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What does the leftist victory in northern Cyprus mean? 28 avril 2015

Posted by Acturca in South East Europe / Europe du Sud-Est, Turkey / Turquie.
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Today’s Zaman (Turkey) Tuesday, April 28, 2015, p. 23

Yavuz Baydar

« The will for peace has won, » said Sami Özuslu, my Turk-Cypriot colleague who is an editor with SIM TV Channel. Referring to the victory rally last Sunday held by Mustafa Akinci, the newly elected president of Northern Cyprus, he sounded full of hope.

« The spirit of the people cheering in the square closely resembled the one during the referendum process 11 years ago, » he told me. « It is now time to see whether a solution is closer. »

With what is seen as a dramatic shift in favor of the left, the 67-year old veteran of politics, Akinci, gained over 60 percent of the vote while his nationalist rival Dervis Eroglu had to suffice with 39 percent.

This is a powerful change that creates — or rather revives — the dynamics over the stalled talks for reunification of the island.

« Not only the Turk Cypriots but also the Greek Cypriots now see a brand new page opening before them, » wrote Hasan Kahvecioglu, a veteran columnist with Gazete 360.

It was obvious that the northern side of the island has been left to its political instability. The reasons were multi-fold, but the main issue is as follows: The policies of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey had social and economic spill-overs as the island as a whole attracted more attention due to economic and strategic concerns. Even the growing unrest in the Middle East and the Pakistanisation at the Syrian-Turkish border, due to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), lurks deep in the background.

But the main element that defined the election outcome is, of course, the apparent feeling of Turk-Cypriots that the reunification is an unaccomplished task, long overdue.

« The elections were conducted in the spirit of a referendum, » said Professor Ahmet Sözen from Eastern Mediterranean University. « See it as a referendum between those who have been content with the status-quo and those who defend change, clean politics and good governance in the north as well as a solution based on a federation of two states and communities. »

The initial expectation is to restart the talks that were disrupted last autumn. Kahvecioglu raised hopes that beginning in early May a new round of talks may this time address the issues of reopening the ghost town Varosha as well as negotiating the reopening of Magosa seaport and Ercan airport.

« I expect some moves from the Greek Cypriot side, » he added. « Akinci’s policy on empathy will have to find echo. [Greek Cypriot President Nicos] Anastasiades will no longer be able to steer the table as he pleases. Akinci’s win promises a new era for change. »

« This is a new wind that may turn into a storm. It may cause a domino effect for a ‘restructuring’ but not with destruction around us, » Kahvecioglu added.

If the goal is to be successful, there are various political considerations. For the US and Britain, it is important that the crisis in Greece and tensions with Turkey be worked out, and for the element of mutual regional interests to be injected into the bigger picture. Another dimension is that the EU has less leverage than ever before since its dealings with the Greek and Greek Cypriot economic crisis emboldened the Russian presence and intentions regarding the island.

Another key point is whether the relations between Akinci and Ankara will help the « new era. » Although it is well-known that the AKP chose not to engage in the latest election campaign, the powerful shift of the Turk Cypriot vote could be read as a sign of the rejection of AKP policies, which have strong tones of Islamisation and « Kulturkampf. » The vote should come as a relief to Western powers as Turk Cypriots stick to the values of secularism. This should be noted clearly as a strategic element that should serve the interests of the island as well the Greek Cypriots.

Professor Sözen said Akinci will, while advancing the talks with the south, pursue a fine line with Ankara, keen on maintaining political dignity.

« What came to the fore with Akinci’s campaign was that there should no longer be a ‘mother and child’ relationship with Turkey — a line based on neither ‘surrenderism’ nor ‘confrontationalism,' » he added.

Yet, caution is required. Erdogan’s recent overtures with the top brass in Ankara may have encouraged the hawks to regain some control and if so, it would be hard to imagine that Cyprus will remain unaffected.

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