Another Nicosia is possible!
Another Nicosia is possible!
Başka bir Lefkoşa mümkün!
Μια άλλη Λευκωσία είναι εφικτή!
"Another Nicosia is possible!"` is the slogan New Cyprus Party (Yeni Kibris Partisi, Κόμμα Νέα Κύπρος, YKP) is using for their interim election campaign scheduled to take place in April to elect a subset of the municipal council and the mayor of north Nicosia.
What is this "another Nicosia"?
Can they define it?
Are they really saying that they have even the remotest chance to create a different Nicosia?
Or is it just an empty slogan designed to take advantage of the popularity of "Another world is possible! Another Europe is possible!" type of slogans?
To me these are important questions. They are more important than discussing whether the elections themselves are a farce or not. They are also more important than whether the specific positions are "anti-Ankara" or not, or whether they follow a recipe laid out by some hero (!) of the revolutionary left.
Of course, under normal conditions, one should first argue whether it is desirable to have "another Nicosia" or not but since the situation in north Cyprus in general and in Nicosia municipality in particular is so pathetic, there is no need to ask this question. The answer is obvious.
Let's rewind a bit…
The discussion about whether to participate in a given election is a recurring "nightmare" for the party. I used quotes for the term nightmare because while it is a divisive, hot topic, it is also a healthy and beneficial discussion. It is the type of libertarian pluralism that YKP has brought to the scene of Turkish Cypriot politics and kept it running since 1989.
In any case, since the moment it became obvious that interim elections were to happen to replace the utterly corrupt, incompetent and old skool mafioso type mayor of north Nicosia, the discussions started. I was not in Cyprus so I have only heard it second hand and discussed it a bit on the new favorite platform of Cypriots, facebook. The discussion was centered around whether the party's position of boycotting the elections throughout the last decade should be persistent under all conditions or whether it could create an alternative, sound and respectful voice with clear, achievable promises. If the latter is possible, the benefits of running in an election, albeit a farce one, may be worth it.
Just recall that YKP has made itself a name during 90s in an era where the regime's oppressive side was still going strong. Various memorable slogans such as "you are going to put the burgundy-colored passport in your pocket", "this country is ours" (I prefer "homeland"), "say no to being a state of Turkey" and others arose during those campaigns. It was an era when the private TV and radio stations were not yet going strong, bombs were exploding to silence the opposition (YKP had its own share), our access to the international arena was quite limited and in general an atmosphere of fear dominated the political scene. Yet, the party was able to speak louder than the background parasitic signals and many people still remember it as a different voice. This has continued during the following years and finally evolved into a campaign to boycott the elections since the signal-to-noise ratio was worsening.
Since we have rewound a bit, it is also important to point out here that, despite the continuous campaigns by outsiders to trivialize the party's positions to those about the Cyprus problem, the party has always kept itself concerned about the totality of the issues facing a government from local administration to international politics. If one wonders, there is a wealth of material in Turkish and some in translations about its detailed analysis and proposals of various issues.
The question was whether, given today's more relaxed, more pluralist conditions, it is worth to run in an election while explaining to the public that it really is a farce. The answer was yes.
I was a skeptic but what I saw was an energetic campaign breaking taboos, focusing on the issues rather than old, irrelevant slogans (1), rather than using every election as a generalization calling for a "revolution", "re-unification of the island", "toppling the occupation". Obviously, they also did not rely on the fan-base of traditional parties – let's call them "the group of four" (UBP, CTP, TDP, DP) – who evidently can't tell the difference between supporting a political party in a mayoral election and supporting a football team.
What is this "another Nicosia"? Can they define it? Are they really saying that they have even the remotest chance to create a different Nicosia? Or is it just an empty slogan designed to take advantage of the popularity of "Another world is possible! Another Europe is possible!" type of slogans?
Yes, the campaign, indeed, was focused on defining an achievable, relevant and precise model for creating a different Nicosia as a model for all local administrations. Candidates, supporters, friends have written a rich body of materials that I hope will be used for other local elections in the future. One of my goals in writing this article is to highlight a few of the bullet points to bring them to the attention of those who can not read Turkish (2,3).
Let's start by how it defines a local administration: "Local administration means that a street, a neighborhood, a town, a community practices self-rule. In other words, it is the creation of a culture of communal, participatory, self administration." (2,4) This vision of a new, islandwide local administrations is what links the specific interim elections for Nicosia and YKP's vision for a "new Cyprus".
I am not going to go through things like how the party believes in libertarian, local participatory models of governance, how it believes in ecological means of transport etc. Those are too general.
Instead, based on this starting point, we move onto defining specific issues for Nicosia, namely:
a) A participatory budget modeled after various examples from Turkey, Brazil and Spain to overcome the financial crisis of the town. The town is currently bankrupt. Coupling this participatory model with the clearing up of the corruption, irregular hiring practices, uncontrolled and illegal borrowing and other actions that have led to the disaster. They use the pieces of information available from the exchequer's audit report which has highlighted a history of such practices. YKP is blunt to declare that it would not be paying any debts that were accumulated illegally and that will purse all legal means to held those who have accumulated responsible.
c) One of the problems is the inflated body of people who were hired as tools for nepotism and as bribes with permanent contracts without any real tasks to carry out. This is one of the reasons for the collapse of the municipality budget which could not pay its workers for months that led to the strikes and the interim elections. As a libertarian socialist party, YKP promises to respect the rights of these people as laborers. Therefore, it is offering solutions such as the creation of new service areas that would put these people's talents to good use while delivering services to the public -- detailed in the general manifesto and in various speeches and articles, see (2) and (3).
d) A promise to re-organize the coverage of the municipality which was altered in the past to include satellite villages to allow for the exploitation of the shores and other natural resources for commercial benefit. Nicosia's status at the heart of the island should be respected.
e) A demilitarized, united Nicosia without borders and continuous and close co-operation with the south Nicosia. For years, this was viewed as an empty promise that was only possible through the re-unification of the whole island. We now believe that it is actually within our reach irrespective of the ending of the occupation and the re-unification of the island.
These are just few headlines amongst a large body of materials that were outlined by the party. It is important to stress that YKP's unique positions that include core feminist values, the LGBTT rights, the rights for the disabled and a modern view of ecology alongside libertarian socialist ideals were all represented during the campaign. YKP took time to carefully explain the relevance of the local administration in the context of gender equality – for example, a participatory budget allows for local adjustments to ensure equal representation.
Let's not forget that YKP's campaign was the only one that was not centered around a person. It has sixteen candidates and each and everyone is represented equally (3,5). The candidate for the mayor is barely highlighted.
Frankly, I was quite excited by the campaign that a relatively young group of people ran during this election time. I think it has brought new energy and raised attention to the party's views. I hope that I was able to provide a flavor of YKP's positions (and I hope I did it accurately!) for the local administration and why I am excited about what is going on.
Turgut Durduran – durduran(at)gmail(dot)com
(1) For example, one NGO ran its whole campaign around the statement "the worst for Ankara", which in the context of a mayoral election, makes one wonder, if elected, they are planning to take all the trash from the streets of Nicosia and dump it in Kizilay square.
(2) A detailed manifesto for local administrations in general is available at: http://www.ykp.org.cy/ykp/parti-dokumanlari/parti-meclisi-kararlari/yerinden-yonetimler-icin-manifesto/
A rough translation of this document is included below (5).
(3) More details specific to Nicosia are available at: https://www.facebook.com/ykpsecim2013/info
(4) It is difficult to translate it well since YKP traditionally employs the language and terminology carefully while writing in Turkish. So here is the Turkish original: " Yerel yönetim demek bir sokağın, bir mahallenin, bir şehrin, bir toplumun kendi kendini yönetmesi, yani toplumsal bir özyönetim kültürünün yaratılmasıdır, kısaca tam anlamıyla yerinden yönetmektir."
(5) See (3) for details.
Another Local Administration is Possible!
Another Nicosia is Possible!
New Cyprus Party (YKP) is running in the elections, in order;
1- To reclaim first our streets, then our neighborhoods, then our towns and our whole country. 2- To administer Nicosia together with its municipality, mukhtars, unions and non-governmental organizations.
3- To reclaim the lands, whose value has sky-rocketed and are benefiting a small minority, to the true owners, i.e. the people of Nicosia.
4- To create a local administration that takes into account the inequalities faced by women in their private and public lives, to ease their current lives and turn them against the taboo roles in the society towards a communal gender independence.
5- To protect the historic structure of the old city of Nicosia and to turn it into a centre of art and culture via festivals that reflect its indigenous culture.
6- To recreate the multi-cultural atmosphere of the town and to start by returning the Armenian church to its true owners.
7- To re-structure the town in a pedestrian and cyclist friendly manner with green areas that reflect its cultural structure.
8- To keep in mind that local administration and the general administration go hand-in-hand, and, in order to support a federal Cyprus and rapprochement, work towards more multi-communal projects and events.
9- To raise the “demilitarized Nicosia” campaign to reach our goal of a demilitarized Nicosia without arms, without the destruction of the occupation, without the demarcation line, without the dividing walls, to increase our anti-militarist struggle.
10- To defend Nicosia against the attacks by the neo-liberal policies demanding privatization and outsourcing together with the working people, to create a free, high quality, public municipal services via a participatory, democratic, libertarian local administration.
11- To say “this debt was accumulated illegally, we will not pay!” to the debts acquired by the previous municipal administrations in a corrupt and illegal manner as was documented by the exchequer's audit report and to carry out all legal actions to hold the creators of the debts accountable.
12- To create a structure where all payments are done respecting the labour, to clean up the mafia from the municipality, to create new areas of service for the employees who are being neglected, to get benefits from their skills, to stop all illegal employment while respecting labour rights.
13- To use the financial sources of the municipality most efficiently and change the conditions where it depends on the finances and orders of the embassy of the Republic of Turkey in Nicosia while keeping in mind its rights within the Republic of Cyprus.
14- To disassociate villages that were added to the municipality in order to exploit the shores and to struggle for a new arrangement for local administrations.
15- To implement YKP's manifesto for local administrations. We make a promise and we are determined to raise the communal opposition against the regime. We are worried about the municipalities in general and Nicosia in particular, we are enraged. Now, we are ready to struggle against those who created the crisis and we will brush them aside. We emphasize once more that “Another Local Administration is Possible!”
Our candidates are:
- Celal Devrim Önen (Mechanical engineer)
- Ceyhun Hami (Businesswoman)
- Ergün Emiroğulları (Electrical contractor)
- Evrim Kamalı (Restaurant owner)
- Faika Deniz Paşa (Lawyer)
- Haluk Selam Tufanlı (Web designer)
- Hamit Aygün (Retired teacher)
- Hazal Yolga (Communication specialist)
- Işın Asvaroğlu (Retired)
- Mehmet Karadal (Artist)
- Mehmet Kırmızı (Storage manager)
- Mehmet Özyücekök (Accountant)
- Murat Kanatlı (Civil engineer)
- Münevver Özakalın (Physiotherapist)
- Neşe Karakaş (Retired)
- Tolga Yücedal (Public relations)
A vote for YKP's candidates will be a strong voice against the regime.
Murat Kanatli is our candidate for mayor.