Cablegate: Prime Minister Leads Ak Party Press to Win Two

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

100730Z Mar 04





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Prime Minister leads AK Party press to win two
big Southeast mayoralties

This is a joint Embassy Ankara/Consualte Adana cable.

1.(SBU) Summary: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
visited Adana twice last week and Mersin once to plug
ruling AK Party (AKP) candidates for the Adana and
Mersin municipality races. AKP's recent decision to
accept current frontrunner and maverick incumbent Adana
mayor Aytac Durak into the party has resulted in an
alliance of convenience which has unsettled local AKP
members. It is also seen in Adana as evidence of AKP's
determination to use its national incumbency to spread
its regional power base. Mahmut Arslan, endorsed by
Erdogan as AKP's candidate for Mersin Mayor, is a Kurd
originally from Mardin, whom AKP apparently hopes can
successfully woo many voters from the immigrant city's
strong pro-Kurdish Democratic People's Party (DEHAP)
bloc. This is a riskier strategy for AKP and may split
the Kurdish vote in Mersin enough to allow incumbent
CHP mayor Macit Ozcan to retain power. Meanwhile, AKP
stumbled in two smaller southeast venues, Mardin and
Batman, where it filed its respective mayoral
candidates' papers too late to meet central election
commission qualification deadlines. End Summary.

AKP rolling out big gun to win Adana, Mersin

2. (U) Prime Minister Erdogan visited Adana twice and
Mersin once the week of Feb. 23 to plug ruling AKP
candidates for the Adana and Mersin municipality races.
Erdogan, accompanied by German Chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder, used the Sugozu power plant opening in
Yumurtalik in Adana province to highlight AKP's job
creation potential in the area and energize party
officials. He followed up with a whirlwind trip to
Adana and Mersin on February 29.

Durak's long rein in Adana City Hall checkered

3.(U) Durak, currently serving his third term and 13th
consecutive year as Adana mayor, is governing under the
Motherland Party (ANAP) mantle. He served in his
previous mayoral terms under the True Path (DYP) and
ANAP banners. A contractor, he has become quite
wealthy during his incumbency.

AK choice of Durak controversial in party rank and file

4. (U) As soon as Erdogan on February 29 announced
AKP's endorsement of Durak's candidacy for greater
Adana alongside the other two AKP candidates for the
two local Adana municipalities hecklers and local AKP
disaffected start booing and jeering. Erdogan
immediately put them in place with sharp retorts from
the podium. The next day, March 1, Adana AKP chairman
Abdullah Dogru sharply stated in area newspapers that
no one in AKP has a right to criticize Durak's
candidacy for AKP and called for party discipline. He
threatened party expulsion for any who might further
criticize the choice, saying "Tayyip Erdogan appointed
him, we have to accept Durak and show respect for him."
Then on March 2, Dogru expelled an AKP member for
continuing criticism of Durak's nomination.

CHP and ANAP not fielding strong Adana candidates

5.(SBU) CHP supporters are grumbling, too, about their
party's choice of Bulent Ozulku, a majority shareholder
in Adana's Universal hospital, as the CHP mayoral
candidate. He has been tried in State Security Court
in the past and, after CHP endorsed him, newspapers in
the area featured file pictures with him in handcuffs .
Both Ozulku and Umit Ozgumus, Adana Chamber of Industry
President until he announced his Adana mayoral
candidacy on the ANAP ticket, are rumored to have
organized crime connections, although none of these
allegations has ever been substantiated.

Mersin a close CHP-AKP race

6.(SBU) In Mersin, incumbent CHP mayor Macit Ozcan is
racing neck-and-neck with AKP candidate Mahmut Arslan,
a Kurd originally from Mardin, whom AKP apparently
hopes can successfully woo many voters from the
immigrant city's strong pro-Kurdish Democratic
People's Party (DEHAP) bloc. DEHAP is trying to
bolster its support for Socialist People's party (SHP)
candidate Fikri Saglar by pursuing a joint ticket with
SHP. Mersin business community contacts note that Ozcan
is popular in the city because of the public
infrastructure he has built in his last term. They
also predicted a split in the city's sizeable Kurdish
vote, with Arslan receiving the lion's share,
benefiting the Ozcan campaign. Still, strong
campaigning by AKP, including deployment of Prime
Minister Erdogan on Arslan's behalf and the public
relations coaching of p.r. guru Abdulrahman Celik
(rumored to be very close to controversial Islamist
leader Fethullah Gulen), leave the race's final outcome
still open, they said.

AKP less organized in Southeast

7.(U) AKP stumbled in two smaller southeast venues,
Mardin and Batman, where the party filed its mayoral
candidates' papers too late to meet central election
commission deadlines for participation, according to
press reports confirmed to Amconsul by AKP officials.
DYP was also disqualified by the central election
commission on similar grounds in Mardin.


8.(SBU) Now that it has snared Durak for its
bandwagon, AKP seems likely to gain, in Adana, a large
new Turkish municipality for its political base. The
price it might pay in both a tarnished public image and
disaffected local rank-and-file is yet to be seen. It
also stands a chance of winning, in Mersin, another
large municipality, although that race is still a toss-
up with CHP and affected by Kurdish perceptions across
the southeast that AKP is too nationalist and
indifferent to the Kurdish question. We suspect the
difficulties AKP has in Mardin and Batman reflect the
party's uneasy relations with Kurds; we will continue
to follow up with AKP and others to assess where these
relations are going in the southeast. End Comment.


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