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Cablegate: Election Interference Fears in Countryside

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: While political leaders acknowledge
that the restrictions in expression in Turkey's
Southeast have generally loosened, villagers remain
concerned that their voices will not be heard in
Ankara. Based on conversations with politicians,
business leaders, and NGO representatives, several
social divides appear to strongly influence the outcome
of the upcoming vote in Southeast Turkey. Urban-rural
differences couple with ethnic divides, most likely
resulting in DEHAP and AK being the big regional
winners. Interference by local jandarma and village
guards, as well as the effect of the baraj, could
significantly influence the region's parliamentary
representation. However, human rights organizations
and DEHAP officials report significantly less
interference in pro-Kurdish political expression
compared to elections in 1995 and 1999. END SUMMARY.


2. (SBU) Though no reliable figures exist for ethnic
population statistics, estimates suggest approximately
15 million Turkish citizens of Kurdish descent living
in Turkey's Southeast. A large number of these Kurds
plan to vote for DEHAP (Democratic People's Party), the
successor party to HADEP. In an October 15 decision,
DEHAP got a green light for participation in the
upcoming elections. Election preparations continue
apace. Many small villages in the region boast only
one party office, DEHAP's. In larger towns and cities
throughout the Southeast, DEHAP leaders believe they
are poised to take a considerable portion of the vote.

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3. (SBU) Several obstacles exist to DEHAP entering
parliament. First, and most significant for Turkish
political development, DEHAP is being intentionally
hampered, often by jandarma and village guards. These
allegations come from Diyarbakir and Mardin human
rights advocates, as well as DEHAP leaders throughout
the Southeast. DEHAP members are regularly harassed by
jandarma and security officials, including verbal
threats, arbitrary arrest at rallies, and detention at
checkpoints (in one case, a group of DEHAP leaders from
Diyarbakir was detained for seven hours at a checkpoint
in Sirnak without any explanation, according to DEHAP
Sirnak Chairman Resul Sadak).

4. (SBU) Security forces also regularly harass
villagers they believe are sympathetic to DEHAP.
Mazlum-Der, Human Rights Association (HRA) and DEHAP
officials throughout the region report cases of
jandarma and village guards threatening villagers not
to vote for DEHAP. The villagers are warned that,
should DEHAP win the vote from that area, the town may
be burned, re-evacuated, or denied services (such as
electricity or water). Diyarbakir's HRA also reports
one case in which a village was told by jandarma, if
they really wanted to show their support for DEHAP,
that was fine, but only one person, the village sheikh,
should vote symbolically on behalf of the whole
village. Of course, in reality, the vote would only
count for one vote, not hundreds. Ultimately, DEHAP is
most concerned that these same security officials will
be ensuring the sanctity of the ballot box. DEHAP
fully expects vote tampering to take place.


5. (SBU) AK is, by all current estimations, leading the
polls throughout Turkey. In the Southeast, this
popularity, while significant, is largely confined to
larger urban centers. Only in Diyarbakir and Gaziantep
does AK currently expect to lead the pack, with DEHAP
also getting a strong showing. In smaller cities such
as Mardin (where DEHAP and ANAP seem, currently, to be
running first and second) and Hakkari, AK barely shows
up on the radar. In fact, though socially very
conservative, leaders throughout the region seem vastly
more concerned with security and ethnic issues rather
than the possible impact of an Islamically-minded


6. (SBU) What does this mean for a future Turkish
parliament? If DEHAP takes ten percent of the national
vote, the number of parliament seats per party will
come close to the Southeast popular vote. If, however,
DEHAP does not make the cutoff, huge sections of the
region will be unrepresented. Diyarbakir's AK Parti
leader, Nezir Koclardan, admits as much. Though he
believes AK will take only 30 percent of the popular
vote, he expects this to yield seven of Diyarbakir's
ten seats, betting that DEHAP, though beating them
locally, will not cross the national threshold. In
Sirnak, where DEHAP believes it can muster 70 percent
of the total vote, ANAP could benefit enormously.
ANAP, which has historically had strong backing in
Sirnak, could reap windfall parliamentary seats should
DEHAP not clear the baraj. If neither party crosses
the baraj, however, a small fraction of the popular
vote (as little as 15 percent) could take all the
province's seats.


7. (SBU) Despite a seemingly endless list of
grievances, Kurdish leaders freely admit that the
situation in the region is more accepting of DEHAP
(previously HADEP) than at any time in the past.
Registering the party and its candidates is done freely
throughout the region. Party headquarters are opened
with minimal interference. Rallies often are given
permission by the local governor. However, local
security officials, acting on their own authority,
frequently seek to dampen enthusiasm for DEHAP.
Crossing the critical ten percent baraj will be a tight
squeeze for DEHAP, but would result in a very different
TBMM. In such a tight contest, piecemeal interference
by local officials could thus have significant national
impact. End comment.


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