Deadlock remains

Although US, European and Greek officials have hailed the result of the parliamentary poll in the breakaway state of northern Cyprus as a victory for the opposition parties (which it was, considering the inequitable conditions under which the vote was held), the drawn result which gave the pro-Denktash and anti-Denktash camps an equal number of seats seriously undermines hopes of breaking the Cyprus deadlock. The failure of the two opposition parties to win a parliamentary majority that would allow them to form a government in favor of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s blueprint for the divided island confirmed Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s status as top dog. In the light of the current lineup of forces, Denktash’s status as the Turkish-Cypriot negotiator is incontestable. In fact, his position could be further consolidated under a coalition government that would include the opposition parties and that of his son, Serdar. Top vote-getter Mehmet Ali Talat, leader of the pro-settlement and Republican Turkish Party (CTP), who had ruled out any such cooperation before the elections, now says the option should not be excluded. All options for the formation of a coalition government are now open. Athens and Nicosia are focusing exclusively on the position of the Turkish-Cypriot parties on the Annan plan and EU membership, but in doing so they miss out on other influential parameters. The anti-Denktash parties have been on the margins of the domestic political arena for almost 40 years and they would hence be willing to make compromises in exchange for a stake in power. Furthermore, we should not ignore Turkey’s fundamental role in the final shape a coalition government in the breakaway state will take. Recent statements by American and European officials show that they are somewhat deluded about the degree of autonomy of northern Cyprus’s political system. It would be naive to expect that Ankara would ever accept letting slip its grip on political developments in the breakaway state. This is even more the case after the poll results underscored no overwhelming trend in favor of a settlement – a fact that puts Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the military in a difficult position. Regardless of whether Turkish Cypriots manage to come up with some sort of national government or organize a revote, it seems very unlikely that a political settlement will have been reached by May 1, 2004. In that case, the EU will take on a divided island and the momentum for a settlement will subside.