Monday, April 26, 2004

Yes and No, the Cyprus referenda

cyprus / referenda
No links this time. Just a few words:

It is unfortunate, in my humble opinion, that the Greek Cypriots chose to vote "No" on the Annan plan. Not because the plan was some sort of fair deal, but because given the current political climate and Turkey's role, this is pretty much what a "bizonal, bicommunal" state can look like. Also because the balance of power on the ground in Cyprus was never so conducive to a settlement... Denktash and the T/C far-right marginalized, demonstrations for reunification on the North, and the virtual certainty that the left is the only power that could bridge both communities and govern with a real agenda of reunification.
Having said that, I cringe at the way this vote has been interpreted by pundits and diplomats alike. The idea that this was all about the economic cost of reunification and/or hostility towards T/C from the G/C side is ridiculous.

The Athens daily "Eleftherotypia", published a poll today which showed that among the "No" voters, 75% stated as a main reason for their decision "security issues". Only 13% mentioned disinclination to coexist with T/Cs as a reason for their vote and a mere 5% the economic costs of the reunification. What does that mean? It means that a large majority of G/C (even among the "Yes" voters, I'd wager) did reasonably feel that there was not the slightest guarantee in the Annan plan that Turkey would follow through on its disarmament or non-intervention obligations, or that the Turkish army wouldn't stir up the neo-fascist Grey Wolves to cause intercommunal trouble as an provocation to legitimize further actions against the G/C majority... Why would that happen? Well, there's a power struggle going on in Turkey and the generals have temporarily lost the total control over foreign policy they enjoyed, but they are still a force to be reckoned with (unbelievably for a democracy, the Army chief of staff in Turkey feels justified to hold a press conference to state the army's position and to agree or disagree with the elected government - imagine that in the UK or France...) If for some external reason Turkey's EU accession stumbles (and it is a possibilty) the Turkish Army might gain complete control again and destroy much more than the implementation of the plan. Remember that most "benefits" for G/C happen according to the Annan plan over the next 3-15 years, while most benefits for the T/C community are immediate. So if Turkey decides that it won't give up i.e. Morphou in a few years, for whatever reason, there is nothing in the plan that would "punish" the Turkish government or force it to obey the timeline. Also the plan allows Turkey to intervene to "protect" the T/C (whether they ask for it or not), a great incentive for the Turkish far right to stir up trouble any chance they get...

So security is the problem in Cyprus, not "nationalism", the "priests" (the Archbishop of occupied Morphou was a supporter of the "yes" vote) or narrow economic self-interest. In this light, the position of the largest G/C party, AKEL, is very instructive. Although its leadership was in favour of the Annan plan, it realized that the party voters wouldn't follow (the conservative leadership said "yes" and were abandoned by 80% of their voters) and rather than insist on a yes vote (a losing proposition), they decided to say "no" until "serious guarantees" were given by the international community and then insisted on the "no" vote, aiming to bring the plan (with a serious implementation plan and guarantees) to vote this autumn with a much better chance of winning.

So let me make a prediction: there is a good chance that a new referendum will be held in free Cyprus this autumn or winter, with the backing of the Cypriot Communist party, the largest in the island, the "yes" vote will have a much better chance of passing. The plan is not dead yet. There will be some extras (i.e. more and more diverse UN troops and punitive clauses for non-compliance etc.) but the plan will be put to vote within the next few months, certainly less than a year. AKEL has started campaigning on this already.

In the meantime, the Cyprus government has already made clear that it will advocate for more money for the North in the EU, it is considering independent financial aid to the T/Cs and it will probably set up voting booths for T/C on the Green Line for the coming European Elections. So much for "selfishness"...

About the history and the real issues behind the Cyprus question I've already written a few things... I'll be back with more, as invective and oversimplification about the Cyprus vote are bound to multiply in the blogosphere and beyond, and a response will be in order...

1 comment:

talos said...

old commentsDoug Muir:

I recognize that we're talking about perceptions, not reality. Still, I'm not too impressed. The odds of the Turks stirring up trouble again in Cyprus are, realistically, so small as to be microscopic. The TCs had, IMO, more to fear from Greek dominance… although here, too, I think that the rational and objective likelihood of this was quite small.

While I don't have a high opinion of Denktash, at all, I don't think it's accurate to compare him to Grivas or Samson. Samson said on numerous occasions that Enosis meant driving the Turks off of Cyprus, and that this was a job he, Samson, would have been delighted to undertake. I'm not aware of any similar statements from Denktas — though if I'm wrong, I welcome correction.

Point being — if a GC could fear Turkey intervening again, a TC could just as reasonably fear the rise of another Grivas or Samson. They're about equally (un)likely IMO.

As to your prediction: I'll take that bet. I doubt there will be another vote this year; but if there is, I predict that it will go much the same way, with "No" beating "Yes" by at least two to one on the GC side. Victory to be determined next January 1, winner gets bragging rights.


Doug M.

2004-04-29 13:09

As for the comparison: Grivas and Sampson bragged about "cleansing" 18% of the islands population… Denktash wanted (and achieved) the cleansing of a proportionate number of Greek Cypriots (~25%), in order to create his "state". Denktash also targeted any member of the T/C community that supported coexistence (much like the EOKA B on the Greek side).

About comparative likelyhoods of trouble - let me put it this way: Samson was indicted and jailed for the coup, and Ioannidis (the Greek dictator responsible for the coup) still remains in prison - and will probably die there. The far right in Greece and among the Greek Cypriots has been discredited, in no small part because of the events of Cyprus… Nutcases like Sampson are very infrequent nowadays… At most are a few bands of stray fascists..
On the other side the protagonists of the invasion are pretty much national heroes, the generals still call quite a few shots and, if anything goes wrong with Turkey's EU accession, there is no guarantee at all that a more aggressive military establisment will agree to implement the Annan plan: They could refuse to withdraw troops, refuse to evacuate areas under return, or indeed cause serious trouble in order to intervene violently. This is not some fringe political group, but the Turkish army - hardly a paragon of humanitarianism or democracy…

In other words G/C's are asked to bet their fortunes on a particular political outcome in Turkey… Is it a safe bet? I agree that it seems so. But I don't live in Cyprus and would suffer any consequences only indirectly.

Speaking of bets: you're on!… If you agree to a March 1 2005, rather than a January 1, deadline that is…!

2004-04-29 15:11
Doug Muir:

IMO Denktash wanted to be autocratic ruler-for-life of his own little state. The ethnic conflict was a handy means to an end. In this respect he rather reminds me of Slobodan Milosevic, except that unfortunately nobody will ever send Denktash to the Hague.

Samson, on the other hand, wanted to kill Turks; power was a means to that end as much as an end in itself. I do see a difference there.

But anyhow. Just so we're clear: I'm betting that /either/ there won't be another vote; or that, if there is, it will be at least 2-1 "No" on the GC side.

March 1? You're on. Winner gets to brag, ten and a half months from now.

Doug M.

2004-04-29 16:16

OK… and I'm saying that if there is a vote, the "yes" vote will win… if the "no" vote gets between 50,01% and 66,67%,we'll call it a draw!

2004-04-29 16:28