President Abdullah Gul: A Distinguished Visitor from Turkey by K. Gajendra Singh SignUp
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President Abdullah Gul:
A Distinguished Visitor from Turkey
by K. Gajendra Singh Bookmark and Share
 

There was this young man, with 1960s Turkish matinee idol looks, smiling to attract my attention, in that throng of media and TV cameramen around us. Suddenly the penny dropped. Yes, a few weeks earlier while I had a few drinks at my First secretary's flat in Ankara, he sipped lemon water. He was very keen to meet with me. So, I now went over and shook his hands. That was in end 1992.

“And the young man was Abdullah Gul, recently home after a stint (7 years) at the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah and put in charge of foreign affairs by Najmettin Erbakan, President of Islamist Welfare party. Most ambassadors in Ankara avoided looking up Erbakan, but I kept my promise. Hence the media attention.

“Our paths crossed more often after he became state minister in Erbakan's coalition government in 1996. Once when I enquired about his party's plans to convert a church in west Turkey into a mosque, he said it was not a priority issue. He shrugged off a statement on Kashmir when with Erbakan he visited Pakistan as sound bites under pressure.


From: Abdullah Gul – Turkey's Next President!

The author was posted as Indian ambassador to Turkey (1992-96) and had an earlier stint (1969-73). This piece was written when foreign minister, Abdullah Gul was declared the candidate of the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP), with Islamic roots, for Presidential elections on 27 April, 2007.

Gul studied economics in Turkey and UK and was born in a pious Muslim family of Kayseri. AKP's backers are upwardly mobile conservative trading and industrial classes from central Anatolian towns such as Kayseri, Konya and beyond away from Istanbul and Ankara. The inhabitants of these barren harsh lands have always been conservative .They resisted conversion to Christianity when the religion spread from Palestine to Syria to south east Turkey and to Europe. To avoid conversion they would disappear into labyrinth of caves in Cappadocia , also famous for its moon surface and chimneys. In spite of 80 years of Jacobin style secularism they remain conservative Muslims but are not fanatics.

Their wanting a share in the economic cake clashes with the vested interests of the supporters of the secular establishment which has ruled Turkey almost since the creation of the republic in 1923.

In April , 2007 AKP had 354 seats in the Parliament and needed a two-thirds majority vote in the House in the first or second rounds (367 of 550) or a simple majority in the third (276) or fourth. If four rounds fail, Parliament is dissolved for fresh elections. This Constitutional change was made after the 1980 military take over since prior to that the Parliament went through dozens of futile ballots to elect a president while left-right violence around the country killed many hundreds.

HHowever , the 2002 November Parliamentary elections had stunned Turkey and the West , even AKP itself which obtained two-thirds majority (365 out of 550). But the first time majority by an Islamic party was achieved with only a third (35 percent) of the total votes cast, 10% being the cut off point. The only other left of the center Republican Peoples party (RPP) with 16% votes won a third of the seats. Over 45% votes were wasted, the outgoing ruling coalition partners winning no seats. High 10% threshold was reportedly agreed upon to keep Kurdish parties out, which polled around 8%.

Gul, moderate and soft spoken, became Prime Minister in November 2002 and his party’s landslide victory allowed the Constitution to be amended for party chief Recep Tayipp Erdogan, who had been barred from elections, to enter Parliament in a bye election. He took over from Gul in March, 2003. Erdogan was tried for utterances like "Minarets are our bayonets, domes are our helmets, mosques are our barracks, believers are our soldiers," convicted and jailed for 4 months. He had also said "Thank God, I am for Shariah," "For us, democracy is a means to an end." (Shades of Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria) and, "One cannot be a secularist and a Muslim at the same time."

To allay Western fears Gul and Erdogan went on a charm offensive to Washington and European capitals saying that AKP was a moderate right of centre party. Its well educated leadership in western attire was a relief compared to Islamic leadership elsewhere. Their apparent fervor to join Europe Union established party's Western credentials.

Later the party would cleverly use EU's Copenhagen entry criteria to emasculate the military dominated policy making National Security Council by reducing it to an advisory body.

It has however become quite clear that Turkey's efforts for full EU membership after 9/11 are unlikely to be consummated but the game of endless negotiations would keep both Europe and AKP engaged. Turkey’s best chance for entering EU was in 1986, when it declined the offer made along with Greece. Rebuffed by EU’s rabid Christian leadership led by the likes of former Valery Giscard d'Estaing who said that admitting Turkey "would be the end of the European Union" because Turkey has "a different culture, a different approach, a different way of life - it is not a European country", by now Turks, a proud people, are quite reconciled to not joining EU. In 1996 Turkey signed a Customs Union Agreement, so the trade with EU is flourishing.

Since 2002 Turkey's secular parties remain disunited and in disarray. Their rule is remembered for pervasive corruption and squabbling.

Before Gul's nomination, there was talk that Erdogan, taciturn, hard and conservative politician would offer himself for the presidency but there were vehement protests by the secular establishment against his occupying the highest post for 7 years, once held by Kemal Ataturk, who fashioned the secular republic in 1923 from the ashes of the Ottoman empire. Hence Gul’s nomination.

But in spite of all AKP endeavors in April 2007 Gul failed to get the required 2/3rd votes in the first round. The opposition RPP with its one third of the seats, refused to enter the Parliament, thus 'even the quorum was not established'. Later it filed with the Constitutional Court that in the absence of quorum of 367, the proceedings were illegal and be declared invalid.

Apparently, it was a coordinated maneuver by the secular establishment and the Chief of General Staff (CGS) issued the statement that "It should not be forgotten that the Turkish armed forces is one of the sides in this debate and the absolute defender of secularism." It added, "When necessary, they will display its stance and attitudes very clearly. No one should doubt that."

The AKP government rebuked the military; it was "unthinkable" for the institution (military) to challenge its political leaders in a democracy. "It is out of the question to withdraw my candidacy," Gul insisted on 29 April.

The armed forces, which under Ataturk built up a secular unitary state are self styled custodians of Kemalism including secularism. The word used for secular is laic (la din; anti-religion), more Jacobin than secular. During a visit to Ankara in mid 1990s, an Indian state minister for external affairs proudly claimed that as a secular state the government provided subsidy to Muslims going on Hajj. The Turkish minister for foreign affairs, with his chest held high countered ,“We discourage them from doing Hajj” . Things since then have changed.

There are three centers of power in Turkey; the President, the Prime Minister and Chief of General Staff. With two going over to the Islamists, the secular establishment is really worried. There has been a fascinating struggle between secularists and those trying to inject Islam as a cultural, social or spiritual input in the political and daily life of Turkey which is 99% Muslim.

The Turkish president is no figure head. He has the power to veto legislation, appoint judges, university rectors and other posts. The last secular President Ahmet Sezer, used his powers to check and restrain the AKP government.
Many observers fear that the strict separation of state and religion would be eroded and Islam would creep further into all fields of life since the control of Presidency gives AKP a free hand to implement Islamist policies. The secular establishment and citizens still suspect AKP of harboring a secret Islamic agenda like National Salvation Front in 1992 in Algeria which had almost won but was banned. (US led West said nothing then).

AKP has attempted to criminalize adultery, restrict alcohol sales and lift a ban on Islamic headscarves in public places. It even tried to intervene in the autonomy of the military, which expels suspected Islamist officers each year.

The Turkish press was unanimous in calling on the Government and the army to resolve their differences democratically with early elections as the only way out. The armed forces have intervened twice directly; in 1961 and 1980 and twice changed regimes; in 1971 and 1997. But after cleaning up the mess created by the politicians and getting a new constitution in place, the self-styled custodians of Kemal Ataturk's legacy of secularism, as usual, returned to the barracks. The judiciary has regularly closed religious and extremist political parties and debarred its politicians.

Gul Elected President

AKP then went in for early elections on July 22nd and won 47% votes but not 2/3rd majority. Gul was renominated for the post. In the first two rounds on August 20th and 24th, Gul came out well ahead of the other two candidates, Sabahattin Cakmakoglu of the Nationalist Action Party and Huseyin Icli from the Democratic Left Party, but failed to gain the required two-thirds majority. He was elected president in the third ballot on August 28th with the support of 339 of the lawmakers in the 550-seat assembly-- well above the 276 votes he needed to get in that round of voting.
In his inauguration speech Gul again sought to dispel secularist opponents' fears that he and the AKP have a secret Islamist agenda.

"The Turkish Republic is a democratic, secular, social state, governed by the rule of law," he said. "I will always be determined and resolved to advocate, without discrimination, each of these principles and to further strengthen them at every opportunity."

Compared to Erdogan, Gul's elevation was palatable to Turkey's secular establishment. Deniz Baykal, leader of opposition RPP (established by Ataturk himself) acquiesced. He said "Gul has a chance to bring peace and stability," and added, "But, if he falls under dominion of a person and acts in AK Party partisanship both Turkey and himself would come to harm." Because of Guls' strong stand against activities of PKK (Turkish Marxist party) guerillas and on north Iraq even the Pashas aka generals also acquiesced. The business community welcomed Gul’s election .

Most of Turkey's Presidents have been military officers beginning with Ataturk, who commanded the war of independence against the Greeks and the victorious allied troops of occupation from Great Britain, France and Italy, till his death in 1938 from the inception of the republic in 1923. The four civilians to occupy the post were Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a former head of the Supreme Court, elected in 2000, Demiral 1993-2000, Ozal 1989-93 and Celal Bayar, who was President in 1950-61 and was overthrown by the military. Prime minister Adnan Menderes and his two other colleagues were hanged.

A fascinating struggle continues between secularists and those trying to inject Islam as a cultural, social or spiritual input in the political and daily life of Turkey which is 99% Muslim.

The importance of fights over Islamic symbols which can be used as a wedge in a society cannot be under estimated. And then during Erbakan's tenures and since 2002 posts in bureaucracy are going to party faithfuls or sympathizers. The concept of neutral bureaucracy is not strong in Turkey. Senior civil servants resign temporarily to fight elections and if defeated can get back to their old jobs.

Rise of Islamists in Turkish Republic

It was Erbakan who founded the very first Islamist National Order party (NOP) in 1969, when prime minister Suleyman Demirel, his class fellow in Istanbul's Engineering school, refused him an Assembly slot. When NOP was closed in 1971 after the regime change, Erbakan established National Salvation party (NSP) and was twice deputy prime minister in 1970s coalition governments. After the 1980 takeover, the military banned all parties. Later when restrictions were removed Erbakan established the Welfare party, in which Abdullah Gul and Erdogan were prominent young new comers.

Erdogan was elected Mayor of Istanbul in 1995 and was a great success. In the 1996 coalition headed by Erbakan, Gul became a State Minister .In 1997 the military forced Erbakan to resign for not curbing Muslim fundamentalism. Later Erbakan's party was closed and he was banned from political activity.

Erdogan's jail experience was traumatic and a turning point. He and others like Gul saw the futility of fighting against the secular establishment on an Islamic agenda. In 2001 they established AKP.

Turkey's Abiding Byzantine Heritage

Under the shadows of Istanbul 's slim minarets piercing its skyline lie monuments and ruins from Turkey's millennium and half-long Roman and Byzantine past. It was only in 1453 , that Constantinople, the Byzantine capital founded in 4th century AD by Emperor Constantine was transformed into the new Ottoman Capital Istanbul, by adding minarets to the magnificent 6th century St. Sophia Church .But the Ottoman architects could not get away from its conceptual construct even for their mosques.

Crucible of over 40 civilizations, Turkey, known as Anatolia and Asia Minor in history ,has more Greek sites than Greece and more Roman monuments than Italy. Cradle of early Christianity with the churches of revelation, Chalcedon, Nicomedea, Nicea, Turkish soil was the playground of Byzantine power and glory. With perhaps only 15% inhabitants of Turkic origin from central Asia, buried deep lies in Turkish psyche a more persistent tradition of Byzantine intrigue which seeps up from time to time, more so during Presidential elections so akin to choosing Popes, Patriarchs and Archbishops.

At the same time the simple Central Asian nomad conquerors of the Byzantine Empire , moving from east to west named villages, forts, mountains, rivers and seas; white, black, green or red. Leaders like Demirel would describe a dangerous political crisis as passing through a narrow pass (like Turcoman tribes and their herds). Or another leaders Mesut Yillmaz might use the phrase 'I have taken out my sword to fight 'a political battle'. Their sibling like political rivalries are more akin to tribal vendettas. The Republican Constitution and the electoral system endows political party chairmen with excessive arbitrary powers, so many group leaders behave like powerful tribal chiefs, branching off with their flocks and clans or persisting with their rigid positions instead of democratic give and take. But under pressure, the deeply engrained but dormant Byzantine proclivities are not far from the surface.

Presidential Elections

I remember well April 1973, when after many rounds the parliament did not elect a President, a frustrated columnist in Milliyet wrote that he might as well study Byzantine history to comprehend what was going on.

Following the 1971 memorandum by the Turkish military, which had forced prime minister Demirel to resign, a national Government under the military's shadow was in place to conduct the 1973 Presidential elections. The pugnacious and ambitious Gen Faruk Gurler, a major force behind the memorandum, first made Chief of General Staff (CGS) Gen Tamac hand over a day before the due date and took over as the new CGS. He then resigned and presented himself as the Military's candidate to replace President Cevdet Sunay, also a former CGS.

Demirel and Bulent Ecevit, leaders of the 2 major political formations along with other politicians, in spite of the Military brass occupying the parliament galleries, gave a stunning display of Byzantine intrigue at its best, with the Parliament going through the motions of voting round after another round. Inconclusively. The politicians tired out the now unsure and somewhat divided Military in a virtuoso performance, which would have made their Byzantine ancestors proud. Finally, a compromise was reached on a retired and innocuous Naval Commander Fahri Koruturk, who was installed the new President. A rejected and dejected Gurler died a few years later, forgotten and unsung.

At the end of bloody 1970s during which intra- religious, intra-ethnic and left right violence left tens of thousands dead in Turkey, leaving its polity scarred and divided, in April 1980 President Koruturk's term ended, but Demirel and Ecevit would not agree on a candidate. For five months hundreds of rounds of voting were conducted in the Parliament, without any result. This was a display of clannish obstinacy and total abdication of political responsibility.

Gen Kenan Evren then took over in September 1980 much to everyone's relief, banned political parties and debarred political leaders. As a measure of abundant caution, the 1983 Constitution prepared under the military regime provided dissolution of the Parliament if it fails to elect a new President after four rounds. Gen. Evren stayed head of state until 1989. In 1992, on my return to Ankara when I lauded some politicians for their defiance of the military in 1973, they complained that, yes, but the military had handled them roughly by jailing them in 1980.

It is as if the custodians of Ataturk's secular legacy, merit based Armed Forces since the days of Janissaries, modernized by the French and the Germans during late Ottoman era and since 1950s as part of NATO, are trying to guide Turkish society towards modernity and western contemporary values, a polity with tribal overlay over a Byzantine past and nature, from chaos and obduracy to conformity and order. Even by changing the Constitutions, thrice in the last 40 years; a liberal 1961 Constitution was replaced in 1983 by one restricting freedoms.

The Simmering Tensions in Turkish Polity :
Scarf, Turban and the Veil

After Gul’s election the first problem arose with his wife, Hayrunisa, who insisted like other AKP wives to wear a head scarf or turban. Ottoman and Islamic dresses, including head scarves, have been forbidden in public places since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey by Kemal Ataturk in 1923. Ataturk abolished the caliphate, closed religious seminaries, converted the Mosque Aaya Sofya into a museum, banned Islamic dress, including the Turkish fez, veil or hijab, including the head scarf. Many an Islamist women has lost her job or place in university, and some women their seats in parliament, for defying this regulation.

Not only secularists vehemently oppose the idea of this Islamic attire in the presidential palace in Cankaya, it is legally banned in public places. On this point Gul had said, "Everyone should pay respect to this choice. Turkey is a democratic, secular and social law state. In democracy individuals have fundamental rights and freedoms. If you approach the issue from this viewpoint, you'll see that most of the problems faced in Turkey is solved."

However tensions had started building up between Turkey's secular elite, and the AKP ever since the latter's electoral triumph in end 2002 and continue to boil up from time to time. To begin with the Pashas were clearly unhappy with the election results. After waiting for some time, they declared, "We will continue to protect the republic against any threat, particularly the fundamentalist and separatist [Kurdish] ones."

In April 2003 president Sezer, and the top military brass led by CGS General Hilmi Ozkok, refused to attend a reception at parliament house hosted by the speaker, Bulent Arinc of the AKP, to mark National Sovereignty and Children's Day, as hostess Munnever Arinc planned to wear a Muslim head scarf. The opposition, left of the center People's Republican Party (RPP), also boycotted the reception. A last-minute announcement that Mrs Arinc would not attend the reception came too late.

In June 2004 a seven-judge panel of the European Court of Human Rights ruled against a petition by a Turkish medical student who was banned in 1998 from wearing a head scarf by Istanbul University. The student had claimed that the ban during classes violated her rights of freedom of thought, conscience and religion under the European Convention on Human Rights. The court found that the rules in medical classes were "necessary", primarily for hygienic reasons, and the students "were required to comply with the rules on dress". It "found no violation" under the convention, adding schools were entitled to set dress codes as long as they were fair. However, in a 46-page report, Human Rights Watch said the ban "inhibits academic freedom", adding the government exercised too much control over schools. (HRW, a western outfit ought to concentrate on violation of human and other rights by USA and UK).

In Turkey women are regularly killed by near relatives in so called honor killings, i.e. because of illicit relationships or infraction of social codes. The AKP government was thinking of making adultery a crime in law, which raised heckles all around the country and would likely jeopardize the Turkey's entry into the EU, now a charade, so the plan was shelved.

Although the custom of covering women with head scarves is now generally associated with Islamic societies, the practice predates Islamic culture by many millennia. Veiling and seclusion were marks of prestige and status symbols in the Assyrian, Greco-Roman and Byzantine empires, as well as in Sasanian Iran. The Muslim Umayyads copied it from the Byzantines in Damascus, which they took over lock stock and barrel. According to one tradition, the Prophet Mohammad's wife Aisha did not veil her face. Generally, there was greater freedom for women among nomadic Arabs, Turks and Mongols before Islam.

But in recent history, the veil or hijab has been used to make political statements, in Muslim countries like Algeria, Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey, and where Muslims are in a minority, as in France today. Brothers in Turkey and France shave sisters’ head to coerce into wearing a scarf and organizations and individuals in Saudi Arabia etc send money for those who wear a veil, Chador or scarves. There is many times pure and simple coercion. It is far from voluntary.

On Indian corporate channels debates are conducted on the veil in France by the usual suspects, the gliterattis, disputatis and mostly ignorantis  aka socialites, actors, info-challenged media hacks and lawyer spokesmen of the political parties, who would not even spend five minutes to even google veils on the internet. They only expose their ignorance and misinform people.

See Lifting the Veil in France and Turkey - 16 September, 2004

Battle Joined For and Against The Scarf

AKP leadership , led by Erdogan in spite of strong apposition form the secular elite went ahead and with control of the parliament amended the Constitution and lifted the ban on scarves in February 2008. The AKP government claimed the lifting the ban in the name of human rights and civil liberties.

"Our main aim is to end the discrimination experienced by a section of society just because of their personal beliefs," said AKP parliamentarian Sadullah Ergin. Because of the ban, many covered women go abroad to study. This included the daughters of prime minister Erdogan who went to a US university. To overcome the law many women resort to wearing wigs over their head scarves in public places.

It is true that 60% of Turks would prefer ban on scarf lifted.

But it is a specious argument. France, a fiercely secular state also has ban on veils and other religious symbols. AKP government gives little attention to the discriminations against Alevis, almost 10 % of the population. Believers in a Shia form and more cosmopolitan; there is no sex segregation in their places of worship, which are different from the Sunni mosques. Use of wine is permitted. Ironically most of the Alevis are from central Asia, who founded the Ottoman empire, but they are now badly treated and massacred from time to time. They vote for left of centre parties and seek protection from the military.

Lifting of Ban Annulled

On 5 June 2008, Turkey's Constitutional Court annulled the parliament's proposed amendment to lift the headscarf ban, ruling that removing the ban was against the founding principles of the constitution. The highest court's decision to uphold the headscarf ban cannot be appealed.

It may have marked a historical moment in the ongoing struggle between religion and secularism in a predominantly Muslim country. But concerns remain in Turkey that the government's zeal for lifting the ban could undermine other reforms, particularly those relating to democratization and the country's ongoing European Union membership bid.

AKP Escapes Being Closed by One Vote
by Turkey’s Constitutional Court

On July 30, 2008, Turkey’s Constitutional Court rejected the chief prosecutor’s demand to close the ruling AKP and ban prime minister Erdogan, president Abdullah Gul and 70 other leading AKP members from political activity for a period of five years. But the Court ruled that the party had become “a focal point for anti-secular activity” and recommended the party be denied half the financial aid it receives from the state. Ten members voted for the charge while only one voted against.

Announcing the verdict the Court chairman Hasim Kilic, said 6 members of the court had voted in favor of closing the party, while the remaining four concluded that the party’s “anti-secular activities” did not deserve a ban. At least seven votes are needed to impose a ban. Kilic’s own vote against a ban of the AKP was crucial in the court’s verdict.

Kilic said, “It is not a decision to close down the party, but it is a serious warning,” emphasizing that the AKP should ponder very carefully and draw its own conclusions.

The case to ban the AKP was filed on March 14, by Turkey’s chief prosecutor, Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, who accused the party of “anti-secular activities” and “trying to turn the country into an Islamic state.”

In the tense atmosphere gripping Turkey the first indication of a possible compromise came from Mark Parris, former US ambassador to Ankara, who said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on July 16 that the “odds to find a way out are stronger than a month ago.” Many senior officials of the Bush administration made it clear that Washington was opposed to a ban on the AKP. Leading European Union representatives had also made clear their opposition to a ban, which would constitute a further hurdle to Turkey’s eventual admission into the EU.

More than at home and in the financial market European governments heaved a collective sigh of relief, while commentators were circumspect about the significance of the judgment .But after the tension and unease this was perhaps the least worst decision. Islamist political parties and those on the left have been banned many times in the past.

More than anything else it was the instability created around Turkey following the 2003 illegal invasion which might have weighed heavily in the Court’s deliberations, which made it stop just short of sending the internal political situation in to a vortex of uncertainty and unpredictability.

The court issued a clear warning that the ruling party should refrain from any further measures which encroach on the secular fabric of the Republic and privileges or power of the country’s long-standing secular Kemalist establishment.

But the decision is just another pause before the Islamists and the secularists eye each other for a political re-match .
London’s Economist advised the AKP to make more concessions to the Kemalist old guard and advised: “Mr Erdogan’s government should also turn more of its attention to the economy. The AKP’s record on the economy is strong, but that has been due in part to a benign world economic situation. Times are more difficult now, and Turkey, with a gaping current account deficit and rising inflation, is again looking vulnerable. More liberalization would help keep the economy on an even keel.”

The World Socialist Web Site commented.” Against this background, the rivalry between the feuding factions of the Turkish bourgeoisie could explode into new conflict at any time. President Abdullah Gul is due to appoint three new members of the Constitutional Court in two years time, as well as 21 university rectors. Even the appointment of acknowledged Islamists as new rectors would be sufficient to re-ignite political tensions and precipitate a fresh crisis.”

Commented Yusuf Kanli, a veteran Turkish journalist “ the AKP now has to demonstrate that it indeed got the message the court issued and start moderating itself by giving up the post July 22 majority obsession, lending an ear to what the opposition says and try to understand sentiments of the secularists. Thus the AKP and the prime minister must try to soothe tensions rather than refusing to acknowledge his and the AKP`s share in the alarming level of polarization Turkey has been surfing in for some time.

“For example, the prime minister must swiftly act now to conform with the local and international court rulings regarding compulsory religious education in Turkish schools, realize the pain of non-Sunnis as well as non-Muslims because of compulsory Muslim Sunni indoctrination at our secondary schools.

“The AKP and Erdogan must understand that the Constitutional Court underlined in all clarity that the arrogant “What if turban is a political symbol” approach undermining secularist concerns and ignoring reform demands in all other areas except enhancing religious freedoms did no good to anyone.”

Power to make Fundamental changes in the Constitution
-Turkey and India

Apart from lifting the ban on the veil and other such measures, AKP’s talk of major amendments in the Constitution was the main reason for the case. Commented political analyst Andrew Arato on the crisis;  “The Constitution of 1982 has unchangeable provisions that the parliament cannot alter even with 100% of the vote having to do with the republican, secular and unitary character of the state. (Articles 1, 2,3 made unchangeable by Art. 4). Moreover the Constitutional Court is given jurisdiction to review amendments (art 148/149). Though this jurisdiction is defined as procedural, logically the Court would be correct to argue that any procedure (i.e. any majority, even 100%) that changes the unchangeable is ultravires.

“Thus if Turkish Constitutional Court judged the amendments in question unconstitutional on the bases of the unchangeable articles it would have still not have gone as far stretching its jurisdiction as the great Indian Supreme Courts did, in defense of the unwritten “basic structure” of the Indian Constitution. Admittedly, the Indian Constitution was democratically made, and there the Court could arguably defend the work of the democratic pouvoir constituant, against mere governmental organs, including the qualified parliamentary majority. In Turkey the Constitution was an authoritarian product, and it may seem paradoxical to defend its unchangeable provisions against democratically elected parliaments.” (This is strictly not true. The 1982 Constitution was approved in a referendum.)

The Republican state was created by a secular military after a long war of independence under Kemal Ataturk giving the nation its secular Constitution, so the Kemalist establishment is a major stakeholder. It would not allow what could have happened in Algeria, if the 2nd round of elections with assured victory to Islamic Salvation Front had been completed in Algeria in 1992.

It must be remembered that in the ‘the Book’ based polity of Islam, the lines between the Mir and the Pir, the temporal ruler and spiritual ruler still remain blurred, contested and changing. Look at what has happened in Pakistan, where the military has been Islamized and has killed the plant of democracy. Of course it suits Anglo Americans, but in Turkey the secular establishment of Judiciary, military, academician and others would not like the nation to be taken back to the religious Ottoman era.

‘Ergenekon’ Mystery and Trials

On July 15, 2008 Istanbul Chief Prosecutor Aykut Cengiz Engin submitted the indictment against the Ergenekon to Turkey's top criminal court. In a 2,455-page indictment he accused 86 suspects, 48 in custody, including retired—and even active—members of the armed forces, as well as academics, journalists, political activists, and organized crime figures. Those arrested included retired generals Hursit Tolon and Sener Eruygur as well as the head of the Ankara Chamber of Commerce, Sinan Aygun.

The charges were: "membership in an armed terrorist group"; "aiding and abetting an armed terrorist organization"; "attempting to destroy the government of the Republic of Turkey"; "inciting people to rebel against the Republic of Turkey"; "being in possession of explosives, using them, and inciting others to commit these crimes"; "encouraging soldiers to disobey superiors"; "openly provoking hatred and hostility"; and other similar crimes.

The specific crimes cover the 2006 armed attack on the Council of State High Courthouse, where one High Court judge was killed; and a shooting and hand-grenade attack at the Istanbul office of the newspaper Cumhuriyet. The Turkish media compared the Ergenekon to Italy's Gladio "stay behind" terrorist network, and identified it as part of the "deep state" apparatus. But Prof Dr. Mustafa Acar, wrote in July 2 the Turkish pro AKP daily Zaman. Entitled "'Ergenekon': An Opportunity for Peace Between State and People," He describes the group as the "Turkish branch of Gladio—designed as a semi-military organization in NATO," but also points to the deeper role of the Progress and Union Party, also known as the Committee of Union and Progress or CUP, which was the organization of the Young Turks in the early 1900s.

Basically it is an attempt to discredit Turkish armed forces , which had created the National Security Council (NSC) to channelize complaints and grievances from midlevel military officers. It avoided many Colonel led coups .NSC was constituted in Pakistan too on take over in 1999 by Gen Musharraf, who had spent his school years in Ankara.

Ergenekon is a mythical place located in the inaccessible valleys of the Altay mountains in Mongolia from where the Turkish people originated.  In one version of the myth a proto-historic Turkish tribe was ambushed and decimated with the exception of a single child who was nursed by a female wolf. His offsprings thrive and an iron-smith builds a huge bellow and smelters the mountain thus opening a passage out from the valley. A she-wolf Asena shows them the way out. Fascist and nationalist groups in Turkey call themselves 'Gray Wolves'.

Saudi ‘Green Money’ for AKP’s Benefit

Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute wrote an article “Green Money, Islamist Politics in Turkey” for the Middle East Quarterly of 2005. He said -

“A decade ago, Turks discussed the influence of the "deep state," the shadowy network of generals, intelligence officials, and—among conspiracy theorists—organized crime bosses. Today, in private conversations in teahouses and in the National Assembly, many Turkish officials discuss green money and AKP financial opacity as the new threat. Money buys the short-term popularity necessary to initiate long-term changes, be they in Turkey's foreign or domestic policy. Under apparent Saudi influence, such changes will likely further erode Turkish secularism.
Is Erdogan's party a threat to Turkish secularism, or the product of it? Does the AKP represent an Islamist Trojan horse, or the benign Islamic equivalent of Europe's numerous Christian Democrat political parties? Wonders Rubin.
If the AKP is able to translate money into power and power into money, then the main loser will be Turkish secularism. As an executive with one of Istanbul's largest firms said, "The AKP is like a cancer. You feel fine, but then one day you start coughing blood. By the time you realize there's a problem, it's too far-gone.”

AKP came to power on the strength of its image as fresh and honest party amid a sea of corrupt establishment parties, but AKP's own finances have become murky , blurring the distinction between business and politics. Turkish domestic and foreign policy is influenced by the influx of what is called Yesil Sermaye, "green money," from wealthy Islamist businessmen and Middle Eastern states.

Some Turkish professional bureaucrats, businessmen, journalists, and even politicians raised the question of Saudi money flowing into AKP coffers through green money business intermediaries. "The problem is Saudi Arabia. If you solve that, then our problem is solved," one independent parliamentarian told Rubin A former member of the AKP concurred: "Before the 2002 election, there were rumors that an AKP victory would lead to an infusion of $10-$20 billion, mostly from Saudi Arabia. It looks like the rumors came true."

While Turkish journalists and officials acknowledge that Saudi investment in Turkey and Turkish politics has increased since 2002, the exact nature of the investment is murky and circumstantial. Prior to the AKP's 2002 election victory, Abdullah Gül criticized state scrutiny of the Islamic enterprises, accusing the secular government of acting unfairly. Between 1983 and 1991, Gül worked as a specialist at the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The Islamic banks—and especially those sponsored by Saudi Arabia—regularly channel money to Islamist enterprises. On November 9, 2004, Deniz Baykal, leader of the parliamentary opposition Republican People's Party, accused the AKP of trying to create a religious-based economy. It is also affecting Turkey’s foreign policy.

Riyadh wants to build up Turkey as a powerful Sunni state to counter Iran’s influence, but Ankara has followed a rational policy so far.

While Erdogan has been silent on the issue, in August 2001, Rahmi Koç, chairman of Koç Holding, Turkey's largest and oldest conglomerate commented on CNN Türk that Erdogan has a US$1 billion fortune and asked the source of his wealth. Some Turkish economists suggest that after 11/9 Saudi and other Persian Gulf citizens' liquidated their U.S. holdings Some bankers estimate that individual Saudi investors withdrew between $100 and $200 billion. One Turkish economist suggested that, even if Saudi citizens moved $20 billion to France, $10 billion to Lebanon, and $6 billion to Switzerland, there would still be ample funds left to invest unofficially in Turkey. The money may support legitimate businesses. But, if both the investor and business fail to declare it, then such funds might remain immune to taxation and regulation. Various estimated of the green money infusion into the Turkish economy is between $6 billion and $12 billon.

Much of the money enters Turkey "in suitcases" with couriers and remains in the unofficial economy. Even when deposited, banks ask no questions about the origins of the cash. "Money laundering is one of the worst aspects of Turkish politics," a former state planning official said. Political parties across the political spectrum have illegal slush fund. Under the AKP, the unofficial economy has grown exponentially.

Official Turkish statistics provide some clue as to the scope of the problem. Between 2002 and 2003, the summary balance of payments for net error and omission category—basically unexplained income—increased from $149 million to almost $4 billion. This is an eighty-year record error. In the first six months of 2004, an additional $1.3 billion entered the system, its origins unaccounted. According to Kesici, an economist there could be as much as a $2 billion overestimation in tourism revenue.

Media like elsewhere has been corporatized . So while Turkey has a vibrant press and a number of national papers, there has been a tremendous consolidation of ownership to just a few companies. The Dogan Group, for example, owns not only well-known dailies like Hürriyet and Milliyet but also Radikal, Posta, and the Turkish Daily News among others. Together these capture perhaps 50 percent of total Turkish daily circulation. In addition, Dogan Group television stations like CNN Türk and Kanal D have perhaps a 20 percent market share. The problem is not that Dogan companies always tow the party line. Many Turkish journalists produce hard-hitting analysis. But a number of journalists complain of self-censorship. The same media barons who own a large portion of the press have branched into other sectors where they are more dependent on government largesse. "Everyone is vulnerable—economically and politically—if they oppose the government," a businessman explained. It is foolhardy to annoy the government. The Uzan group which opposed AKP was decimated.

K ajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. br /> Copy right with the author E-mail ef="mailto:kgsingh@yahoo.com"> kgsingh@yahoo.com

6-Feb-2010
More by :  K. Gajendra Singh
 
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