Snap general elections were held in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) on 23 January. The centre-right National Unity Party (UBP) won the elections with 39.6% of the vote and obtained 24 deputies. After the UBP, the centre-left Turkish Republican Party (CTP), which won 31.9% and obtained 18 deputies, came in second place. The CTP was followed by the Democratic Party (DP) which obtained three deputies with 7.4%, the People’s Party (HP) which also has three deputies with 6.6% and the Renaissance Party (YDP) which won won two deputies with 6.4% of the vote. vote.
As it was a fractured mandate, as no party could prove a majority with 26 MPs required to form the government, it was necessary to form a coalition again, just like in the previous elections in 2018.
New government by UBP, DP and YDP
After the announcement of the official election results, TRNC President Ersin Tatar gave the mandate to form the government to UBP President Faiz Sucuoğlu on 8 February. Later, the UBP leader met with all parties represented in the new parliament and announced that the new government had been formed between UBP, DP and YDP after coalition negotiations. Thus, the UBP-DP-YDP government, previously installed in December 2020 but dissolved in October 2021 due to both the quorum problem and the conflicts in the government, was restored in a stronger way.
Typically, the UBP-DP government had 26 party deputies combined, enough to form the government. However, UBP’s Sucuoğlu demonstrated a more rational approach and aimed for a two-thirds majority in parliament so that the question of the quorum of the previously established UBP-DP-YDP government would no longer arise. Therefore, besides the DP, the YDP was included in the government and the second coalition UBP-DP-YDP was established with a total of 29 deputies.
The new government officially took office after winning the ground test – with 29 affirmative votes and 20 negative votes in the final vote – in parliament on March 3.
In the government established under the leadership of Faiz Sucuoğlu, eight ministries were assigned to the UBP, one ministry to the DP and one ministry to the YDP. Thus, the tedious process of setting up the new government, which was supposed to take five years under normal conditions, began.
Regarding the new government, it should be noted that although the UBP-DP-YDP government is currently represented in parliament with 29 deputies, it could be dissolved in the future due to possible party conflicts or a problem of quorum over the next five years.
In fact, the previously established UBP-DP-YDP government was dissolved due to both the quorum problem and ideological clashes. Therefore, if there is an obligation to form a new government in the coming period, the first party UBP will cooperate with should be its former coalition partner HP. The UBP administration will therefore maintain its political contacts with the HP administration.
Before taking stock of the new period, it should be noted that the three parties that formed the new government follow a centre-right ideology and previously formed a coalition government. In addition, as stated in the government program, the three parties advocate a two-state solution to the Cyprus issue, value close relations with Turkey in all areas and plan to open up the remaining parts of Varosha. (Maras). It should be noted that the UBP-DP-YDP government and the Tatar President share the policy of the two-state model to resolve the Cyprus issue. Therefore, it can be said that the executive power will act in harmony as a whole with regard to the solution of the Cyprus question in the new period.
Prior to January 23, the main election agenda was the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic problems. Therefore, the priority of the new government will be the fight against the coronavirus and the resolution of the problems faced by the economy of the country. Specifically, the rising cost of living, inflation, disruptions in the payment of civil servants’ salaries and frequent power cuts will also be high on the agenda of the new government. In fact, Prime Minister Sucuoğlu has often mentioned that solving economic problems is the priority of the government.
As noted above, the parties that formed the new government support the two-state solution. Therefore, even if the negotiations resume in the coming period, the Turkish side will sit on the table with this model. Moreover, since the parties that formed the government are prioritizing relations with Turkey on the basis of a tight and positive agenda, no political tension is expected in Turkey-TRNC relations in the new period. In a statement on the subject after the formation of the government, Prime Minister Sucuoğlu stressed that relations with Turkey will continue at a high level as usual, stressing that the love and commitment between Turkey and the TRNC were not to be discussed. The statement on Turkey included in the government program is also noteworthy in this context: “We will further develop our historical ties and cooperation with Turkey, the homeland that is always with us.
Another important problem is the current two-headed executive power of the TRNC which hampers the decision-making process and creates instability for the country. For example, in the recent past, there were problems between former President Mustafa Akıncı and the then Ersin Tatar government over the Cyprus issue and relations with Turkey. This has led leaders to disagree on two key issues.
However, as the short-lived experience of coalition government shows, even governments formed between ideologically close parties can fall due to a conflict of interest. Finally, the fact that 26 different governments have taken power in the past 39 years since the establishment of the TRNC in 1983 indicates that the country’s political culture is not suited to long-term coalitions.
Such problems show that the administrative structure of the TRNC, wedged between the parliamentary system and the presidential system, causes political instability. Therefore, the debate on the presidential system, which has indeed been on the TRNC agenda for some time, will be seriously addressed in the new period. In this context, it is expected that discussions on the presidential system will move to a concrete level in the new period. On the issue, it should be noted that the coalition partners are keen on the transition to the presidential system. Additionally, Kudret Özersay, leader of the HP opposition parties, said in a statement in 2019 that he was open to discussing the presidential system. The main opposition party, the CTP, on the other hand, opposes the transition to the parliamentary system. When all this is taken into account, it is understandable that four of the five parties currently represented in parliament have a positive approach to the debate on the presidential system.
The question of the recognition of the TRNC
Finally, the question of the recognition of the TRNC will be at the forefront of the issues that the new government will prioritize in the coming period. In fact, although the TRNC is an independent state in its own right, it is legally (de jure) recognized only by Turkey. Many other countries and international organizations de facto recognize the TRNC. Indeed, the participation of the TRNC in the peace negotiations which have been taking place for years under the supervision of the United Nations, its permanent contacts with international/supra-international organizations such as the European Union and the United Nations or benefiting from them funds provided by these organizations are concrete examples of recognition of this act.
Legal recognition of a state by other states is important in terms of representation in the international community. In the case of Cyprus, although there are two independent states on the island, consisting of the TRNC and the Greek Cypriot administration, the international community accepts the Greek Cypriot administration as one state, under the name of Republic of Cyprus, representing the entire island. For this reason, the legal existence of the TRNC was ignored for years. It is therefore important that the TRNC is recognized by states other than Turkey.
In this regard, a delegation of the Azerbaijani parliament established official contacts with the TRNC for the first time in July 2021, giving a concrete signal for the recognition of the TRNC. Two different delegations from Azerbaijan came to TRNC in January and February 2022 and met with President Tatar. Based on this, there is a strong public expectation that Azerbaijan will soon recognize the TRNC. For this, it is expected that the new government will continue its contacts with the Azerbaijani authorities.
*Researcher at SETA Istanbul