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Cablegate: Bursa: Reserved Former Ottoman Capital

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Dianne Wampler 07/23/2007 06:11:22 PM From DB/Inbox: Dianne Wampler

Cable
Text:


UNCLAS SENSITIVE ISTANBUL 00653

SIPDIS
CX:
ACTION: POL
INFO: CONS TSR PMA ECON DCM AMB RAO FCS PA MGT DAO

DISSEMINATION: POL /1
CHARGE: PROG

VZCZCAYO293
PP RUEHAK
DE RUEHIT #0653/01 2011141
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 201141Z JUL 07
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7309
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000653

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL TU
SUBJECT: BURSA: RESERVED FORMER OTTOMAN CAPITAL

REF: ISTANBUL 631

1. (SBU) Summary. Consulate Istanbul's final pre-election
campaign visit was to Bursa, traveling aboard a new 75-minute
car ferry from Istanbul to a dock just 25 miles from the town
center, cutting the four-hour car trip to under two hours.
Businessmen in their Mercedes joined vacationers to fill the
available space. Bursa itself is experiencing rapid growth
as Anatolians rush from the Black Sea mountains to find work
in the automotive industry or commercial center. Our
experience in the town presented a contrast to our visit 10
days before to laid back Tekirdag (Reftel). The Genc Party
reps we met in Bursa were a generation younger than the GP
officials we met in Tekirdag, informed and energized, but the
Justice and Development Party (AKP) Acting Mayor's formality
seemed more accurately to reflect the town's reserved
character. End summary.

2. (SBU) Early in the day, we checked in with Deputy
Governor Ali Kemil Basar who related that only 18% of the
population was historically from Bursa. Many current
residents' families hail from Bulgaria, Greece (as a result
of population exchanges) and from Turkey's northeast.
Employment and security so far have not been problematic,
with the city's large automobile plants and growing tourist
industry providing jobs for newcomers as well as long-time
residents. Maintaining and expanding infrastructure and
services, particularly transportation, have presented the
greatest challenges.

3. (SBU) Our meeting with municipal leadership was held at
the 19th century (now ceremonial) city hall immediately
recognizable by its unusual open wood beam and brick
construction. Acting Mayor Recai Ekmekci presented a more
reserved persona than his counterparts in Tekirdag or in
Istanbul. Ekmekci came to Bursa as a student - and stayed.
The town, he said, was just over 100,000 people in the early
1970s; today it boasts 1.5 million people, growing by an
estimated 30,000 to 40,000 people a year. He counted area
transportation the city's greatest challenge and AKP's best
contribution to date, with a series of new highways
facilitating traffic to, through and around town. A new
subway/above ground light-rail system (built by U.S. company
YapiKaiser) is still adding stations. He noted there is
still much work to be done. Fortunately, he said,
unemployment so far has not been a problem. Bursa's
atmosphere of allows immigrants from various points on the
compass to interact socially, intermarry and form business
partnerships, he said.

4. (SBU) Ekmekci matter-of-factly related that the AKP
received 41% of Bursa's vote in the 2002 national election in
2002, and 55% in 2004 local elections. AKP currently holds
12 of 16 district seats in parliament - main opposition
Repbulican People's Party (CHP) has the balance. He
predicted that if two parties cross the threshold in the July
22 elections, AKP would hold 13 of 16 seats but if three
parties crossed the threshold, AKP would drop to 10 seats,
CHP would get 4 and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) 2
seats. He soberly noted that "nationalist rhetoric and
terrorism" were the oppositions' strongest cards against the
ruling party and "unfortunately, I have to say that we are
not getting enough support from our allies on terrorism."

5. (SBU) The two Genc Party (GP) reps, Ceyhun Erturk, the
local chairman in his early 40s, and Bulent Gokgoz, retired
from the Justice Ministry, a 1990s IV grantee and number four
on their candidate list, were alert and armed with facile
answers to questions like, "If you cut the gasoline price by
two-thirds as promised, how will you raise sufficent revenues
for the state?" Answer: Cutting the price will diminish the
gasoline black market and the revenues will be made up by
actually collecting the tax on legitimate gasoline that is
sold. Their enthusiastic and overtly friendly presentation
proved the exception in our day of fairly formal and
sometimes stiff meetings. They presented their local
campaign, at least, as the anti-campaign in Turkey. For
instance, when GP leader Cem Uzan campaigned in Bursa the
week before, organizers did not prepare a giant rally of
bussed-in faithful to fill television screens. Instead, Uzan
rode a bus on a publicized route. Supporters and the
interested lined the route. At points, Uzan jumped out to
have "personal contact with the crowds," and answer
questions. Erturk and Gokgoz said GP expected to do very
well in the district, particularly among less well-off
villagers in the more rural areas.

6. (SBU) At our last political party stop, we met with the
local DP party chairman and a number of board members. Mumin
Ekici repeated DP points about unemployment and AKP-created
tension, and poured out charge after charge of purported
perfidious behavior on the part of the U.S. toward its NATO
ally Turkey. We managed to respond to a few questions
regarding U.S.-Turkey relations before having to depart for
our ferry. We were unable to meet with local CHP
representatives, who were busy preparing for Deniz Baykal's
rally that evening.
OUDKIRK

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