption of negotiations anytime soon.

The key factor of political change is that the Turkish Cypriot electorate have voted, first and foremost, for good governance, meaning eliminating corruption and delivering Turkish Cypriots clean government.

Even though the CTP party lost ground, its leader, Tufan Erhurman, a law professor, has managed to put together a four-party coalition. Erhurman’s agenda is the rule of law. He has now partnered with Ozersay whose major election promise was clean government.

Clearly, the new coalition has a tough challenge and not much time to deliver. Failure would, almost certainly, mean new elections.
One thing is certain: Even if the new Erhurman-Ozersay partnership fails at first, Turkish Cypriot politics have now changed for the good.

The Old Guard, Denktash-Talat-Eroglu, is effectively buried. The son, Serdar Denktash barely managed to survive politically in part due to the support from new Anatolian voters, now a new voice in the political arena.

In future, TC politics will become more complex. While the slogan “good governance” unites all voters, the content of that phrase will be defined in an increasingly confrontational manner with respect to the CyProb. Radical/nationalist parties exist on both sides of the island.
Anatolian demands will need to be accommodated. Already the Akinci map, entrusted to the UN during the failed Crans-Montana talks, has been withdrawn. Thus, in a sign of harder future bargaining over Guzelyurt/Morphou, TC politicians will opt for tougher land-for-peace exchange.

Relations with Ankara will, as always, occupy the centre-stage in a future political agenda. Already Erhurman has indicated that good relations with Ankara constituted the “life-line” of his coalition agenda. Turkish aid for infrastructure, in water and irrigation development, and most significant, in hydrocarbon exploration can be expected to accelerate.

Now that up to 75 million tonnes of Turkish water is coming to the island annually, the Mesarya/Messaoria Plain will, in years ahead, increasingly shift into irrigated agriculture, with new crops to replace dry wheat/barley farming. Already new towns are being created with new settlers coming from Anatolia. The longer the settlement is delayed the more difficult a delayed solution will be.

Within a decade, Anatolian voters may have the decisive say as regards the future of northern Cyprus. Greek Cypriots, like it or not, will increasingly have to negotiate with the Anatolian voters. There is absolutely no way that TCs will suddenly opt for a minority status in a united Cyprus dominated by GCs. Theoretically, such a Cyprus would be quite unworkable. Imagine a reunited island governed by “one-man-one-vote.” Voters in the north would then hold the balance of power, given the left-right divide in the south, thereby frustrating the GCs.

Far more likely, and sensible, is two states both within the EU, with an agreed border. To achieve such an agreement, first the UN parameters would have to be changed. After Crans-Montana a new agenda is unavoidable.

Can Akinci and Anastasiades do it? The chances are not great.  In the light of the TCs political transformation, Akinci’s hands are tied. He has been criticised for giving too much at Crans-Montana. He knows that failure would mean he joins the Old Guard.

On the other hand, Anastasiades and Akinci both share a crucial fate: They have a chance to make history, going for the honourable compromise without having to stand for re-election. But, that does not mean the CyProb can be solved between the two. As leaders, they can reach a deal, but that deal will have to win a referendum, one in the south and one in the north.

Ozay Mehmet, Ph.D (Toronto),Senior Fellow, Centre in Modern Turkish Studies, Distinguished Research Professor, International Affairs (Emeritus), Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada

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