Communiqué (8) – 5/1/2009

By | January 5, 2009


The CYPRIOTS’ VOICE addresses the following announcement to the Authorities and the people of Cyprus:

Using cross-voting as a tool for sustainable power-sharing

It was in the press that cross voting mechanism was tabled recently during the Cyprus negotiations. Surprisingly, this proposal was rejected outright by the Turkish Cypriot side.

CYPRIOT’S VOICE believes that cross-voting is an essential element for power sharing, for a united Cyprus to last.

Cross-voting involves an elector of one community voting for the other community’s candidates, as well as voting for his/her own. The level of influence one community will have on the elections of the other communities candidates can be designed to vary with the growing trust between the two communities.

There are different ways to introduce cross-voting mechanisms in power sharing systems. One is the introduction of a system with increasing steps, such as 5, 10 or 20 percent, the top to be reached once trust has been established between the communities. Another could be, to use cross-voting for potential deadlocks in the parliament. A third could be to introduce cross-voting mechanism in the selection of supreme judges. One or more of these options could be used simultaneously, or additional ways can be introduced.

In the case of Cyprus, cross-voting is a must. This mechanism should have the same effect on each community, regardless of the numerical difference between them. Even if all the Greek Cypriot (GC) electors were to vote in the Turkish Cypriot (TC) federal elections, their vote might be adjusted to be 20 percent (or lower) of the total TC votes, and vice versa. Cross-voting does not mean at all that Turkish Cypriot representatives will be voted in by Greek Cypriot numerical majority, nor does it imply the subordination of one community to the other community.

Secretary General (SG) of the United Nations (UN), in his report on Cyprus S/2003/398, dated 1 April 2003, commented on cross-voting. “The Greek Cypriot side, asked for the election of the President and Vice-President by all Cypriots, with weighted voting in favour of the Turkish Cypriots. The Turkish Cypriot side was resolutely opposed to any cross-voting, however, even if weighting of votes led to Turkish Cypriot votes counting for 50 per cent, believing this would prevent the election of true Turkish Cypriot representatives. The Turkish Cypriot opposition to cross-voting had the effect of limiting United Nations options.”

As we understand from their interviews with the press, the administration of TC in 2008, with a similar attitude to the TC representative in the past, is once again opposing any level of cross-voting during this round of talks in 2008. However, cross-voting favours moderate candidates who can address beyond their communities, and therefore encourages coalitions across communities, which is desperately crucial in Cyprus.

To start with a strong influence level of cross voting, one could argue that, anti-solution Cypriot candidates would not be treated in a fair way, as they might not receive any votes from the other community. An arrangement against the hard-liners from both communities may seem a good idea, but this will strengthen their “no” position towards any settlement plan, thus the level of influence from the other community should be kept low at the start, until trust builds up.

The fact is that, nationalists of both communities will not like such distortions of the electoral system and they will always oppose the idea of introducing cross-voting in the first place. A system that favours moderate people from both communities will not be attractive to politicians either, who have invested heavily in intransigent policies. Additionally, one could argue that cross-voting reduces ethnic accountability, and therefore violates the bi-zonal character of the settlement. However, as long as the system works both ways and for the sustainability of a settlement, accountability to ones community needs to go hand in hand with the consideration for the other community. Then, bi-zonality, which is feared to be violated, will be protected through cross-voting.

Cross-voting also reduces “us and them” way of thinking and makes possible for candidates to aim to represent the whole country’s interests rather than communally specific interests. Cross-voting also favours the emergence of civil society movements or political parties that wish to contribute to the political life of the country as a whole. Combined effect of the need for accountability to one’s community with motivations that will come from the other community can be used to design the influence level of cross-voting.

For example, the total votes of any candidate from any community; individual or political party for the parliament, or the president / wise president or the co-presidents to be elected for the federal institutions, can be calculated using the following rules:

For the sake of argument, we take the ratio of the total GC votes to total TC votes to be 4:1 and the level of influence to be 20 percent. 5 percent or 10 percent could be used instead.

Any GC or TC candidate, (individual, a common list or a political party, will get the following votes in a given election:

  1. Total votes of a GC candidate = GC votes + ((TC votes x 4) x (20/100)) 
  2. Total votes of a TC candidate = TC votes + ((GC votes / 4) x (20/100)). If (TC votes x 4) are more than the GC votes, additional votes will not count. If (GC votes / 4) are more than the TC votes, additional votes will not count.

With this system, rules of cross-voting will be workable regardless of the future demographic changes of the two communities. Therefore, cross-voting mechanisms will reduce the risks and uncertainties from a settlement and make it sustainable.

Instead of rejecting outright the cross-voting mechanism, the representatives of the two communities should work on political systems that would help solve possible future deadlocks too. Cross-voting is one such system.

Cross voting will create dynamics for the politicians to come up with convincing arguments to meet the interests of both communities. Policies based on win-lose strategies and blame game will be losers, whereas cross voting will create dynamics for win-win solutions. Cross voting should not be perceived as a contradiction to political equality, on the contrary it is a measure that will contribute positively to trust building.

CYPRIOT’S VOICE calls upon the representatives at the negotiations table to get rid of the restrains of the past and look into the future.

Cypriots’ Voice – Communiqué no 8 5/1/2009