Search

 

Cablegate: Turkish Opinion Makers On Pm Erdogan and The

VZCZCXRO5472
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIT #0252/01 0851338
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 261338Z MAR 07
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6805
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000252

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KPAO TU
SUBJECT: TURKISH OPINION MAKERS ON PM ERDOGAN AND THE
PRESIDENCY

REF: A. ANKARA 0648
B. ANKARA 0629

Sensitive but Unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: In what was meant to be an hour and a
half tour d'horizon with three of Turkey's most prominent
opinion makers, Ambassador was only able to get one question
in: Will PM Erdogan be a candidate for President? The heated
debate that ensued was a sharp contrast to the backdrop of
ships calmly flowing through the Bosphorus. Sahin Alpay of
Islamist-oriented daily Zaman believed PM Erdogan would not
run. Radikal's editor-in-chief Ismet Berkan proffered that
the PM had not yet decided and would likely keep his options
open until the very last minute. Leftist-nationalist daily
Cumhuriyet's colorful commentator Emre Kongar confidently
proclaimed there was no doubt PM Erdogan would be a
candidate. The three opinions accurately reflect the
diversity of (and passion behind) the discussions throughout
Turkey in the weeks ahead of the official start of the
presidential election period on April 16. Meanwhile, among
industrialist circles, light-hearted bets have proliferated
on this subject, suggesting they are not terribly concerned
one way or the other, as long as the economy continues to
grow. End summary.

-----------------------
SAHIN ALPAY, ZAMAN: NO
-----------------------

2. (SBU) Alpay responded first by stating he did not believe
PM Erdogan would run for president. He came to this
conclusion after "reading something in the papers" about
Erdogan's intentions to confer about this decision with the
National Security Council (MGK), he said. Responding to
Kongar's allegations that the Justice and Development Party
(AKP) has an ulterior Islamic agenda (see below and ref A),
Alpay argued the PM's party has genuinely embraced a
western-orientation because it has become convinced that an
open market economy protects it from "forces in Ankara."

-----------------------------
ISMET BERKAN, RADIKAL: MAYBE
-----------------------------

3. (SBU) Berkan opined the PM does not yet know what he will
do and will likely not make a decision until the last minute.
He attributed this to what he described as PM Erdogan's
reliance on the Islamic tradition of counseling. He noted
the PM had already asked prominent businessmen in Istanbul
about their opinions and would seek to hear from other
circles as well before announcing his decision. Berkan added
that PM Erdogan is "authoritarian" and that once he says
something publicly he does not consider alternatives. In a
solo game of devil's advocate, Berkan suggested the very
political PM may not seek the apolitical position of the
Presidency. However, PM Erdogan may not want to let slip
what could be his only opportunity to ascend to the
Presidency -- what he called the "forgotten raison-d'etre" of
the PM's AKP.

------------------------------
EMRE KONGAR, CUMHURRIYET: YES
------------------------------

4. (SBU) The most assertive of the group, Kongar told
Ambassador there was no question the PM will pursue the
Presidency. He claimed AKP parliamentary group members had
recently signaled their voting intentions by giving PM
Erdogan their "loyalty, loyalty, loyalty" for his birthday.
Characterizing PM Erdogan as the "imam" of the AKP core,
Kongar distinguished between AKP and the Republican People's
Party (CHP), claiming the PM draws his loyalty from Islamic
culture while the loyalty given to CHP leader Deniz Baykal is
politically engineered.

5. (SBU) Kongar further proffered that AKP's ultimate goal
was to change Turkish society in accordance with Islamic
principles. It is the only way to explain the party's
significant shift from being the most anti-U.S./EU party to
the most pro-U.S./EU party, he said. For its part, the
party's core electorate has not shifted quite so rapidly with
xenophobic anti-American sentiments still riding high. The
end justifies the means, explained Kongar. PM Erdogan will
seek the Presidency in order to gain influence over the three
areas of the State system that he can't control as Prime
Minister: the universities, the high courts and the military.

ISTANBUL 00000252 002 OF 002


6. (SBU) Refuting Berkan's suggestion that the PM was
seeking counsel before making his decision, Kongar argued PM
Erdogan wants to shape public opinion rather than sense it.
He pointed to the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's
Association (TUSIAD) recent public statement supporting the
ruling party's right to select the President as evidence that
the PM's strategy was working.

-----------------
WHAT TO CONCLUDE?
-----------------

7. (SBU) Despite their differences, the three commentators
agreed with Ambassador's conclusion that they all believed
the important period is not the month between the start and
end of the election but rather the year that follows. Though
skeptical, Kongar remained hopeful that if PM Erdogan could
be "secular enough" there would be no problems. He feared
however, that if AKP were to change "the axis of society"
from secular to religious then signs of turmoil would begin
on university campuses. Berkan argued that because AKP will
control the election, who ultimately becomes President is
irrelevant. Rather, he is concerned about the increasing
polarization of Turkey which he said threatens its democracy.
Alpay disagreed, responding that Turkey has never had a
stronger democracy and that polarization was much worse in
the 1960s and 70s. He remained "cautiously optimistic" and
was less concerned about domestic challenges than those
emanating from Iraq "because of the US invasion."

----------------------------------
MEANWHILE in the Private Sector...
----------------------------------

8. (SBU) Among Istanbul's wealthy industrialist class,
Erdogan's Presidency - which they consider to be a foregone
conclusion should he choose to pursue it - has become a
matter for light hearted betting. At one event we attended,
a member of one of Turkey's top holding companies bet his
former business partner five thousand dollars that Erdogan
would pursue and gain the presidency; a signed document was
witnessed by the sister of another leading industrialist
(herself one of Turkey's wealthiest women) and given to a
third party for safe keeping amidst great laughter. Several
board members of TUSIAD, Turkey's pre-eminent association of
industrialists and developers, told us that they have bet
shopping sprees, trips to London and Geneva, and other "in
kind" prizes on the outcome of the election. The nominal
head of Turkey's leading holding company told us he did not
anticipate a change in fiscal policy, no matter who won the
presidency, and that was what mattered.

9. (SBU) Comment: However acute the debate on Turkey's
presidency is among thoughtful intellectuals across the
political spectrum, however, for the business sector a stable
economic environment is the key factor (and presumably the
retention of fiscal conservative and businessman Ali Babacan
as the AK Parti's key advisor). The picture is unlikely to
get clearer before the start of the presidential election
process on April 16 and perhaps not until April 25 when all
candidates must be officially declared (ref B). End comment.
OUDKIRK

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Ramzy Baroud: Year in Review Will 2018 Usher in a New Palestinian Strategy

2017 will be remembered as the year that the so-called ‘peace process’, at least in its American formulation, has ended. And with its demise, a political framework that has served as the foundation for US foreign policy in the Middle East has also collapsed. More>>

ALSO:


North Korea: NZ Denounces Missile Test

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has denounced North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test. The test, which took place this morning, is North Korea’s third test flight of an inter-continental ballistic missile. More>>

ALSO:

Campbell On: the US demonising of Iran

Satan may not exist, but the Evil One has always been a handy tool for priests and politicians alike.

Currently, Iran is the latest bogey conjured up by Washington to (a) justify its foreign policy interventions and (b) distract attention from its foreign policy failures.

Once upon a time, the Soviet Union was the nightmare threat for the entire Cold War era – and since then the US has cast the Taliban, al Qaeda, and Islamic State in the same demonic role. Iran is now the latest example…More


Catalan Independence:
Pro-independence parties appear to have a narrow majority. More>>