wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy  Privacy
IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
04ANKARA2119 2004-04-13 07:39:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Ankara
Cable title:  

TURKISH POLITICS: OPPOSITION CHP LEADER BAYKAL

Tags:   PREL PGOV TU 
pdf how-to read a cable


1. (C) Summary: Opposition CHP chairman Baykal and his allies
in the party continue their campaign of denial in the face of
fierce intra-party criticism. Their hold on the party
leadership appears solid for now, following a marathon of
recent meetings in which CHP members at all levels -- most of
whom owe their jobs to Baykal -- re-affirmed their support
for the CHP chairman. However, the leadership's inability to
evaluate its policies critically will further undermine
support within the rank and file and will undercut what
little credibility the party has with ordinary citizens. End
summary.




--------------------------


In For The Long Haul


--------------------------






2. (C) Amid growing calls for wholesale change in the party
leadership, main opposition CHP leader Deniz Baykal and his
increasingly shrinking circle of allies are digging in their
heels. In the party's 6 April Parliamentary Group meeting,
which lasted over 11 hours (group meetings usually conclude
after two or three), Baykal picked up where he left off at
his now notorious post-election press conference (reftel).
According to our contacts in the party and mainstream press,
Baykal asserted that despite a negative media campaign
against CHP, the party still received 18 percent of the vote.
He also claimed that without him as party leader, CHP would
have won less support.




4. (C) In a subsequent meeting with poloff, Baykal's chief
advisor Bulent Tanla not surprisingly echoed his boss, to
whom Tanla owes his political career. Tanla - a former
pollster for Gallup -- told us that the municipal election
results represent neither a victory nor a defeat. "It
depends on how one looks at the data; in information theory,
there are facts and how one views those facts. A a result,
no point of view can be said to be wrong," he argued. He
conceded that CHP lost around 200,000 votes when compared to
Nov. 2002 but added that "we still received 5.6 million
votes; that's the population of Belgium."




5. (C) Although utterly convinced that CHP is on the right
path, Tanla revealingly said that ordinary citizens listen to
CHPers speak, then listen to AKP members speak, and vote for
the party whose representatives sound most like themselves.
In this case, as in Nov. 2002, it was overwhelmingly AKP.




6. (C) In an April 12 meeting, CHP Diyarbakir M.P. and close
Embassy contact Mesut Deger confirmed to us that Baykal is
not going anywhere soon. Deger explained that Baykal
convened both the party assembly and provincial chairmen on
April 10-11 in Ankara. Both groups -- whose members owe
their jobs to Baykal -- gave the CHP leader a vote of
confidence, according to Deger, suggesting that change is not
in the offing. Deger added that the party is awaiting the
results of a research committee -- headed by Tanla -- that is
reportedly evaluating the election results in detail.




--------------------------


Opposition Meaningless


--------------------------






7. (C) In his remarks to Parliament, Baykal criticized
intra-party opposition -- particularly former State Minister
Kemal Dervis, who recently published a lengthy report on
social democracy in Turkey that criticized CHP policy.
Baykal pointedly said he will not change party policy on
Iraq, Cyprus, or on the headscarf issue. Any effort to do so
is an effort to turn CHP into ruling AKP (AKP'lilestirmek),
he asserted.




8. (C) Like Baykal, Tanla was dismissive of opposition in the
party, even though nine prominent M.P.s, including Embassy
contact and party executive board member Hakki Akalin, had
just called for Baykal to resign. Tanla suggested that
discontent is the point of equilibrium for a CHP Parliament
group, adding that opposition inside the party had always
existed since the time of Ismet Inonu, Ataturk's right-hand
man. As if searching for any theme that could mollify the
party's critics, Tanla asserted that the party needs young
faces, although he could not explain how that might happen.
Without prompting, Tanla rejected the possibility that Dervis
could mount a serious challenge: "I meet with Dervis all the
time; he doesn't even want to be leader."




9. (C) CHP Denizli M.P. Mehmet Nessar, who serves on
Parliament's NATO assembly and who is normally free of
knuckleheaded thinking, told us recently that the thrust of
Dervis' criticism is that: 1) Baykal has refused to accept
new members into the party; 2) CHP provincial and district
level officials are only out to benefit materially from their
positions; and 3) the party is stuck in the 1930's. While
conceding that Dervis' points are true, Nessar nevertheless
claimed that Dervis would have been better served if he had
worked behind the scenes versus expressing his criticisms
aloud.




--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------






10. (C) As we noted reftel, CHP's problems run deeper than
Baykal. Indeed, Tanla himself said that "the party's
problems have nothing to do with the party's leader; changing
personnel won't solve problems." Yet it is difficult to see
how the party under Baykal will ever change in the way that a
small number of more forward-thinking CHP members hope.




11. (C) We continue to be struck by CHP's total lack of
connection to the common man here. As Hacettepe University
sociologist/anthropologist Suavi Aydin told us April 12, CHP
is now seen as merely the party of a close-minded elite. In
this regard, Tanla's admission that voters choose parties
whose members resemble themselves in speech and manner is
especially revealing. In another instructive example, Tanla
questioned Secretary Powell's recent remarks on Turkey and
Islam. Tanla suggested that Turkey is getting poorer and
that education levels are falling (while avoiding
acknowledging CHP's direct share of responsibility for this
trend). Tanla wondered whether the Secretary sees Turkey in
the same light and is therefore predicting that Turkey will
become an Islamic Republic.
EDELMAN