The Week in Turkish Politics, 12 October 2011

The Week in Turkish Politics

12 October 2011

Turkish politics is marred once again by the unprecedentedly violent attacks of PKK on security and civilian targets that resulted in over 30 deaths and 22 injuries, including a 3 year old girl.  PM Erdogan wowed to combat terror everywhere, blamed the opposition for provoking discontent in the nation and signaled that new round-ups of sympathizers are underway.

AKP’s strategy for fighting terror and solving the Kurdish problem is incomprehensible.  AKP frontbenchers are hinting that “peace talks” with Ocalan and PKK leaders in Europe could resume, but at the same time threaten another incursion intoIraq.  It is not clear why AKP prefers to deal with Ocalan and PKK exiles, instead of BDP.  Why would it delay a ground operation in Northern Iraqbut arrest almost 4 thousand BDP-KCK members?

CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu advised the administration to form a special commission, including members from 4 parties to investigate the cause of terror and to suggest solutions.  CHP deputy Sezgin Tanrikulu, himself a Kurdish rights advocate, has been touring the few TV stations still wiling to host opposition members to explain the party’s plan to pass a comprehensive civil liberties package in the parliament, while the constitutional talks gestate.  CHP recommends lowering the 10% election hurdle, amending the overly restrictive Anti-Terror Act, as well as overhauling the judiciary to shorten detention times and to speed up trials. On Thursday, in a close session of the Grand Assembly, CHP is expected to advance these proposals once again, and –as Kılıçdaroğlu promised on Wednesday—to back any reasonable plan by AKP to end terror and relive the plight of Kurdish citizens.

The Progress Report by EU Commission went unnoticed in the Turkish society, which has long ago given up hope of accession.  While the Chief Negotiator Mr. Egemen Bağış renewed AKP’s wow to resolutely seek accession via opening new chapters, his boss was singing another tune.  PM Erdogan gave a two hour speech to his caucus over the weekend’s retreat, blaming EU for its intransigence inCyprusand repeatingAnkara’s official position of ceasing contact with EU once the Greek Cypriote Administration assumes the rotating presidency. AKP no longer needs EU to complete its conquest of all Turkish institutions and the society and is looking for a convenient exit to drop the whole idea.

CHP remains the only Turkish political force genuinely committed to accession. Yet, it is dismaying that the EU Progress Report still largely adopts AKP’s positions on many topics such as the blatantly false proposition that the reforms put in place after the 12th of September constitutional referendum has been good for the Turkish society. Just talking to rookie CHP deputy and Vice Chair of CHP Group in the Parliament Mrs. Emine Ulker Tarhan, a lawyer, who called the Silivri Prison “the symbol of the 12th September 2011 coup”, would have cured EU members of this notion. She knows the story of how AKP used the 12th of September referendum to establish an unrivalled hegemony over the Turkish judiciary. Today, a court lifted the injunction on Lighthouse suspects’ property, meaning that any proceeds or assets from the charity embezzlement scandal can now be freely transferred to other parties or laundered.

CHP’s discovery of evidence that either deputy premier Mr. Besir Atalay, or close aides tipped Lighthouse suspects before a police raid are still unanswered.  Mr. Besir Atalay denied the whole affair, but failed to provide an answer the recoded phone traffic between his office and defendants in the case, as well signed confessions that his aides met them. After Chop, MHP, too, wants the resignation of Mr. Besir Atalay.

Neither the press nor AKP are eager to pursue wrongdoing in the party’s ranks, but PM Erdogan’s baseless accusations that CHP and BDP municipalities transferred aid by 4 German charitable organizations to PKK still sticks. The allegations were denied by all German entities mentioned, as well as by Turkish budget records, but PM Erdogan never apologized, while pro-AKP prosecutors are still using the accusations to raid CHP and BDP municipalities.  CHP could bring a no-confidence motion to the parliament next week.

The Constitutional talks started in this highly charged atmosphere. A new and human rights focused constitution is only one of the cures to the social underdevelopment and the lack of balance of powers in the Turkish society.  All four parties remain optimistic, but AKP’s demand that a final draft be presented to the Grand Assembly latest by the end of the first half of 2012 causes suspicion that the party will not dally long to seek a compromise.  By recruiting 5 deputies from other parties AKP can ratify its own text—possibly including amendments for an executive presidency tailor-made for Mr. Erdogan and than take it to a national referendum.

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