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Cablegate: The View From the Southeast,

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


Summary: Reftel reported the view from Ankara
that AK Party and its leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan
seems poised to win March 9 special election in
Siirt. Indications from our contacts in
predominantly Kurdish southeastern Turkey also
point to a comfortable victory for Erdogan and
AK. There are three seats at stake in Siirt.
While AK officials in Siirt naturally predict a
clean sweep, CHP representatives there hope to
win one, or at most two seats. The province's
most popular party, DEHAP, is furious at not
being allowed to contest the election; acting
apparently on instructions from headquarters,
local DEHAP supporters are being informally urged
to boycott or spoil their ballots. Widespread
anxiety among Siirt Kurds about war in Northern
Iraq and possible Turkish military involvement
there does not seem to be pushing voters toward
CHP in sufficient numbers to offset AK's
advantage. End Summary.

1) Consulate Adana poloff toured Siirt Province
March 4-5 to gauge trends prior to the March 9
parliamentary by-election. Siirt province likely
has 80,000 voters. (Note: Like most other SE
Turkey provinces, Siirt is almost entirely made
up of ethnic Kurds, with the exception of small
pockets of Turks sent to work for the Government
and Turkish traders of Arab origin. Endnote.)

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2) In all locals, (note: We toured the
provincial capital, Siirt (est. population
100,000), and three smaller townships, Kurtalan
(est. pop. 30,000), and Baykan (est. pop. 12,000)
End Note.) in proportion to their size, the
normal election-campaign apparatus and
apparatchiks were on display: banners, pennants,
posters, the occasional deputy or minister from
Ankara shaking hands, and campaign buses cruising
the streets blaring a mixture of slogans and
music. We are unaware of any opinion polling
going on in the province prior to the election.

AK Predicting a Landslide

3) In conversations with AK Party officials at
all locations, we found them almost giddy with a
sense of imminent triumph. They are not going to
be satisfied with a 3-0 sweep over their only
serious rival, CHP. Rather, we repeatedly heard
the figure of eighty percent as their predicted
vote total. AK Party headquarters in all
locations gave an impression of being hectic and
chaotic, but flush with resources, including
plenty of campaign workers.

4) It appears AK Party has indeed been applying
its advantage as the party of government.
Although we heard from AK Party officials about
effective government, from other party officials
and from random citizens we heard anecdotal
evidence of how AK has been focusing resources on
Siirt in the run-up to the election. For
example, an isolated hamlet might finally get its
road or its electricity repaired after many years
of waiting. (Note: Road repair crews were in
evidence as we drove around several towns.)
Similar promises for future delivery of services
are allegedly being made widely. In Eruh, one
citizen said he had heard of (but not seen),
voters being bought - for as little as 50 million
Turkish Lira (approx USD 30).

5) AK Party officials and supporters seemed
unconcerned that the party and Erdogan
specifically would pay a price at the ballot box
in Siirt because of the government's, and
Erdogan's, support of the defeated resolution
concerning US troops coming to Turkey and Turkish
troops in northern Iraq. As one party official
somewhat disingenuously explained, "Mr. Erdogan
is not in the parliament, so the responsibility
cannot be assigned to him." Besides, he said,
lots of AK deputies voted against the resolution

6.) One final factor that gives comfort to AK in
Siirt is the depth of religiosity in the
province. (Note: In Ottoman times Siirt was
known for its holy men and shrines honoring them
are unusually common.End note) The religious vote
in Siirt will go for AK, to spite the secular

CHP Gamely Hanging in There

7). In all CHP headquarters we visited,
officials described a frustrating two-front
battle. Firstly, they had to find a way to
appeal to voters through ideas rather than
through instant or promised "pork, " which is the
prerogative of the party in power. Secondly, they
seemed to be getting nowhere in their personally-
made pleas to their DEHAP counterparts to vent
protest via a CHP vote rather than abstention.
The CHP in Siirt, based on their dealings with
DEHAP there, believe DEHAP's boycott instructions
came from the top, not spontaneously from its
Siirt supporters.

8) CHP believes that the popularity of the anti-
war and anti-US-troops-in-Turkey stance of the
party and CHP Chairman Deniz Baykal in particular
is helping - but not enough. It would seem
perhaps logical that Kurdish voters might reward
the CHP and punish AK, as it was the AK cabinet
that proposed allowing US troops to come to
Turkey and Turkish troops to go into northern
Iraq. However, as one frustrated CHP official
put it, "DEHAP wants to punish everybody."

9) No CHP official or supporter in Siirt told us
that the party would be shut out, nor that it
would take all three seats. One seat, or two, if
turnout was high in Siirt City, was their

DEHAP: Anger at an Anti-Democratic Election

10) Not surprisingly, without exception DEHAP
members and supporters rejected the upcoming
March 9 election as illegitimate and
undemocratic. Noting that DEHAP was easily the
major party in the province, why was it being
blocked from participating this time, they
wondered. This was particularly galling, they
noted, in light of the fact that two, completely
insignificant parties - the Workers Party and the
Communist Party - had been allowed to run this
time, and were doing so. (Note: While the
Communist Party is all but invisible in Siirt
right now, the Workers Party has managed to put
up posters and run some campaign buses; their
slogan is "No to American Soldiers!" End note.).

11) DEHAP people in Siirt do not feel warm
towards AK Party. Their demands have not found
resonance with this government, and in Siirt they
are still waiting for the State to get off their
back, i.e., put Kurdish language liberalization
into practice, facilitate village returns, end
the enforced isolation of Abdullah Ocalan, and in
general, as one interlocutor put it, "stop
treating us like animals." Although DEHAP
officials acknowledged the logic of expressing
disappointment with AK by casting votes for CHP,
they said that a boycott and spoiled-vote
strategy was preferable. The need to highlight
the anti-democratic nature of this election - and
of Turkish politics writ large - was the
overriding objective.

12) When asked to predict the likely outcome of
the election in any case, most DEHAP members
handicapped it as a likely 2-1 outcome, with
either AK or CHP on top.

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