Dec 14, 2020 9:57 am Stephen Day 796


OVER the last two weeks I became almost speechless (my reader probably counts that as a blessing) as with eye-popping, jaw-dropping incredulity, I witnessed the failure of the TRNC’s political parties to form a coalition government. That is, up until Monday. When you get to such a crossroads, it is best to know which road to take. For too long, it appeared as though key political players either would not, or could not, see that. They seemed to have lost the road map completely (they eventually found it, probably stuck in the glove compartment). I wish the new coalition well.

Two great issues face this country. Nothing else really matters. One is the obvious need to create a unified front in the battle to defeat the virus and recover the economy. The second is that the Turkish Cypriot people have just given a CLEAR democratic mandate to their President, Ersin Tatar, to pursue a new, two-state Cyprus solution. The voters have accepted that 40+ years of UN talks, in pursuit of a federal, reunified Cyprus, have produced nothing but endless Turkish Cypriot isolation, no matter how many concessions they make. This blindingly obvious truth is still lost on certain sections of TRNC’s body politic, especially those on the left. That factor must have contributed to the first two failed efforts to form a coalition, especially at the second attempt.

Both the National Unity Party (UBP) and the Republican Turkish Party (CTP) had tried to form a government. First came the UBP, clearly committed to supporting the President, but failing at their first attempt because the centre/right parties simply refused to come together. A chance to back the people’s expressed will for a “two-state” option, led by President Tatar, slipped through their fingers. 

Next came the CTP. To be fair, they have always supported a reunified, federal Cyprus solution. Fine, they have every right to, but they could not find enough partners to form a government of the centre/left! That would not be a perfect solution for the President, but it would have been marginally better than no government at all. At BEST, such a government could have partly reflected the will of the people, by not deliberately hindering the President in his efforts to fulfil his mandate. At WORST it could have opposed him, which is the last thing the President, or the country, needs. Disunity of purpose only suits the Greek Cypriot government.

The CTP’s effort to form “an election government” was instructive. In other words, they wanted a new Parliament. For what purpose? To try to overturn the policy consequences of the recent Presidential election? That would bring yet more Cyprus talks stalemate, or even potential abject surrender in the name of Cyprus “reunification”. We can only ask the CTP. How any further attempt to secure the continuance of a highly unsatisfactory status quo, that the people have just rejected, could possibly benefit TRNC, is a mystery to me. 

As President Tatar recently said “we have passed through two elections during the pandemic period” and “there should not be an expectation for an early general election”. Quite right too. It’s the last thing the TRNC needed or their Constitution demands. The result would be much the same. There are too many TRNC parties, too many “party leaders” and a proportional voting system that guarantees no single party can win. In other words, we would have been back where we started – in coalition talks. I would have heard the laughter in the Greek Cypriot presidency from here.

Last Sunday, the President met all the party leaders. Perhaps he verbally knocked a few heads together. If he did, it thankfully worked. Hamza Ersan Saner’s UBP is in coalition with the DP (Democrat Party) and the YDP (Rebirth Party). It is vital this coalition lasts. Past evidence to that effect is not good. Since 2019, two coalitions have collapsed. MPs switching party and parties walking out of coalitions have been all too prevalent. Falling out over policy, or perceived personal sleights, in a huffing and puffing hissy fit, has got to stop, otherwise this will be another short-lived coalition. It isn’t often that a man of vision comes along, like President Tatar. Thankfully, this coalition looks set to back him. Let’s face it; the alternative strategy has failed more times than England has failed to win the football World Cup.

I hope this new coalition has only two objectives in mind and is capable of setting aside all other considerations. Top priority? Defeat Covid and recover the economy by any means to hand. Second, back President Tatar in delivering his mandate, granted to him by the people. 

The indications are good. Mr Saner said: “Although the country is in very good condition compared to other countries, in terms of Covid-19, it is a fact we have financial problems” (you are not kidding mate). Erhan Arıkl (YDP) also hit the nail on the head: “We call on the opposition to save the country from the current bottleneck, by ensuring national consensus at the assembly.” Quite. Exactly what is needed.

All TRNC politicians now have to ask themselves how much more isolation and stalemate can the TRNC take, as it tries to recover economically from the pandemic? It simply can’t. However principled the long-term commitment of the CTP (and others) to a federal Cyprus solution might be, isn’t it time to set it aside, like the voters just have? It hasn’t worked and that should be as obvious as the nose on my face! Since when was embracing failure the road to success? The whole opposition needs to recognise that. It’s time to move on and put a united TRNC first.

For 40+ years Turkish Cypriots have done all they can to create a federal Cyprus solution and received no thanks. The Greek Cypriots have blocked their every effort. 

President Tatar believes in seizing destiny. Now all Turkish Cypriots need to do the same. If they don’t seize it, nobody else will. I live in hope.