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    HP withdraws from the government – what happens now?

    That slightly annoying but painfully true Lenin quote about weeks where decades happen will be doing the rounds again. Not contented with a presidential election here four days from now and a war in Azerbaijan, the world has decided to throw another curveball at us last night as Kudret Özersay’s Halkın Partisi (HP) decided to withdraw from the government.

    HP withdraws from the government - what happens now? 1
    By Tom Cleaver

    It came at the end of a day of headlines for Cyprus, as (soon to be former) Prime Minister Ersin Tatar held a joint press conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to announce the completion of repair works to the undersea freshwater pipeline between Turkey and Northern Cyprus – and thus the end of the latter’s water shortage – and the opening of the beach section of the closed district of Maraş (Varosi) in Famagusta as of this Thursday.

    The merits (or otherwise) of unilaterally opening part or all of Maraş are a discussion for another day, as this is not where dissent arose on the part of Özersay or HP. They were incensed rather by the timing of all this “good news”, and the nature in which it was released: a big flashy press conference with the Prime Minister and the President of Turkey in Ankara just five days before Northern Cyprus’ presidential elections – and his Deputy and Foreign Minister (Özersay) nowhere to be seen. To Özersay’s mind, and to the minds of others in the race, this was a rather cynical utilisation of such a policy for electoral gains with a helping hand from Erdoğan’s AK Parti, who it seems have a preference for Tatar as Northern Cyprus’ next President.

    By the time Tatar landed back at Ercan yesterday evening rumours were swirling of an imminent collapse of the government with HP holding an internal party “crisis meeting”. Just after ten o’clock yesterday evening the news filtered through, and the UBP-HP coalition was no more. Rather impressively, in just four years of existence HP have been in government with four of the other five parties in the parliament, and either formed or collapsed a government every year it’s been in parliament.

    Tatar’s woken up as the leader of a government in ruins

    The question on everyone’s lips, however, is “now what?”. The presidential elections, firstly, are now only four days away. About a month ago I wrote about how Özersay could have won back some much-needed integrity by collapsing the government over the summer, but I do believe at this point that the time for that has gone.

    What he may have done, however, is ended Ersin Tatar’s chance at the top job. Tatar will have been expecting a bump in numbers based off yesterday – looking triumphant with Erdoğan stood next to him as water began to flow into the Geçitköy reservoir in Kyrenia, and as he announced the reopening of Maraş. Any positive bounce he could have got from that, however, has been well and truly washed away by last night’s news. Today he’s woken up as the leader of a government in ruins, and public perception of that is never positive. No matter how good at spin you are, you can’t polish having your government collapse on you five days before an election.

    Parliamentary arithmetic just became a bit more tricky too. With no combination of parties that hasn’t been tried yet able to get a majority as things stand, it seems almost inevitable at this point that there will be another round of parliamentary elections very soon. At this point I couldn’t even begin to predict how they would go.

    Finally, is Tatar finished? If he doesn’t manage to make it through to the second round on Sunday, which looks less likely than it did an hour ago, I would say he is. Over the last couple of years, circumstances have mostly fallen in UBP’s favour, and if Tatar cannot capitalise on that he will be seen as a failure. Rumours of discord among his own party are swirling at the moment, so should this weekend’s election be a failure for him I think his political career will be over.

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