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Cablegate: Istanbul Saadet Party Head Looks to the Past

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PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIT #0516/01 2701045
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 261045Z SEP 08
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8497
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA PRIORITY 2379
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000516

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL TU
SUBJECT: ISTANBUL SAADET PARTY HEAD LOOKS TO THE PAST

REF: ANKARA 1096

ISTANBUL 00000516 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Sadrettin Karaduman, Saadet Party (SP)
Istanbul Party Chairman spoke longingly about past glory
days when his party controlled the city's administration.
Karaduman credited mayors from SP's previous political
organizations -- Welfare (Refah) Party (RP) and Felicity
(Fazilet) Party (FP), for major improvements in the city's
infrastructure. Karaduman failed to give credit to RP's most
notable former mayor, Prime Minister Erdogan. Despite being
out of government, SP can still bring out a crowd, Karaduman
argued, such as when SP organized protests against the Pope's
visit in 2006. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) During a September 5 meeting with us, Karaduman
waxed nostalgic about the glory days when RP and FP -- the
predecessors to SP -- controlled the mayor's office for
greater Istanbul. Karaduman was joined by SP Deputy for
Foreign Affairs Mustafa Kaya and two other party officials.
Karaduman credited his previous party's administration for
improvements to Istanbul's infrastructure, particularly
expanding the city's transportation and water systems.
Karaduman claimed it is this solid history of good governance
that will bring SP bring back into power in the local
elections scheduled for March 2009. Not surprisingly,
Karaduman failed to give any credit to former RP mayor and
now PM Erdogan, leader of the rival AKP. Instead, Karaduman
blamed AKP for harming Turkey's economy, particularly for
driving up the current account deficit and high unemployment.
Karaduman, however, failed to make any specific policy
distinctions between SP and the AKP, relying on general
statements to lay out the failings of his former political
partners.

------------------------------------
The Party Can Bring Out the Faithful
------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Karaduman highlighted SP's ability to bring its
supporters to the streets. He told us SP has numerous
grassroots supporters eager to support the party and come out
en masse upon demand. (COMMENT: Tens of thousands of
protestors attended a SP rally opposing the Pope's visit to
Istanbul in 2006. Also in 2006 SP held rallies in Istanbul
criticizing Israeli policies towards the Palestinians and
protesting the "Danish cartoon," both of which drew thousands
of demonstrators. END COMMENT) Responding to our question,
Karaduman stated the Izmir branch independently organized
their own anti-Israeli rally last spring, without approval
from the national organization. This is one of SP's
strengths, according to Karaduman. Its local leaders are
able to take the initiative on their own. Karaduman said SP
rewards such proactively, promoting local organizers who work
hard and demonstrate they have broad appeal.

----------------------------
No Compromise on Headscarves
----------------------------

4. (SBU) Karaduman was disappointed by the Constitutional
Court's decision upholding the ban on headscarves in
universities. He regards wearing headscarves as a basic
right, just as is a university education for women.
Karaduman told us the court's verdict will simply perpetuate
this injustice, forcing this issue to come up again in the
future. Karaduman acknowledged the issue is divisive in
Turkey, yet he did not see any compromise that SP could
accept.

--------------------------------------------- ---
Still Milli Gorus Despite Different Party Names
--------------------------------------------- ---

5. (SBU) In a rare show of support for AKP, Karaduman
criticized the practice of banning political parties in
Turkey. Karadumen argued that the recent attempt to ban AKP
is evidence that Turkey's political system is not truly
democratic. The biggest blows to Turkish democracy, he said,
were the bans of RP and FP, as well as the so-called
"post-modern coup" conducted by the military in 1998 against
then Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of RP.
Deputy Chairman Mustafa Kaya, told us the political parties
RP, FP, and SP are actually all part of the same Milli Gorus

ISTANBUL 00000516 002.2 OF 002


movement. The political parties are expendable arms, he
said, that can be disposed of without harming the core
organization. Kaya said it is unfortunate that Milli Gorus
needs to play this charade, but that it is necessary given
the limited freedom in the current political system.
(Comment: While Erbankan established the Milli Gorus movement
in 1975, not all of its members aligned themselves with SP.
Most notably, AKP has a sizable Milli Gorus wing (reftel).
End Comment.)

6. (SBU) Kaya insisted the English translation for Milli
Gorus ("National View") is confusing since it falsely
labels the party as nationalist. Kaya stressed Milli Gorus's
focus is worldwide and should not be associated with
nationalism, especially the ultra-nationalist National Action
Party (MHP). Throughout our meeting, Karaduman,
Kaya, and the other party members stressed that SP's aim is
global: it hopes to assist the entire world's population, by
promoting world peace and social justice.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: SP's political efforts appear directed
more towards stirring up its grassroots supporters rather
than winning elections. Support for the party typically falls
in the low single digits in the national polls. It is not
viewed as a serious contender in Istanbul in the upcoming
local elections. The party's ability to fill the streets on
a particular issue on short notice, however, can certainly
draw the public's attention.
WIENER

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