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The following article appeared in the Turkish Cypriot Havadis newspaper on 21 April 2010. Translated from Turkish by Tim Drayton.

FREEDOM IS AN INDISPENSIBLE PART OF DEMOCRACY

by Hasan Hastürer

Our trouble is the challenged state of virtually all sections of society when it comes to freedom. Freedom is an indispensible part of democracy. Unfree people, far from being able to act in an effective political manner, are unable even to exercise proper control over their votes. Is this a new state of affairs? No, there is nothing new about it. This society, until such time as it rectifies this shortcoming, will continue to experience ebbs, flows and upsets that will forever tax the comprehension of sensible outside observers.

As those close to me know full well, and as readers will also be aware, I did not mince my words in the matter of the Presidential elections at the time of the elections. I went much further in conversations with friends compared to what I wrote and said. In the run up to the election I also made far greater reference in the company of friends to errors which had facilitated the task of the UBP and new President Derviş Eroğlu. And I added that I did not wish to write and speak of this after the election. Inspection of the archives will reveal that I drew attention, not weeks or months earlier, but at least four years earlier to the chain of errors which helped to produce this result. I both wrote and spoke about it. There were those who misunderstood, just as there were those who took it all in on board but declined to come up with a solution. The error on my part was that I did not insist on conveying these thoughts face to face. I should have spoken not once, but ten, a hundred or a thousand times.
* * *

From time to time, I quote from my past articles. I do this not in order to say, “I told you so”. If you are at one with your society, if you rub shoulders with all sections of society, you do not feel the need to labour the point. Did I not foresee the coming of the UBP and, subsequently, of Mr Eroğlu in person? Let nobody dispute this. Page seven of the Star Kıbrıs newspaper of 21 October 2008 was devoted entirely to my views under the headline, “The Situation is Serious!” My statements were reported on Ada TV. I am not going to reproduce the entire article. I consider the following to be one of the most striking sections – but let me just remind you once more that the date on which my comments were reported was 21 October 2008 … 2008 not 2009 … now we are in 2010.

“Hastürer, alleging that Derviş Eroğlu desires once more to be party chairman in pursuit of his half-finished political ambitions, said that he perceived an upward trend in the UBP and that he aimed to come and bring the party into government then pass it on at the strongest point and from there become President.

Hastürer, claiming that the main reason for the UBP’s upward trend were the actions of the CTP-ÖRP government, asked what the UBP was doing apart from lying in wait. Hastürer, stating that in its day the UBP along with Denktash had scored an own goal and that, as a consequence, the CTP and Talat had got in, said, “Now more or less the opposite is happening.” The same page contains other predictions which have come to pass.
* * *

Am I endowed with great intelligence? I believe that I know myself well. I belong to the class of people possessing normal intelligence. My advantage is that I perceive events objectively. I believed that society would benefit from the re-election of Mehmet Ali Talat in the recent presidential elections and did not refrain from openly stating my position in the hope that he would prevail. There were those who took pride in predicting who would win or in coming out in support of whoever appeared to be the strongest, whereas I came out in favour of what from my perspective appeared to be for the good of society.
* * *

I take great care as I write these lines. The elections have finished and Derviş Eroğlu has been elected President. This is a success and warrants respect; it must be come to terms with in the starkest sense. Likewise, I do not regard this to be the right time, especially with election time emotions still running high, to expound at length on the reasons for Talat’s defeat. This is my view. If others do not agree then I respect this. Nor am I angry at those who with their votes have produced this result. I have worn myself out saying this over the years. I have written this until there is no ink left. I have called for institutionalisation in North Cyprus. I have pointed out the shortcomings of letting politicians call the tune every time they move their lips. I have stressed the connections between this and democracy. The wheels of a healthy democracy will not and cannot turn as things stand with us.
* * *

Let us briefly break down TRNC citizenry into its components. There are those who work in the public sector, and those in the private sector. Then there is the poorest section within our country which benefits from neither the public nor the private sector. The vast majority of these are in the Trikomo – Karpasia region and, to an extent, the walled part of Nicosia. Everybody knows that there are thousands of temporary staff in the public sector. They may not easily come out in opposition to those in government. In the case of those who are not temporary, expectations such as promotion and transfer make it more prudent to support the government. Are there not those who act without fear under all circumstances? Undoubtedly there are. However, their number is small. Turning to the private sector and business world; within a structure that is devoid of institutionalisation, businessmen can quite easily be pressurised by various means including taxation. As such, how many businessmen can come out in opposition to those in government? And turning to the poor; the vast majority of these people can hardly make ends meet. So some people are able to influence these people’s votes at election times with money or other enticements. Or else their weakness inhibits their political resistance and their developing a free independent identity. In short, our trouble is the challenged state of virtually all sections of society when it comes to freedom. Freedom is an indispensible part of democracy. Unfree people, far from being able to act in an effective political manner, are unable even to exercise proper control over their votes. Is this a new state of affairs? No, there is nothing new about it. This society, until such time as it rectifies this shortcoming, will continue to experience ebbs, flows and upsets that will forever tax the comprehension of sensible outside observers.

Thought for the day:

The negative effect of challenged democracy spreads into all areas.

Archive of Turkish press translations by Tim Drayton