CYPRUS GOES TO THE POLLS: WILL THIS TIME ALSO BE DIFFERENT FOR TURKISH CYPRIOTS?

upa-admin 25 Mayıs 2014 2.296 Okunma 0
CYPRUS GOES TO THE POLLS: WILL THIS TIME ALSO BE DIFFERENT FOR TURKISH CYPRIOTS?

From May 22 to May 25, 400 million Europeans are called to vote for a new European Parliament (EP). This will be the third time that Cypriots will vote in the EP elections, ten years after joining the EU.[1]

The negative consequences of the economic crisis and the European Union’s response to it are likely to affect voting behaviour. Although voting is compulsory in the Republic of Cyprus, the participation rate declined by 13,10 percentage points from 72,50 % in 2004. Turnout this time is expected to be even lower.

A total of 6 MEPs will be elected today. After the failure of the Annan Plan[2] to reunite the island, the Republic of Cyprus became a EU Member State as a divided island. Although the entire island acceded to the Union, the acquis communautaire does not apply to the Northern part of the Island, an area in which the Government of the Republic of Cyprus does not exercise effective control since the Turkish military intervention of 1974. Pending a solution to the Cyprus problem, the European Council decided that European Parliament elections would not be held in the Northern part of the island.[3]

If the Annan Plan had been approved, two out of the six seats would correspond to the Turkish Cypriot community.[4] Until a comprehensive settlement is reached, the Turkish Cypriot authorities have long demanded an observer status in the EP, on a similar basis to the procedure used in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), where the Republic of Cyprus has two members (and two substitutes) for the Greek Cypriot Community and one member (and one substitute) for the Turkish Cypriot Community.[5]

In the 2012 progress report on Turkey, several Members of the European Parliament tabled amendments in favour of such temporary solution.[6] However, none of the amendments were adopted.[7] Geoffrey Van Orden (UK/ECR group) was the only MEP who tabled a similar amendment to the 2013 progress report on Turkey.[8]

The Government of Cyprus does not recognise the administration in Northern Cyprus as a separate entity[9] and considers that the “observer status” should only be accorded to those countries that are candidates for EU membership.

In the successive European elections, the Government of Cyprus has taken measures to facilitate and promote participation of the Turkish Cypriot community. In 2004, the government put in place a legal framework allowing Turkish Cypriots to vote and to stand as a candidate.[10] Only Mehmet Hasgüler, a Turkish Cypriot academician, stood as a candidate. He received 681 votes. In 2009, there was no candidate of Turkish Cypriot origin.

Turkish Cypriots claim that electing a Turkish Cypriot representative to the EP is impossible, as the case of Mehmet Hasgüler demonstrates. Instead, they have favoured separate elections being held in both communities, as foreseen by the Annan Plan.

In view of the upcoming European elections, the Government of Cyprus has further simplified and facilitated the exercise of Turkish Cypriots’ electoral rights.[11] Last March, the government passed an amendment to the electoral law, which provides for the automatic registration in the electoral roll to those Turkish Cypriots who are in possession of a Republic of Cyprus ID card (estimated at around 95.000).[12] Polling stations will be set up by the crossing-points in the government controlled area to make the voting process more accessible.

Moreover, a full-scale information campaign has  been launched in Turkish. For the first time, the EP’s official TV and radio spots have been dubbed into Turkish, on the advice of the EP information office in Nicosia.

In total, there are 61 candidates from ten political parties.[13] Out of those, five are Turkish Cypriots. Mehmet Birinci and Osman Zorba are candidates for the Socialist Party of Cyprus, registered as a Turkish Cypriot party. Natice Nedjet and Deniz Birinci are candidates for the Action Party (Drasis-Eylem), the first and only political party bringing together Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Şener Levent will run as an independent candidate.

The number of votes required to be elected will largely depend on the participation rate. In any case, in order to elect one Turkish Cypriot representative, all Turkish Cypriot voters would ideally have to vote for the same candidate. Unfortunately, most Turkish Cypriot political parties have said that they will boycott the elections and have asked for a separate Turkish Cypriot electoral registry.[14]

The Turkish Cypriot community is however encouraged to participate as much as possible in the European elections taking place today, as they provide the only framework to elect representatives of the Turkish Cypriot community to the European Parliament.

Several civil society organizations, like the Cyprus Turkish Teachers’ Trade Union (KTÖS), have issued statements urging all Turkish Cypriots to vote for the EP elections.[15]

Even if no Turkish Cypriot representative were elected in the end –which appears the most likely scenario-, a mass participation by the Turkish Cypriot Community would send a strong signal to the EU and demonstrate their readiness to work together in a federation.

The Turkish Cypriot community should not miss this opportunity again.

 Laura BATALLA

[1] The title of this article has been inspired by the slogan of the official information campaign of the European Parliament elections 2014: “This time it’s different”. The slogan refers to the institutional changes brought forward by the Treaty of Lisbon, which entered into force in December 2009. Under the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Council has to take into account the results of the European elections when proposing a candidate for the European Commission presidency. In this regard, the composition of the European Parliament after 25 May will most likely determine who will lead the next European Commission.

[2]  The Annan Plan was put to referendum on 24 April 2004. 76 % of Greek Cypriots rejected it and 65 % of Turkish Cypriots approved it.

[3] Council Decision concerning the representation of the people of Cyprus in the European Parliament in case of a settlement of the Cyprus problem, 10 June 2004, document 2004/551/EC, p. 1, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32004D0511&qid=1400933255285&from=EN.

[4] The comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, 31 March 2004, Article 7.2, p. 11, http://www.hri.org/docs/annan/Annan_Plan_April2004.pdf.

[5] Representation and participation of Turkish and Greek Cypriots in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Written Declaration No. 035, 26th session, 1974, http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/Xref-DocDetails-EN.asp?fileid=3826&lang=EN&search=VHVya2lzaCBDeXByaW90cw.

[6] Amendment 1 tabled by Geoffrey Van Orden (UK) and Nirj Deva (UK) on behalf of the ECR Group http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+AMD+B7-2013-0162+001-001+DOC+PDF+V0//EN; Amendment 3 tabled by Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (UK), Andrew Duff (UK), Metin Kazak (BG), Graham Watson (UK), Marietje Schaake (NL) on behalf of the ALDE Group http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+AMD+B7-2013-0162+002-004+DOC+PDF+V0//EN (p. 2); Amendment 5 tabled by Ana Gomes (PT), Raimon Obiols (ES), Libor Rouček (CZ) on behalf of the S&D Group http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+AMD+B7-2013-0162+001-001+DOC+PDF+V0//EN (pp. 1-2); Amendment 10 tabled by Véronique De Keyser (BE) on behalf of the S&D Group http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+AMD+B7-2013-0162+010-010+DOC+PDF+V0//EN; Amendment 26 tabled by Hélène Flautre (FR), Franziska Keller (DE) on behalf of the Greens/ALE Group http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+AMD+B7-2013-0162+024-027+DOC+PDF+V0//EN (p. 3).

[7] AM 1 was withdrawn; AM 3 was rejected by 126 votes in favour, 418 against and 55 abstentions; AM 5&10 were withdrawn by Hannes Swoboda, president of the S&D group, before the vote noting that the S&D group would address this matter to the Conference of Presidents urging the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, to find an adequate solution to the representation of the Turkish Cypriot Community in the EP with the cooperation of the newly elected President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades; AM 26 was rejected by 135 votes in favour, 412 against and 57 abstentions. The results of the votes can be found here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+PV+20130418+RES-VOT+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN.

[8] Geoffrey Van Orden, AM289, pp. 54-55, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+COMPARL+PE-526.339+01+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN.

[9] Turkey remains the only country to have recognized Northern Cyprus.

[10] In the 2004 elections there were 483.311 registered voters, 576 of which were Turkish Cypriots.

[11] MEPs Andrew Duff (British liberal) and Norbert Neuser (German Socialist) have tabled parliamentary questions to the European Commission asking about the representation of Turkish Cypriots at the European Parliament. The Commission answered that the electoral procedure for the election of the Members of the European Parliament is governed in each Member State by its national provisions but expressed its support “in favour of measures aiming at increasing confidence and anchoring the Turkish Cypriot community closely to the European Union” (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getAllAnswers.do?reference=P-2014-000640&language=EN).

[12] According to Cyprus Mail, some 30.000 Turkish Cypriots won’t be able to vote after being excluded from the electoral roll due to a bureaucratic mistake: http://cyprus-mail.com/2014/05/24/some-30000-turkish-cypriots-will-not-be-able-to-vote/.

[13] The full list can be found here: http://europedecides.eu/candidates/election-lists/cy/.

[14] “Kıbrıslı Türklerin AP’deki temsiliyet hakkı”, BRTK, 3 February 2014, http://www.brtk.net/kibrisli-turklerin-apdeki-temsiliyet-hakki/.

[15] “TÖS urges all Turkish Cypriots to vote during EP elections on May 25”, KP Daily News, 14 May 2014, http://www.kpdailynews.com/index.php/cat/35/news/986/PageName/CYPRUS_LOCAL_NEWS.

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