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‘Sleeping with the devil’

By Esra Aygin

In a very controversial move, former Turkish Cypriot Leader Mehmet Ali Talat’s Republican Turkish Party CTP partnered up with its arch rival – the nationalist, conservative National Unity Party UBP –this week to form the ‘government’ in the occupied north.

The names of the council of ministers of the CTP-UBP administration was submitted to ‘president’ Mustafa Akinci by the new ‘prime minister’ Ömer Kalyoncu on Wednesday and the coalition protocol was signed by two party leaders, Talat and Hüseyin Özgürgün.

Former ‘prime minister’ Özkan Yorgancioglu had submitted the resignation of the CTP-Democratic Party DP ‘government’- in office since September 2013-on July 3 after Talat replaced him as party leader during a CTP party congress on June 14.
Akinci gave the mandate to form a new ‘government’ to Talat’s close ally Ömer Kalyoncu on July 6. Talat cannot become ‘prime minister’ since he is not an MP.

CTP has come under widespread criticism for partnering up with UBP – the party founded in 1975 by the late Rauf Denktaş and which is seen as the creator and the guardian of the corrupt system in the Turkish-held north of Cyprus.

It is the first time CTP and UBP have formed a coalition in the political history of Turkish Cypriots. In discussions on social media, some members and supporters of CTP accused the party of betraying its values and past for the sake of remaining in power. The partnership has even been likened to ‘sleeping with the devil.’

“When parties,which define themselves as left, social democrat, consider a coalition with right parties that have ruled the country for many years, they have to remember one thing,” wrote journalist Sinan Dirlik in Yenidüzen.

“Partnerships with parties that have governed this country for a long time and have gotten involved in corruption up to the hilt are no different than sleeping with the devil. It may be exciting… but always ends in regret.”

There are some analysts however, who see this far-fetched partnership as a good chance for Cyprus, arguing that this kind of a ‘grand coalition’ that is in support of the negotiations for the reunification of the island and the solution process would minimise the voice of rejectionists and ensure social unity behind a future agreement.

In fact, according to a senior CTP official, the ‘government program’ which the two parties are still working on, expresses full support to the negotiations process, as well as a solution based on the February 11 Joint Declaration, which states that a settlement in Cyprus will be based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality, and that a united Cyprus shall have a single international legal personality, a single sovereignty, and a single united Cyprus citizenship.

CTP is very determined to carry out a number of bold economic, social and public administration reforms the senior official told the Cyprus Weekly.

These reforms include bringing the Turkish Cypriot police, which is currently under the command of the Turkish army, under civilian control, the official said.

He added that the new ‘coalition government’ will behave like a ‘single-party reform government.’ CTP and UBP will together have 39 seats in the 50-seat ‘parliament.’

CTP Secretary-General Tufan Erhürman, responding to comments that UBP could not be trusted to stay loyal to the government program, stated earlier this week that a wide-based, strong government such as the CTP-UBP coalition is necessary to bring about the radical changes that they seek.

“UBP has agreed with us on the principles we put forward… If we see that they are not acting in line with these principles, we will not hesitate to break the coalition,” Erhürman said.

It remains to be seen whether UBP will keep to its promises and cooperate with CTP in making important reforms, but political analysts close to the party state that the main reason UBP leader Hüseyin Özgürgün got into this coalition is the October party congress, where his leadership is likely to be challenged.

Özgürgün wants to consolidate his position by bringing his party into power through this coalition and handing out ministries and other top positions to influential names within the party to gain their support for the October 14 race, a source said.

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