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Cablegate: Turkish Elections: Analysts Assess Military

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001842

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/18/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL TU
SUBJECT: TURKISH ELECTIONS: ANALYSTS ASSESS MILITARY
CONFIDENCE IN ELECTION OUTCOME

Classified By: DCM Nancy McEldowney for reasons 1.4 (b,d).

1. (C) Summary: Experts on civil-military relations in Ankara
contend the Turkish General Staff (TGS) is satisfied with the
process set in motion by its April 27 warning and the
Constitutional Court's subsequent decision on the presidency
vote which brought Turkey to early elections. Analysts claim
that the military and pro-secular opposition parties, buoyed
by mass pro-secular demonstrations in May and June, believe
that even if the AKP emerges from July 22 elections able to
form a single-party government, it will be forced to accept a
consensus candidate for the presidency. Despite these claims
of confidence, the military continues to work to exploit
debate over a cross-border operation against PKK terrorists,
as well as press allegations that the US is either directly
or indirectly providing weapons to the PKK, to make the AKP
government appear weak on security. And of course there is
the possibility of a last ditch attempt by the military --
via public statements, policy maneuvering, or partisan
manipulation -- to sway undecided voters towards secular
opposition parties. Military reaction to the elections may
be affected by the TGS's all-consuming annual exercise of the
Supreme Military Council, which starts August 1. End Summary

2. (C) The crisis atmosphere following the TGS's April 27
warning, which led many to fear some kind of military
intervention, has been replaced by more traditional
politicking in the final stretch to July 22 national
elections. After public sparring with the government in May
and June over who would take responsibility for a
cross-border operation against PKK terrorists in northern
Iraq -- designed to show the AKP government as soft on
terrorism -- the TGS has refrained from public statements on
domestic political issues for the past two weeks. Chief of
Defense Gen Buyukanit and Deputy CHOD Saygun enjoyed
scheduled vacations on the coast in late June and early July.

3. (C) According to Ankara University professor Tanel
Demirel, the TGS achieved its primary short-term objective
via the April 27 announcement: preventing Abdullah Gul from
becoming president and ensuring a Constitutional Court ruling
raising the vote threshold for president to 367. The head of
the secular and nationalist Ataturk Thought Association
(ADD), retired General Sener Eruygur, pointed to the large
turn-out at pro-secular rallies in Istanbul, Izmir and other
cities as proof pro-secular forces are rising to challenge
the AKP.

4. (C) Several observers, such as Bilkent University
professor and military analyst Umit Cizre, identify the
pivotal moment in the AKP's relations with the military as
the private May 4 meeting between PM Erdogan and CHOD
Buyukanit at the Dolmabahce palace in Istanbul. Although
Cizre and other analysts are not sure what happened during
the 2.5 hour session, they conclude that Buyukanit and
Erdogan reached some understanding. Ankara University
professor Nuran Yildiz believes Buyukanit made military "red
lines" over the presidency clear to Erdogan at that
encounter. All agree that the situation relaxed considerably
after that.

5. (C) Analysts' views vary widely on the significance of the
military's April 27 internet warning that it was ready to
intervene to protect Turkey's secular democracy. Cizre and
Demirel believe the April 27 statement was both harmful and
unnecessary since the Constitutional Court was poised anyway
to affirm a 367 quorum requirement for the presidency and
thus defeat Gul's candidacy, precipitating early elections.
Yildiz and others, including retired general Riza Kucukoglu
at Ankara's Eurasian Studies Institute (ASAM), assert the
military has played its role correctly in counterbalancing
AKP attempts to monopolize all major power centers. Even
critics of the military's announcement, such as Ankara
University professor Bedriye Poyraz, believe that the AKP
provoked military intervention by blatant attempts to fill

ANKARA 00001842 002 OF 002


the government bureaucracy with its supporters and its
ill-considered nomination of Gul for president. They
acknowledge that, despite criticism of the military's
intervention by some intellectuals and pundits, most Turks
see it as natural, if not appropriate, for the generals to
make their political views known.

6. (C) Looking at post-election scenarios, most observers
with whom we have spoken tell us the military can live with
another AKP government, as long as the president is a secular
figure selected by consensus. The prospect of the AKP
cooperating with independent Kurdish deputies in order to
form a government is more controversial, as this would bring
together the military and secular establishment's two
archenemies: "Islamists and separatists." While Cizre
believes the generals could tolerate an alliance of AKP and
Kurdish independents as long as the president is secular,
ADD's Eruygur termed such an alliance a "nightmare" for
Turkey. ASAM's Kucukoglu asserted that the military would be
uncomfortable with independent Kurdish MPs, citing their past
behavior (in the early 1990s, the previous iteration of
pro-Kurdish MPs attempted to take the parliamentary oath in
Turkish and made statements that triggered the lifting of
their parliamentary immunity and eventual prosecution). He
claimed, however, that military coups are no longer
necessary, now that the majority of Turks who favor
secularism have found their voice.

7. (C) Comment: Despite analysts' claims of military
confidence, the generals are clearly working behind the
scenes, using ongoing PKK terrorism and the debate over the
necessity of a cross-border operation into northern Iraq to
portray the AKP as weak on terrorism. We also detect the
military's hand behind recent allegations that the U.S. has,
either directly or indirectly, provided weapons to the PKK in
northern Iraq. This is also designed to weaken AKP's
national security credentials and encourage undecided voters
to turn to "tougher" pro-secular parties. While the military
could roil the waters and make a public statement on the
elections at any time, its post-election reaction may be
delayed by the August 1 start of annual, and all-consuming,
Supreme Military Council (YAS) promotions and assignments
deliberations. End Comment.

Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/ankara/

WILSON

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