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Cablegate: Turkey: Gul's Candidacy Met with Resignation And

VZCZCXRO2003
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHAK #2118/01 2281335
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 161335Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3428
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 002118

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/15/2017
TAGS: PGOV ECON TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: GUL'S CANDIDACY MET WITH RESIGNATION AND
SUPPORT

REF: ANKARA 2084

Classified By: CHARGE NANCY MCELDOWNEY for reasons 1.4(b),(d)

1. (C) Summary and Comment. Most Turks have accepted FM
Abdullah's Gul's presidential candidacy (reftel) with either
enthusiasm or resignation. The military is silently
absorbing the blow that their earlier efforts to derail a Gul
presidency crashed and burned. Leftist parties are in
disarray, while other opposition leaders are keeping a
respectful distance. The business community is generally
supportive, at least publicly, although markets have dropped
sharply since Gul's announcement. The generally supportive
trend is likely to continue, if only to avoid further
destablizing tensions, but with a watchful edge; Gul (and
Erdogan) must follow through on promises to represent all
Turks and uphold the basic principles of Turkey's secular
republic. Suspicions remain, but Gul's popularity and AKP's
election victory are potent forces. Gul will be carefully
watched, with many ready to exploit any misstep. If he can
demonstrate his independence from Erdogan and his commitment
to strengthening Turkey's democracy for all Turks, he may
prove his doubters wrong. End Summary and Comment.

PM ENDORSES GUL
---------------
2. (SBU) After weeks of evasive responses, PM Erdogan
clearly endorsed Gul's candidacy at an August 15 press
conference. Calling Gul an ideal leader with the experience,
charisma and prestige to serve as Turkey's president, Erdogan
stressed that Gul understands the president's constitutional
duties and would represent all Turks equally. He indicated
that the new government and president would work together to
achieve a strong and prosperous Turkey.

BUSINESS AS USUAL
-----------------
3. (SBU) Gul is making the rounds to build support and give
the appearance of consultation. He met with labor unions and
business groups on August 15, generally receiving support.
Stressing the importance of stability, several business
leaders endorsed Gul's candidacy as a reflection of Turkey's
democratic process. Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's
Association (TUSIAD) Chairman Arzuhan Yalcindag found
reassuring Gul's pledge to uphold the constitution and
represent all Turks equally, but added that the business
community wil be watching his actions closely. Turkish
Exporters' Assembly President Oguz Satici told the press Gul
would be a statesman as president, just as he had proven to
be serving as foreign minister and, briefly, as prime
minister in 2002.

4. (SBU) Word of Gul's candidacy late on August 13 was
followed by a sharp depreciation of the lira and drop in the
Istanbul stock market. The dollar gained 6.77% against the
lira from the opening of the markets on August 14 to mid-day
on August 16, and the ISEM index was down 10.15%. This
coincided with increasing financial market turbulence
worldwide. While it is impossible to say how much of this
fall was precipitated by Gul's candidacy, it may have been an
additional reason for jittery investment managers to reduce
their exposure to Turkey.

POLITICAL PARTIES MIXED
-----------------------
5. (SBU) Opposition parties were mixed. The pro-Kurdish
Democratic Society Party (DTP) leaders said they have no bias
against Gul but would consult DTP members before taking a
position. The leftist Republican People's Party (CHP), after
refusing to meet Gul, issued a memorandum August 15 outlining
why the party opposes Gul's presidency. They argued Gul
failed to consult before announcing his candidacy, is against
the Republic's basic values, his presidency would threaten
the future of the regime, and his election would serve as
revenge against the democratic republic. Nationalist Action
Party (MHP) officials repeated their intent to attend the
presidential voting, but also to field an as yet unnamed MHP
candidate against Gul. Democratic Left Party (DSP) leader
Zeki Sezer met with Gul but indicated DSP had preferred a
consensus approach and would cooperate with CHP in boycotting
the voting sessions.

MILITARY BITTER BUT RESIGNED
----------------------------
6. (C) Military contacts note the atmosphere at Turkish
General Staff (TGS) is grim but admit their options are
limited. Prior to Gul's announcement, retired former CHOD
General Ozkok made a rare public statement that a headscarf
in the presidential palace would send an inappropriate image

ANKARA 00002118 002 OF 002


of Turkey to the world. Since Gul's August 14 press
conference, the TGS and retired military community have been
silent. As one military contact indicated, the next few
months will be telling. The TGS will be watching carefully
as the government and Gul pursue constitutional reforms or
other measures that might, in their view, undermine the
secular republic.

THE (NON)ISSUE OF MRS. GUL'S HEADSCARF
--------------------------------------
7. (C) Military contacts have denied Mrs. Gul's headscarf is
the issue, stressing they are more concerned about someone of
Gul's Islamic background wielding presidential powers. CHP
leader Deniz Baykal also claimed the headscarf was irrelevant
to larger concerns about Gul himself. Not all agree: On
August 15, mainstream daily Radikal asked, "Is Turkey Ready
for a Headscarf-wearing First Lady?" reporting that "no one
wants to say it out loud, but the basic problem with Gul is
that his wife wears the Islamic headscarf." Whether
Gul-related or not, following Gul's announcement the TGS
shifted the annual August 30 Victory Day celebration from an
officers' club (where it has been held since 1983) to the
more formal Land Forces Command Base, which has a strict
dress code prohibiting headscarves. Gul has firmly defended
his wife's right to cover her head as a freedom protected by
Turkey's constitution. "It is me, not my wife, who is
running for president," Gul told the press.

A STATESMAN'S PRESIDENCY
------------------------
8. (C) Gul as president will present a new face for Turkey.
As foreign minister, Gul was able to forge relationships with
leaders around the world; his candidacy was warmly received
by foreign officials in Europe and elsewhere. MFA contacts
believe having the former foreign minister as president will
help advance Turkey's foreign policy agenda. New AKP deputy
and former AKP Ankara provincial chairman Nurettin Akman
envisioned a president and prime minister working in harmony
abroad, particularly with the EU and Central Asian countries.
At the same time, Gul will need to prove his independence
from Erdogan -- partly to emerge from Erdogan's shadow, and
partly to rebut opponents itching to show that Gul is still
Erdogan's man.

Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/ankara/

MCELDOWNEY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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