Turkish Cypriots on course for coalition government

PM declares victory for ruling UBP, but fails to achieve outright majority in parliament, unofficial results show.

    The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is poised for another coalition government, after none of the parties managed an outright majority in the snap parliamentary elections, according to unofficial results.

    The conservative National Unity Party (UBP), led by Prime Minister Huseyin Ozgurgun, came in first place – with 36 percent of the votes – ahead of the centre-left, pro-unification Republican Turkish Party (CTP) at 21 percent, local media reported on Monday, based on an unofficial count. 

    The UBP, which has been in power for 27 years, since the establishment of the TRNC, will need to form a coalition government again in the 50-member parliament. 

    “The UBP has emerged as the biggest party by a wide margin,” Ozgurgun said while declaring victory on Monday. “We are preparing for new days with the power the people have given to the UBP.”

    The newly-formed right-wing People’s Voice Party (HP) managed 17 percent of the votes in its first election, followed by previous ruling coalition partner, Democratic Party (DP). 

    Meanwhile, the left-wing Communal Democracy Party (CDP) of President Mustafa Akinci is projected to win only three seats. 

    Official results for Sunday’s vote are expected to be announced late on Monday. 

    More than 190,000 people were registered to vote. Ballots were cast at more than 700 polling stations across the country.

    The Mediterranean island of Cyprus is split between Turkish Cypriots in the north and Greek Cypriots in the south.

    The TRNC, which has a functioning parliament and state institutions, unilaterally declared independence in 1983, breaking away from the Republic of Cyprus, and is only recognised by Turkey.

    Cyprus had been practically divided since 1974, when Turkey militarily intervened on the island in response to a brief Greek-inspired coup.

    The UBP, which was the largest partner of the previous right-wing coalition with the DP, has traditionally advocated for keeping good relations with Turkey.

    The party wants to maintain the Mediterranean island’s status quo, rather than settling the long-standing dispute to reunify Greek and Turkish Cypriot parts. 

    Along with the right-wing DP, which was founded by ex-UBP members, the UBP gave hundreds of TRNC citizenships to Turkey nationals weeks before the poll, in a move seen as a bid to increase its voter share.

    Since the establishment of the de facto TRNC, the north has been described as the “occupied part of Cyprus” by the United Nations Security Council.

    Repeated diplomatic efforts to end the partition have failed, as did the latest round of talks in Switzerland in July to reunify the island, despite efforts by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.


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    Northern Ireland's DUP to back PM May in vote of no confidence

    BELFAST (Reuters) – The Northern Irish party propping up Theresa May’s minority government will back the British prime minister in a vote of no confidence in her government on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said.

    Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called the vote of no confidence in May’s government after British lawmakers on Tuesday evening resoundingly defeated May’s Brexit divorce deal, which was also opposed by the DUP.

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    Greek PM set to squeak through confidence motion over Macedonia deal

    ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras made an impassioned appeal to parliament for support on Tuesday, the eve of a confidence vote he is expected to survive by a whisker with the support of a handful of opposition lawmakers.

    Tsipras called the confidence vote following the resignation of Defence Minister Panos Kammenos and his right-wing Independent Greeks’ party over an accord to end a long dispute between Greece and Macedonia by changing Macedonia’s name.

    As parliament opened two days of debate, Tsipras said it was a “patriotic duty” to proceed with the agreement, knowing it would have a political cost. He called on lawmakers to support him, saying that his government had pulled Greece from international bailouts and a debt crisis and has more work to do in the nine months that remain before its term ends in October.

    “There are times that one is judged not for his words but for his acts. There are times of critical decisions and of responsibilities,” Tsipras said.

    “Addressing you all, I urge you to speak clearly and with honesty, listen to your conscience and respect the people’s interest. I call on you to give a clear response: Do you trust this government to continue?,” Tsipras said.

    The vote is expected on Wednesday night.

    The prime minister said last week he could call a snap election if he failed to win a majority of 151 votes.

    His leftist Syriza party has 145 seats in the 300-seat chamber and the support of one independent lawmaker. Despite the resignation of Kammenos, four lawmakers from the right-wing Independent Greeks have said that they will still back Tsipras.

    On Tuesday, he received another endorsement from a member of parliament from the centrist To Potami party, reaching the 151 MP mark.

    The fate of the Macedonia name deal hinges on the outcome of the confidence vote, as the opposition has vowed to reject it.

    The deal, reached last year, is intended to resolve a dispute that has kept Greece’s northern neighbor excluded from the EU and NATO over its name.

    Greece argues that the name Macedonia represents a territorial claim over a Greek province by the same name, and has blocked the former Yugoslav republic from joining Western institutions. Under the deal, Macedonia will change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia, and Greece will accept it.

    Macedonia’s parliament last week passed an amendment to the constitution to rename the country, leaving it up to Greece to ratify the deal.

    Greek opponents of the agreement say Macedonia’s new name still represents an attempt to appropriate Greek identity. Groups opposing the deal will rally in central Athens on Sunday.

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    DUP confirms to vote against Brexit deal and 'toxic' backstop

    BELFAST (Reuters) – Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, whose 10 votes British Prime Minister Theresa May relies on for a majority in the British parliament, confirmed on Tuesday that it will vote against her proposed Brexit withdrawal deal.

    “Tonight will be historic but for the wrong reasons,” DUP leader Arlene Foster said in a post on Twitter ahead of the vote in parliament on the deal. “We will oppose the toxic backstop & vote against the WA,” she said, referring to the Withdrawal Agreement.

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    Brexit is in peril, UK PM May warns ahead of vote on her deal

    LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May warned on Monday that Britain’s planned exit from the EU could be derailed, a last-ditch effort to win over Brexit-supporting lawmakers who have repeatedly said they will vote down her divorce deal.

    The fate of the United Kingdom’s March 29 exit from the EU is deeply uncertain as parliament is likely to reject May’s deal on Tuesday evening, opening up outcomes ranging from a disorderly divorce to reversing Brexit altogether.

    Amid the deepest crisis in British politics for at least half a century, May and EU leaders exchanged letters giving assurances on her withdrawal agreement, though there was little sign of a change of heart among rebel lawmakers.

    May used a speech at a china factory in the leave-supporting city of Stoke-on-Trent in central England to say that lawmakers blocking Brexit altogether was now a more likely outcome than Britain leaving without a deal.

    “There are some in Westminster who would wish to delay or even stop Brexit and who will use every device available to them to do so,” May said.

    “While no-deal remains a serious risk, having observed the events at Westminster over the last seven days, it’s now my judgment that the more likely outcome is a paralysis in parliament that risks there being no Brexit.”

    As the world’s biggest trading bloc tried to brace for an unpredictable ride, Spain said the EU could agree to extend the deadline for Brexit, but not beyond elections for the European Parliament due in May.

    May warned lawmakers on Sunday that failing to deliver Brexit would be “catastrophic” for democracy, and her ministers said that thwarting the outcome of the 2016 referendum could lead to rise in far-right populism.

    LETTER FROM EU

    As part of the effort to get the deal approved by the British parliament, the EU and May set out some assurances in a choreographed exchange of letters on Monday.

    The EU told May that it stood by commitments to find ways to avoid triggering the controversial “Irish backstop” in their Brexit deal and that this pledge had legal weight.

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    In a joint reply to questions from May, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk said the EU stood by its commitment to try and reach a post-Brexit trade deal by the end of next year in order to avoid using the unpopular backstop.

    While stressing that nothing in their letter could be seen as changing or being inconsistent with the draft treaty agreed with May last month, they said a commitment to speedy trade deal made by EU leaders had “legal value” which committed the Union “in the most solemn manner”.

    However, even if the target date were not met, they wrote, Britain would have the option to extend a status-quo transition period to avoid triggering the backstop, which is meant to avoid a hard customs border for Northern Ireland.

    “If the backstop were nevertheless to be triggered, it would only apply temporarily, unless and until it is superseded by a subsequent agreement that ensures that a hard border is avoided,” they said.

    May said the assurances might not go far enough for some lawmakers and the small Northern Irish party that props up her government said it was insufficient.

    “The letter isn’t legally binding,” Democratic Unionist Party deputy leader Nigel Dodds told BBC radio.

    May will make a statement to parliament at about 1530 GMT.

    But with her deal facing opposition from all sides in the lower house of parliament, the House of Commons, the letters are unlikely to change the fundamental outcome of the vote.

    “PARLIAMENT PLOT”

    With no-deal Brexit the default option if May’s deal is defeated, some lawmakers are planning to pull control of Brexit from the government.

    Though May is weakened, the executive has significant powers, especially during times of crisis, so it was unclear how parliament would be able to take control of Brexit.

    If May’s deal is defeated and the government is unable to have any amended version passed in the next three weeks, one suggestion is for senior lawmakers who chair parliamentary committees to come up with an alternative Brexit plan.

    “We’re in the very, very final stages of the end-game here,” said Nick Boles, one of the Conservative lawmakers behind the plan, who said he would vote for May’s deal.

    “What we need to do is find the solution, and if the government can’t find the solution — and we want the government to find the solution, and we’ll be voting for her solution — but if it can’t then parliament needs to,” he told BBC radio.

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    Northern Irish DUP tells May – EU letter does not go far enough

    BELFAST (Reuters) – The Northern Irish party that props up Prime Minister Theresa May’s government said the European Union’s letter providing more reassurances over the introduction of backstop provision on Ireland’s post-Brexit border does not go far enough.

    Parliament is due to vote on Tuesday on whether to back May’s withdrawal deal from the European Union after postponing the vote last month because the government was going to be defeated.

    As part of the effort to get the deal approved by parliament, the EU is due to set out some assurances in a letter on Monday, EU officials said.

    “The letter isn’t legally binding,” DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds told BBC radio. “The prime minister will struggle to justify what the delay was about.”

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    Ahead of vote, UK PM May warns it would be catastrophic to halt Brexit

    LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May warned lawmakers on Sunday that failing to deliver Brexit would be catastrophic for democracy, in a plea for support two days before parliament is expected to reject her deal with Brussels.

    With the clock ticking down to its March 29 exit from the European Union, and parliament deadlocked, Britain faces a hugely uncertain path that could lead to a disorderly exit or even remaining in the bloc.

    May, who postponed a vote in parliament on her deal in December after admitting she was set to lose it, said lawmakers must not let down the people who backed Brexit in a June 2016 referendum.

    “Doing so would be a catastrophic and unforgivable breach of trust in our democracy,” she wrote in the Sunday Express.

    “So my message to Parliament this weekend is simple: it is time to forget the games and do what is right for our country.”

    May has so far refused to retreat from her unpopular deal, which envisages close trading ties with the EU, but without any say on policy as Britain has now. The vexed Brexit issue represents Britain’s biggest shift in foreign and trade policy in more than 40 years.

    May’s deal has come under fire from all sides — with opponents of the EU seeking a cleaner break and many pro-Europeans pressing for a second referendum. It is expected to suffer a big defeat when parliament votes on Tuesday.

    Brexit minister Stephen Barclay told BBC TV that persuading enough lawmakers to support the deal would be “challenging” but that, even if it was rejected, he suspected parliament would ultimately support something “along the lines of this deal”.

    Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said leaving the EU without a deal would be catastrophic and his party would do everything it could to prevent that outcome.

    However, Corbyn’s priority is to force a national election and he said he would propose a vote of confidence in the government “soon” if May loses on Tuesday.

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    • UK's May says parliament blocking Brexit is more likely than 'no deal'UK's May says parliament blocking Brexit is more likely than 'no deal'

    The Observer newspaper reported that military planners had been sent into several government departments to help with preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

    PARLIAMENT FLEXES MUSCLES

    After a week in which parliament forced the government to promise to come back with a ‘plan B’ within days if May’s deal is rejected, Barclay said the risk of parliament acting in a way that frustrates Brexit had increased.

    In a speech on Monday, May will say she believes that lawmakers blocking Brexit is now a more likely outcome than Britain leaving the EU without a deal.

    The Sunday Times reported that rebel lawmakers were planning to wrest control of the legislative agenda away from May next week with a view to suspending or delaying Brexit, citing a senior government source.

    Vince Cable, the leader of the pro-EU Liberal Democrats, said parliament would act to prevent a no-deal Brexit, and could ultimately seek to prevent Brexit altogether.

    “I think parliament will take control of this process, will insist that we pursue the option of no Brexit,” he told BBC TV.

    Cable said this could be done by revoking Article 50, the mechanism that triggered the exit process, or by holding a second referendum.

    Former Conservative prime minister John Major wrote in the Sunday Times that the government itself should revoke Article 50 and ask parliament to consult on the options before calling another referendum.

    Asked about the prospect of another referendum, Labour leader Corbyn told BBC TV:

    “My own view is that I would rather get a negotiated deal now, if we can, to stop the danger of a no-deal exit from the EU on the 29th of March which would be catastrophic for industry, catastrophic for trade.”

    Corbyn said that, if he forced a national election and his party won, Brexit might have to be delayed while they negotiated a new deal with the EU.

    “An election would take place, what, February-March time? Clearly there is only a few weeks then between that and the leave date, there would have to be a time for those negotiations.”

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    Ahead of vote, UK PM May warns it would be catastrophic to halt Brexit

    LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May warned lawmakers on Sunday that failing to deliver Brexit would be catastrophic for democracy, in a plea for support two days before parliament is expected to reject her deal with Brussels.

    With the clock ticking down to its March 29 exit from the European Union and parliament deadlocked, Britain faces a hugely uncertain path that could lead to a disorderly exit or even remaining in the bloc.

    May, who postponed a vote in parliament on her deal in December after admitting she was set to lose it, said lawmakers must not let down the people who backed Brexit in a June 2016 referendum.

    “Doing so would be a catastrophic and unforgivable breach of trust in our democracy,” she wrote in the Sunday Express.

    “So my message to Parliament this weekend is simple: it is time to forget the games and do what is right for our country.”

    May has so far refused to retreat from her unpopular deal, which envisages close trading ties with the EU, but without any say on policy as Britain has now. The vexed Brexit issue represents Britain’s biggest shift in foreign and trade policy in more than 40 years.

    May’s deal has come under fire from all sides — with opponents of the EU seeking a cleaner break and many pro-Europeans pressing for a second referendum. May is expected to suffer a big defeat when parliament votes on Tuesday.

    Brexit minister Stephen Barclay told BBC TV that persuading enough lawmakers to support the deal would be “challenging” but that even if it was rejected, he suspected parliament would ultimately support something “along the lines of this deal”.

    Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said leaving the EU without a deal would be catastrophic and his party would do everything it could to prevent that outcome.

    However, Corbyn’s priority is to force a national election and he said he would propose a vote of confidence in the government “soon” if May loses on Tuesday.

    PARLIAMENT FLEXES MUSCLES

    After a week in which parliament forced the government to promise to come back with a ‘plan B’ within days if May’s deal is rejected, Barclay said the risk of parliament acting in a way that frustrates Brexit had increased.

    The Sunday Times reported that rebel lawmakers were planning to wrest control of the legislative agenda away from May next week with a view to suspending or delaying Brexit, citing a senior government source.

    Vince Cable, the leader of the pro-EU Liberal Democrats, said parliament would act to prevent a no deal Brexit, and could ultimately seek to prevent Brexit altogether.

    “I think parliament will take control of this process, will insist that we pursue the option of no Brexit,” he told BBC TV.

    Cable said this could be done by revoking Article 50, the mechanism which triggered the exit process, or by holding a second referendum.

    Asked about the prospect of another referendum, Labour leader Corbyn told BBC TV:

    “My own view is that I would rather get a negotiated deal now, if we can, to stop the danger of a no-deal exit from the EU on the 29th of March which would be catastrophic for industry, catastrophic for trade.”

    Corbyn said that if he forced a national election and his party won, Brexit may have to be delayed while they negotiated a new deal with the EU.

    “An election would take place what February-March time, clearly there is only a few weeks then between that and the leave date, there would have to be a time for those negotiations,” he added.

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    Thai activists protest as election faces possible delay

    BANGKOK (REUTERS) – Dozens of Thai activists on Sunday (Jan 6) protested against a possible delay of a national election set for next month, the first such gathering since the military government lifted a ban on political activity imposed after a 2014 coup.

    The junta has promised and postponed the election several times since it came to power, with the latest date set for Feb 24.

    However, the vote faces yet another postponement after Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam suggested on Friday that post-election events might clash with rituals related to King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s coronation from May 4-6.

    That prompted the first protest since the junta lifted a ban on political activities and a gathering of more than five people in December.

    “We want the government to hold an election as soon as possible, so that democracy can move forward in our country,” said Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer and anti-junta activist who organised the protest at the Victory Monument area in central Bangkok.

    Protestors carried signs which read “We Want Election” and “Election only on Feb 24, 2019”, chanting “No delay!” in unison.

    Thailand’s Election Commission has not officially announced the postponement but said it has acknowledged the government’s suggestion that the vote be pushed back.

    The military government also failed to issue an official decree committing to holding a general election by Friday, meaning it is less likely to be held on Feb 24 under the current timeline laid out.

    The election is meant to restore democracy after a 2014 military coup ousted an elected prime minister, though changes to the constitution in the interim ensure the military will retain a great deal of control.

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    Former Israeli FM Livni out in cold as left-wing opposition splits

    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s main left-wing opposition split on Tuesday, leaving one of the country’s most prominent politicians, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, out in the cold ahead of an April general election.

    The Zionist Union, the second-biggest faction in parliament, was formed as a partnership between the Labour Party, which is led by Avi Gabbay, and the smaller Hatnua party headed by Livni. The alliance has fared poorly in recent opinion polls.

    With a stone-faced Livni sitting next to him at a Zionist Union meeting, Gabbay unceremoniously dumped her.

    The shakeup added more drama to the nascent national election campaign, coming just days after a split in Jewish Home, a far-right party in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s current Likud-led coalition.

    “I hoped and believed this alliance would bring about our blossoming, a real connection and we would complement each other. But the public is smart, saw this is not the situation and distanced itself from us,” Gabbay said.

    “Tzipi, I wish you success in the election – in any party you’re in,” he said, announcing the split on live television.

    The move appeared to catch Livni, a former peace negotiator with the Palestinians and current leader of the opposition in parliament, by surprise.

    “I’m not responding. I will make my decisions. Thank you,” she said, and then left the room.

    At a news conference later in the day, Livni said she would soldier on and lead Hatnua into the election, although the party has just five lawmakers in the 120-member parliament, compared with Labour’s 19 and Likud’s 30.

    “What is more important than Labour parting ways with Hatnua is to leave the path on which this government is leading us, so we will be able to separate from the Palestinians,” she said, referring to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of which she is a leading advocate.

    Opinion polls predict Likud will win the snap election Netanyahu called for April 9, taking between 27 to 31 seats – enough to lead a right-wing coalition, despite three corruption investigations against him.

    Zionist Union was lagging behind Likud and centrist parties, with polls predicting it would capture only eight to nine seats compared with the 24 it holds in the outgoing parliament.

    Livni, now 60, served as foreign minister from 2006 to 2009. A former junior officer in the Mossad intelligence agency, she has been a member of several parties and coalition governments since entering politics in 1999.

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