Cyprus economy in 'state of emergency' says central banker

ALL POLITICAL parties bought votes for cash in last Sunday’s general election in the north, Turkish Cypriot politician Serdar Denktash said yesterday.

“We also bought votes,” Denktash told the Sunday Mail, adding: “If there is any party that says it doesn’t also do so, let them come forward and I’ll put the proof in front of them. They’ve all done it, the UBP, the CTP, the TDP, all of them”.

Denktash himself admits to handing out around €10,000 to voters in last Sunday’s election – an admission that could, in theory, land him with a two-year prison sentence.

Denktash was speaking days after his father, former Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, accused the National Unity Party (UBP), victors in last week’s poll, of bribing voters with cash. He based his allegations on the assertion that at 4pm on election day, only 60 per cent of votes had been cast, and that by 6pm, 81 per cent had been cast. Twenty per cent of voters, he said, only went to the polls after receiving cash.

In the north allegations of vote buying are traditionally rife during elections, and it is usually the economically deprived Turkish mainland population that is said to be the target of unscrupulous politicians. However, Serdar Denktash said he knew of many who were willing to sell their votes, and that they came from all sections of the population.

“There are many who don’t care who wins the election and are willing to sell their votes for a price”.

Denktash says he was approached by around 350 voters who asked for cash in return for their votes. “We couldn’t pay them, so they went to another party,” he said.

Denktash, whose party came third in last Sunday’s election, concedes he is taking a risk by admitting having bribed voters, but insists he is “doing it for the good of the country”.

“I could lose my parliamentary immunity, and I could even go to jail, but I have to do this. I’m ready for anything,” he told the Mail.

Denktash was on Friday quoted in a Turkish Cypriot daily saying his party had distributed around €10,000 in return for votes. He also said that other parties had paid off electricity bills and reconnected supplies for voters who had been cut off, and that ‘brokers’ operated dealing in large blocks of voters.

“In the past people would come to us and say they were in [financial] trouble, and we would want to help them But now there are people who haggle over whether a vote is worth 200 or 100 lira,” Denktash explained.

Speaking to the Sunday Mail, former head of the Turkish Cypriot Bar Association Baris Mamali said, “These people need to be investigated and if they are found guilty they should face prison sentences”.

Mamali added that vote buying was “well established” in the north, where voters had “grown used to being able to get cash for their votes”.

“This has been going on for years, and we know this not only because many people tell us, but because in some cases it has been documented. We need an investigation into all these allegations. If these politicians are innocent, they will come up clean. If not, they should be jailed”.

By Simon Bahceli, Cyprus Mail, April 26, 2009|||Votes for cash claim in north
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