The Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) remains without a fully functioning government for the seventh week running.
Ersan Saner, the caretaker leader of the National Unity Party (UBP), was tasked with forming a new government on 7 November, a month after the collapse of the UBP-HP (Halkın Partisi) coalition on 6 October. However, he has been unable to strike a deal with the other parties in Parliament.
The failure to create a new UBP-led majority government means the baton is now passed to Tufan Erhürman, leader of the Republican Turkish Party (CTP).
President Ersin Tatar met with the main opposition leader on Saturday to give him the mandate soon after being informed by Mr Saner that he had been unsuccessful in his endeavours.
Uphill struggle for Tufan Erhürman
Mr Erhürman now has a fortnight to try and form a multi-party coalition, but he faces an uphill struggle.
The left-leaning CTP currently has 12 Members of Parliament, with 26 needed to form a majority in the 50-seat legislature.
The conservative UBP – the largest party in the TRNC Parliament – has 21 seats, while their former parties centre-right HP has 9. Left-wing TDP (Communal Democracy Party) and centre-right DP (Democrat Party) each have 3 MPs, and right-wing pro-Turkey YDP (New Birth Party) has 2 MPs.
The CTP leader and former Prime Minister previously headed a four-party coalition with HP, DP and TDP after the January 2018 General Election, but the government fell after 15 months, also instigated by HP’s withdrawal.
Should Mr Erhürman be unable to form a government too, the TRNC will have to call a general election early in the New Year, which could create major difficulties for the country.
TRNC procedures require approval from the Council of Ministers for significant government decisions.
Due to HP’s withdrawal from government, the existing ministers are functioning in a caretaker capacity only. The Council of Ministers has not meet since the start of October, leaving key works without sign off, including the budget for 2021.
No TRNC Prime Minister, no new UBP leader
An additional problem is the lack of a TRNC Prime Minister. With Ersin Tatar winning the Presidency on 18 October, his role as Prime Minister is now vacant. His replacement was set to be elected earlier this month, but UBP called off its leadership race after the first round, despite record numbers turning out to vote.
Faiz Sucuoğlu and Hasan Taçoy – the two candidates in the run-off – formally withdrew their candidacies, and UBP MPs instead appointed Ersan Saner as caretaker UBP leader, with the aim of presenting him as the sole candidate in a fresh party election in November 2021. The official reason given by the party’s national executive was ‘to stop a split in the party’ following the outcome of round 2.
The shock development was roundly condemned by party members and opposition parties. Hasan Solakay, the UBP branch head for Balıkesir, resigned from the party writing “YAZIKLAR OLSUN” [‘shame on you’] on social media where he had posted details of his resignation.
Mr Erhürman said UBP’s actions had “put Turkish Cypriot democracy back by decades”, while Yılmaz Bora, head of the TMT Veterans Association, wrote on social media that the decision “didn’t suit UBP”, and that the delay and manner in which the UBP leadership race was now set to be concluded had “greatly damaged” the party.