Newly-elected President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Mustafa Akıncı, has found himself right in the midst of a controversy that should never have taken place.
Akıncı, a former mayor of the Turkish sector of Nicosia and a staunch left-wing politician who has been outspoken many times in the past, swept to power in the second round of the presidential elections, winning a respectable 60 percent of the votes.
Yet as soon as his victory was announced, he found himself in the middle of a controversy whereby people have the impression that he is strongly at odds with the Turkish government and especially with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Erdoğan said Akıncı's statement opposing the term "baby land" being used for the TRNC (the Turkish is "yavru vatan," which can be translated as foster-land or baby land), is not acceptable. He said that Turkey should remain the motherland and the TRNC the baby-land. Akıncı feels baby-land creates the image of a relationship between a mother (Turkey) and a baby (the Turkish Cypriots). Akıncı says the relationship between Turkey and the TRNC should be one between brothers and not between an inferior and a superior. He says it is high time the baby should be allowed to grow and become self-sustaining.
Of course, President Erdoğan is being extremely sensitive in view of the games being played against Cyprus behind the scenes to sever the ties between Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, and feels any suggestions of Turkish Cypriots acting more independently and giving the image that Ankara is being sidelined, plays into the hands of the adversaries of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots. Thus, he reacts strongly to even a hint of any weakening of the bonds between Ankara and the Turkish Cypriots.
But it seems Ankara, just like the father who finds it very hard to give away his beloved daughter in marriage, should come to terms with the realities and realize that the girl is now grown and should be allowed to walk on her own while we continue to support her and give her all our love and affection.
It is true that with Ankara's help, the economy of the TRNC is picking up while Greek Cypriots, with all the EU backing, are bankrupt. It is true that Ankara's continued help is needed to sustain the TRNC economy. It is true that Ankara has gone out of its way to provide essentials for the TRNC and now with the water pipeline project, it will solve the water shortage for the TRNC that will boost Turkish Cypriot agriculture. So in essence, Turkey does remain the motherland, but this should not give us the right to dominate the TRNC and impose our will upon them.
Our brothers and sisters in Cyprus have spoken at the ballot box in a very democratic manner. This should be applauded by the West and especially by the EU.
The pragmatic way forward is to give Akıncı the benefit of the doubt. What Akıncı wants is not to be treated as a kid brother who should have no right to speak and only obey commands. It is very clear he has no desire to fall out with Ankara or challenge the Turkish government.
Yet, it is also true that Turkish Cypriots and Turkey have a serious image problem in the West. Turkish Cypriots are unfortunately regarded as puppets of Ankara and thus no one takes them seriously. Ankara is regarded as the dominant boss that imposes its will on the Turkish Cypriots irrespective of their own preferences. All this is being proven wrong by Akıncı. Now he will be the more independent face of the Turkish Cypriots and has a chance to regain respectability for the Turks on the island.
Now there will be a serious Turkish Cypriot negotiator who has always proven resourceful and conciliatory towards Greek Cypriots. Those who expect him to "sell out" are mistaken. On the contrary, he will be a tougher negotiator than those of the past, much to the discomfort of the Greeks.