The interregnum in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which began with the 2020 presidential election and continued for more than a year, was finally left behind by the January 23rd elections. The Turkish Cypriot elections on January 23rd elections produced results that allowed varioıus assessments to be made in many respects.
Ruling UBP; opposition CTP
In the election, the first footprints of the presidential system were seen. The electorate was blocked in one conservative and leftist parties. On one side, the conservative National Unity Party (UBP), won 40 percent of the vote, and on the other, the social-democratic Republican Turkish Party (CTP), which became the only party of the left in parliament with 31 percent of the vote. The CTP was the only leftist party that managed in Sunday’s election to cross the five percent threshold and enter parliament. The election results made clear the roles of the UBP and CTP, which have consolidated their power thanks to the polarization in politics.
CTP leader Tufan Erhürman said, “We have to be the opposition. We are ready for a hard opposition.” UBP leader and Prime Minister Faiz Sucuoğlu said “The people, with their support, wanted us to be in government. We can’t form a one-party government; together with a cohesive coalition partner, we will form a strong executive government in a short time”.
Will this election bring stability?
Ahead of the January 23rd election, both the UBP, CTP, and other parties naturally competed for power, all claiming they would come to power alone. Only People’s Party (HP) leader Kudret Özersay has often said that HP could be part of a coalition government after the election. UBP leader and Prime Minister Sucuoğlu, in public statements, said that he would like to form a government based on a healthy majority but if he wins around 26 parliamentary seats in the 50-seat TRNC parliament, he would opt for forming a wide-based strong coalition government. “If we get 26 MPs, I will consider forming a coalition because there will be a problem of numerical competence. We can’t have an executive government on the threshold.”
As a result of the election, UBP won 39.6 percent of the votes, making up the largest group with 24 seats in the new parliament. In the previous parliament, UBP had 21 deputies. In second place came the CTP with 31.9 percent of the votes and 18 seats. In the previous parliament, the CTP had 12 deputies.
Former president Akıncı is the absolute loser
For the Democratic Party (DP), which was expected to show a significant setback after Serdar Denktas’ departure, this election was a turning point.
The People’s Party (HP), which came fourth in the election, experienced an earthquake compared to the 2018 vote. The young party, which won nine seats with 17 percent of the vote in the previous election, failed to give voters hope and was managed to get only 6 percent of the vote was able to send three deputies to the new parliament.
The Rebirth Party (YDP), which is often seen as the party of Turkish voters, was able to win two MPs with only 6.4percent of the vote, contrary to expectations.
The absolute losers were former President Mustafa Akıncı’s Communal Democracy Party (TDP), the Communal Liberation Party (TKP), and the Independence Road (BY) parties. TDP 4.4 percent, BY 1.9 percent, and TKP 1 percent. They failed to pass the 5 percent electoral threshold, so they failed to have representation in parliament.
Leaning towards Ankara
Sucuoglu’s election as UBP leader was seen as a unifying factor for the UBP base, which was in a total confusion since the end of Derviş Eroğlu’s leadership almost a decade ago. Sucuoğlu gave the Turkish Cypriot party a new hope. With this election success and the spirit among the supporters of the UBP, Sucuoğlu took an important step towards consolidating his leadership on the center-right, which was vacant since the presidential vote in 2020. He also captured the opportunity of bringing an end to the era of shaky governments capable of just serving the day.
Judging by the polls, the CTP appears to have respawned most of the votes it lost in the 2018 election. Voters who are concerned about harmony with Turkey seem to be anchored in the UBP, the spirit of Cypriotness and resistance to Turkey’s growing hegemonic interferences in domestic issues appears to have served the CTP became an attractive address. The success of the CTP undoubtedly played an important role in Tufan Erhürman’s “soft” style of leadership as well as the success of uniting the opposition front to the harsh tone of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. As it turns out, for now up until the “big change” in Turkey in 2023 becomes a reality, all the critical elements in Northern Cyprus started to perceive the CTP as a safe haven for them to seek refuge in.
Two- or three-party coalition on the horizon
The election results, which were a complete defeat for HP, might lead to a restructuring of that party, as was highlighted in the post-election assessments of party leader Özersay. HP’s election defeat, though it offered a new promise at the center, was essentially a natural consequence of the polarized TRNC politics. Unfortunately, polarization in Northern Cyprus is turning to a bipartisan structure. In fact, this bipartisan structure is in line with the expectations of the presidential system, which has been revived by the presidential complex project, a long-time discussion this time revived with Erdogan’s promised grandiose parliamentary and presidential palace in one building.
According to these election results, UBP can form a government with a 26-27 majority by forming a two-way coalition with only the DP or HP and even the YDP. As a matter of fact, Sucuoğlu said in his statement after the elections, “We will meet with all parties. There is no such thing as a two-way coalition,” signaling strongly that he would form a three-way coalition, saying he did not want to form a government with just one-seat majority in parliament.
Finance and foreign ministries are hotspots
The most important point of the negotiations to form a coalition government is likely to be the finance and foreign ministries. It is known that UBP wants to retain with itself these two key ministries and already made it clear that these seats were non-negotiable in coalition talks. But its potential partners don’t agree.
There is talk in the political circles that HP will only say yes to joining a coalition if it takes over the post of foreign minister. If this problem is not overcome, the UBP, DP, and YDP coalition may also be on the agenda.
Did the boycotters win?
Sunday’s electoral turnout was the lowest since the 2003 election, which was also was 57 percent. In the first round of the 2020 presidential election turnout was 58 percent, which saw widespread calls for a boycott for the first time. In the Jan. 23 election, only 58 percent of voters went to the polls. To what extent this result was taken due to the epidemic, of course, it is a matter of debate. In addition, banning around 5,000 registered Covid-positive citizens with “wristbands” from voting indirectly contributed to the success of calls for a boycott of the election.
However, it is clear from the examination of the votes that the main reason for the low turnout is the failure of almost all parties, both on the left and the right, except for the two largest parties in Turkish Cypriot politics, to give hope to the electorate.
On the other hand, though not very significant, there was a recovery in the UBP’s vote share. A significant shift of the electoral support from HP to CTP; and a very significant loss of votes in all other parties. Considering the total number of voters, it can be said that Jan. 23 election results might herald some very serious consequences, especially for HP and the small left-wing parties, which have significant support from young people, as apparently disgruntled young Turkish Cypriot voters did not go to the polls.