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Cablegate: No Splits in Turkey's Governing Akp Parliamentary

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

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 007215

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/07/2015
TAGS: ECON PGOV PINR TU POLITICAL PARTIES
SUBJECT: NO SPLITS IN TURKEY'S GOVERNING AKP PARLIAMENTARY
GROUP -- FOR NOW

REF: A. ANKARA 6543
B. ANKARA 6251
C. ANKARA 6337

Classified By: PolCouns Janice G. Weiner, E.O. 12958, reasons
1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: Despite media reports and opposition rumors
of splits among PM Erdogan's Justice and Development Party's
(AKP) 357 parliamentarians, the group remains intact )- for
now. Among AKP MPs, there are distinctive pious, pragmatic
and nationalist currents, with crosscutting personal
loyalties. Recent events in Turkey's heavily-Kurdish
southeast have heightened tensions between AKP,s
Kurdish-origin MPs and the rest of the parliamentary group.
While AKP MPs, numbers may slowly erode over the next year
(ref A), a major split is unlikely as long as AKP -- and in
particular PM Erdogan -- retain power and popularity. End
Summary.

Despite Wishful Thinking, AKP Not Crumbling Yet
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (C) Over the past year, the Turkish press has repeatedly
predicted open splits in the 357-member AKP parliamentary
group. While AKP has ideological and personality-based fault
lines, there appears to be little chance of a major split
while AKP remains Turkey,s number one party and Erdogan the
country,s most popular politician. Even Ankara AKP MP
Ersonmez Yarbay, a maverick frequently openly critical of his
own party, downplayed to us the rumors of party splits,
saying they have been fueled by the opposition to force early
elections.

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AKP,s Ideological Currents
--------------------------

3. (C) AKP,s parliamentary group is composed of politicians
with widely differing viewpoints. There are three main
ideological currents: pious, nationalist and pragmatic.
Most AKP MPs do not fall neatly into any one category, and
personal loyalties crosscut ideology, mostly among pious MPs.

Pious
-----

4. (C) Almost all AKP MPs are religiously observant to some
degree; for example, the vast majority fast during Ramadan.
However, there is a large and distinctively more pious group
of MPs, comprising former members of the banned Islamist
Virtue (Fazilet) Party, former members of the National View
Islamist youth group, and members of a wide range of
(officially banned) Muslim brotherhoods. Most of AKP,s top
leaders fall into this group: PM Erdogan, DPM/FM Abdullah
Gul, parliament Speaker Arinc, Vice Speaker Alptekin (former
PM and Islamic Saadet Party head Erbakan's right-hand man)
and all five of AKP,s parliamentary whips. Pious MPs
generally represent the central Anatolian heartland, speak no
English, and have traveled little.

5. (C) While most Turkish Islamists oppose the EU, AKP,s
Islamist MPs toe the AKP line and support it, albeit less
enthusiastically since October 3. Typical of Turkish
Islamists, they dislike Turkey,s military and have no ties
to it other than their required military service. Attitudes
about the U.S. vary widely, from friendly to suspicious, but
most favor better ties with the Muslim world. Although the
GOT, under Erdogan,s leadership, has taken a politically
courageous public stand favoring privatization and foreign
investment, many pious MPs oppose both.

6. (C) AKP,s pious MPs are widely rumored to be deeply
unhappy about PM Erdogan,s inability to ease restrictions on
the wearing of headscarves and on religious schools.
However, since AKP came to power in November 2002, no AKP MP
has resigned and gone over to the Happiness (Saadet) Party,
on AKP's Islamist flank.

Nationalists
------------

7. (C) It is hard to find a Turk who is not nationalistic.
Yet a significant number of AKP MPs (as many as 50, according
to one former MP), many of them former members of the
ultra-nationalist National Action Party (MHP) or center-right
True Path Party (DYP), are strong nationalists, even by
Turkish standards. This group includes Justice Minister and
party spokesman Cemil Cicek, Deputy PM Abdullatif Sener,
State Minister Kursad Tuzmen, and parliament Vice Speaker
Sadik Yakut.

8. (C) Among AKP MPs, nationalists take the hardest line
against &concessions8 to the EU and on Cyprus. MFA
officials have told us on several occasions that the GOT is
delaying bringing the Ankara Agreement extension protocol to
parliament for ratification out of concern for the reaction
of nationalist AKP MPs (ref B). Nationalist AKP MPs are
deeply suspicious about the motives of Turkey,s ethnic Kurds
and were vocal critics of PM Erdogan,s August declaration in
Diyarbakir that Turkey has a &Kurdish problem.8 Like their
pious colleagues, nationalists, attitudes about the U.S.
vary widely, from friendly to suspicious. However, even
pro-U.S. nationalists become extremely prickly at any
perceived U.S. slight to Turkish national honor.

Pragmatists
-----------

9. (C) AKP,s pragmatic MPs generally speak English, are
foreign-educated, and tend to be better-traveled than their
colleagues. They often come from large cosmopolitan areas,
particularly Ankara or Istanbul; some were previously members
of the center-right Motherland Party (ANAP). Three of AKP,s
five vice chairs, who frequently deal with foreigners, are
from the pragmatic wing: Bulent Gedikli, Reha Denemec and
Saban Disli. All are U.S-educated and represent either
Istanbul or Ankara. The same is true for pragmatic Erdogan
translator and foreign policy advisor Egemen Bagis, who
accompanies the PM on his trips to Europe and the U.S.

10. (C) Although the pragmatic MPs are often AKP,s most
visible face to foreigners, they have less influence inside
AKP than their pious and nationalist colleagues. In early
2005, there were signs of frustration among AKP,s moderates,
when a spate of AKP MP resignations went mostly to ANAP.
Culture Minister Mumcu, AKP,s highest-profile resignation
who went on become ANAP,s Chairman, said publicly he had
only felt like a &guest8 in AKP (ref C).

11. (C) Erdogan can ill afford to lose the pragmatists. In
addition to giving AKP a reasonable, big-tent image that
plays well in the U.S. and Europe, AKP,s pragmatists are
links to Istanbul and Ankara elites. These MPs are AKP,s
friendliest face toward the U.S. (Bagis heads parliament,s
Turkey/U.S Friendship Committee), and most receptive to
liberal political and open market economic reforms needed for
EU accession.

Crosscutting Personal Loyalties
-------------------------------

12. (C) AKP MPS are as divided by personality as by
politics, but personality-based fault lines crosscut
ideological ones. PM Erdogan is the glue that holds AKP
together; a chunk of AKP MPs were part of Erdogan,s team
when he was Istanbul mayor and have followed him onto the
national stage. They include Finance Minister Unakitan,
Transportation Minister Yildirim, State Minister Cubukcu, AKP
whip Irfan Gunduz, and Erdogan speechwriter Huseyin Besli.
All are personally pious or, in Cubukcu,s case, at least
have consistently supported positions of the party,s pious
wing. Cubukcu, a female, was one of the few MPs who publicly
supported Erdogan,s 2004 proposal to re-criminalize adultery.

13. (C) Erdogan has consistently protected all three
"Istanbul" Ministers despite repeated calls for their
resignation. Many other AKP MPs profess staunch loyalty to
&Tayyip Bey8 and seek to stay close to him. One contact
suggests that Erdogan's strategy is to keep subordinates
competing with each other for his attention so they are too
busy to be a threat to him.

14. (C) DPM/FM Gul remains Erdogan,s chief political rival
within AKP. Their differences are not ideological ) Gul and
Erdogan are both pious ) but spring from Gul,s ambitions
for greater power. Gul, who represents the parliamentary
faction of the banned Virtue Party, has a small, quiet
following among AK MPs that includes whip Salih Kapusuz (from
Gul,s home town of Kayseri), former AKP public relations
vice chair Murat Mercan (sacked for incompetence by Erdogan
earlier this year) and Taner Yildiz (also from Kayseri).

15. (C) Parliament Speaker Arinc is AKP,s third leading
personality and potential future rival to Erdogan. However,
Arinc is well behind Gul in influence and, according to our
contacts, currently without a significant group of MP
loyalists.

AKP's Kurdish MPs
-----------------

16. (C) About 60 AKP MPs, mostly from Turkey,s southeast,
are of Kurdish origin; Political and Legal Affairs Vice Chair
Dengir Mir Firat is AKP's most visible Kurdish MP. The Kurds
who joined AKP and were elected to parliament tend to be
pious, stressing the common bonds among all Muslims over
Kurdish nationalism. (The strongest Kurdish nationalists ran
from the pro-Kurdish Democratic People,s Party (DEHAP) in
2002 elections and failed to enter parliament because DEHAP
did not cross the ten percent electoral threshold.) One
former Kurdish-origin MP, himself pious, has consistently
told us even he considers AKP,s Kurdish MPs extraordinarily
passive on Kurdish issues.

17. (C) Yet recent events in the southeast, including AKP
nationalists' reaction against PM Erdogan,s August &Kurdish
problem8 speech in Diyarbakir and alleged Jandarma
involvement in a November bombing in the southeastern town of
Semdinli, have created tension between AKP,s Kurdish-origin
MPs and the rest of the parliamentary group. An Ankara
provincial AKP official told us recently that tension with
AKP,s Kurdish-origin MPs has infected AKP's pious wing,
weakening it relative to other AKP factions.

18. (C) Comment: AKP's parliamentary strength, so far,
springs from Erdogan's ability to keep such a diverse group
of MPs united, and the lack of any viable opposition. The
question is whether Erdogan can continue to keep the
parliamentary group together without turning AKP into an
internally-undemocratic, personality-based party in the
classic Turkish tradition. AKP,s opposition will eventually
come from inside AKP itself. However, for now, Erodgan
appears well in control and there is no viable political
alternative for dissatisfied AKP MPs. End Comment.
WILSON

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