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The following article by Aysu Basri Akter was published in the left-wing Turkish Cypriot daily Yeni Düzen on 16 March 2010. Translated from Turkish by Tim Drayton.

Eroğlu lost the election on the day he announced his candidacy

by Aysu Basri Akter

Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu has held the expected press conference. Virtually no reporters were present at the press conference; those attending were columnists and editors.

In other words, the press conference, which as expected was well attended and covered by senior staff, showed that Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu’s candidacy possesses the potential to both sway the result of the election and influence the post-election political balance.

I spoke with Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu after the press conference, which lasted about one and a half hours.

The most striking point to which Ertuğruloğlu drew attention in the course of our chat, which also lasted about one and a half hours, was the manner in which he obtained an appointment with Erdoğan.

Ertuğruloğlu says, “Even though I had previously given the dates on which I would be in Strasbourg and said that an appointment on these dates would cause difficulties, and even though the timing of the fanfare with which Eroğlu would announce his candidacy was also known in advance, it is significant that I was given an appointment on that day.”

It is clearly significant, when a party chairman announces that he is standing for President, that at that most critical juncture a deputy within the party who opposes him should hold a meeting whose contents are not disclosed but are said to be ”very useful“ with the Turkish Prime Minister.

But there is a more significant aspect to that day than simply that this was day on which Mr Eroğlu announced his candidacy!

That day was the day on which the leaders commenced the second round of intensified negotiations!

The day on which strenuous efforts to secure a joint text at the end of the second round had reached the most crticial phase!

A period when intense efforts were being made to bring the UN General Secretary to the island!

On just such a day, Eroğlu announced his candidacy.

And he said, “I am a candidate for the TRNC Presidency.”

Have you heard this sentence emerge once more from Eroğlu’s lips?

Turkish foreign policy is proceeding extremely carefully on the basis of a problem management strategy. Not only in Cyprus, but with respect to other regional problems, Turkey is making exceptionally clever and pragmatic moves.

And in Cyprus she has come out in favour of the negotiations continuing.

And she is serious about this!

It will not be the Turkish side that that leaves the table! At the very least, the Turkish side will not be held responsible for the talks breaking up.

Turkey has been acting on the basis of the same strategy since 2002. The AKP, in a period when it was at its weakest, came up against the President of the day, Denktash.

It does not now wish to jeopardise the process for a politician who does not even have the clout that Denktash brought with his gravity and charismatic prestige.

Eroğlu has, probably for the first time, hoisted himself with his own petard due to the critical errors that he has made when he was so close to becoming President.

The day that he announced his candidacy was the day on which he lost the Presidency.

It is said that the reason Erdoğan gave Ertuğruloğlu an appointment on the very day of the fanfare was that he was extremely uncomfortable with the way Eroğlu went about this.

In a brief interview that I held with TUSİAD (Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association) Chairman Ümit Boyner, the latter stressed in particular that,

“Our stance is in favour of the negotiations continuing!”

Currently, the principal goal of policy makers in Turkey is to keep negotiations going and to keep the Turkish side at the table. Otherwise, a single false step could see the progress that has been achieved since 2002 going up in smoke.

The extent to which Eroğlu has remained silent and stoically borne all of the harsh criticism which has been levelled at him following this move by Ertuğruloğlu points to his sense that Ankara’s influence is involved.

Eroğlu has proved incapable of taking advantage of his big break, either in government or in the election race.

His unsuccessful period in government, which he has shared with his entire cabinet, could not be shored up simply by criticising the CTP. He was incapable of succeeding in a system about which he had said, “We set up this system; we can manage it best.”

And he was incapable of adapting to changes in the system which appeared to have undergone no change. Buoyed by the high number of votes which he gained in the general elections, he looked askance at reconciliation with the DP.

But Eroğlu, unable to achieve real harmony with Turkey, has lost this election.

Archive of Turkish press translations by Tim Drayton