There were no surprises in the Turkish Cypriot ‘parliamentary’ elections, not even the unprecedented abstention percentage of 43 per cent, which to a large extent had been expected as there had been calls for boycotting the vote throughout the campaign.
We doubt people needed much persuading not to vote, considering the dire state of the economy, which has been devastated by the collapse of the Turkish lira. Faced with soaring prices of basic goods, continual power cuts, unaffordable fuel prices and rising unemployment, voter apathy was inevitable.
It was evident to many voters that none of the parties had the power to fix things because the north has always been part of Turkey’s economy and could not be insulated from the effects of the declining lira. More significantly, the ‘TRNC’ has never been self-sufficient, totally dependent on Ankara’s monthly handouts to meet its financial obligations, such as paying the wages of its public employees.
In other words, no party offered the least bit of hope for tackling the economic woes of the Turkish Cypriots, whose living standards have been steadily declining. Turkey continued help is their only hope, a fact that Turkish Cypriot academic Dilek Latif said was reflected in the election results. Latif attributed the success of Ersin Tatar’s National Unity Party, which took 39.6 per cent of the vote and 24 seats in 50-seat ‘parliament’, to the belief of many Turkish Cypriots that the north “needs a party that will improve relations with Turkey”.
A party that would ensure improved relations with Turkey offered at least a slim hope for better things. Many observers also noted that the victory in the NUP as well as the success of smaller right-wing parties indicated the growing support of the two-state solution by the Turkish Cypriots. The Republican Turkish Party, may have secured 31.9 per cent of the vote, but support for a pro-federal settlement is contracting. As many Turkish Cypriots commentators pointed out, these were the first elections in which the Cyprus problem did not feature at all in the campaign.
While the voters had much more immediate concerns than the bizonal, bicommunal federation, it could also be argued that more and more are becoming resigned to the realisation that this is no longer an option. The two-state solution appears a one-way street and there was nothing left to discuss. This was also what Turkey wanted and voters had no intention of crossing Ankara, now that they need its financial support more than ever.