2005-11-08 07:35:00
Embassy Ankara
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080735Z Nov 05
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 006586 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/12/2015

Classified By: POL Counselor John W. Kunstadter, for reasons 1.4 (b) &

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 006586


E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/12/2015

Classified By: POL Counselor John W. Kunstadter, for reasons 1.4 (b) &

1. (C) Summary. Turkey's three main left-of-center parties
have been unable to mount a serious challenge to the
governing AKP. The left-of-center parties share similar
ideologies and compete for the same minor segment of the
Turkish electorate but are unable to cooperate and are
plagued by political infighting. The parties are also
seriously limited by a tradition of authoritarian leadership
and an elitist unwillingness to engage in the unglamorous
work of grassroots party building. End Summary.

2. (C) AKP remains the most popular of Turkey,s political
parties. The party has made important political and
tactical mistakes over the past several months, but the
opposition parties have been unable to capitalize on
AKP,s missteps. The Republican People's Party (CHP) is not
only fighting itself, but also fighting with the two other
left-of-center parties: the Social Democratic People's Party
(SHP),and the Democratic Left Party (DSP). All have very
similar ideologies. Their differences are largely rooted in
the historical struggles between personalities and factions
vying for the leadership of the Turkish left. The three
parties are competing for the same 20-30 percent of the
Turkish electorate that has traditionally supported
"secular", left-of-center parties. Only a single
left-of-center party has managed to cross the 10 percent
electoral threshold in four of the six national elections
since 1983. In the other two national elections, two
left-of-center parties crossed the threshold.

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3. (C) Despite their steadfast opposition to AKP and their
fear that AKP is trying to undermine the "secular"
republic,s status quo, main opposition CHP continues its
internecine struggle. In the aftermath of the January 2005
leadership dust-up, Chairman Baykal has launched a purge
against his opponents within the party, according to
several Embassy sources. He is systematically removing all
CHP leaders who supported his main rivals, CHP Sisli mayor
Sarigul or CHP MP Livaneli, for the party chairmanship.
Baykal has already removed 23 of the 81 provincial party

chairmen and purged an additional 250 sub-provincial party
leaders, according to former CHP MP Ersoy Bulut. Forty-one
CHP MPs signed a statement condemning Baykal,s removal of
the popular chairman of Izmir province.

4. (C) In January, Baykal promised that the party would hold
another convention in the fall of 2005 and that he would not
run as a candidate, but several Embassy contacts believe that
Baykal will either cancel the October convention or run
again. Baykal continues to lay the groundwork for his
control of the party whether or not he holds a convention.
As he has done repeatedly in the past to retain control of
the party, Baykal has registered 5,000 new, loyal party
members in Izmir province in an effort to keep this large,
"rebellious" province in line.

5. (C) Several CHP MPs have told us that around fifty of
CHP,s 159 MPs no longer attend parliamentary party meetings.
Five party members have already defected to SHP and three
others have defected to the liberal, center-right Motherland
Party (ANAP). Several Embassy contacts with connections to
CHP and SHP predict that 20-60 CHP MPs may leave the party
over the next several months, especially if Baykal does not
step down in October or if SHP appears to build momentum.
Generally reliable, dissident CHP contacts like MP Hasan
Aydin and former state minister Erol Cevik, however, predict
that only a trickle of MPs will leave the party.


6. (C) The defection of five CHP MPs to the SHP has added new
life to a small party. (Comment. Later on, one of the
five SHP MPs defected again, this time to the Motherland
Party (ANAP). End Comment.) The current SHP
is the second incarnation of a party with the same name. The
first SHP existed from 1987 to 1995. It was the second
or third largest party in parliament and formed a coalition
government at one point with the center-right True Path
Party (DYP). In 1995, however, SHP merged with CHP. The
second SHP was formed in 2001 when several CHP members
defected from the party over concerns that Baykal had become
too dictatorial. SHP failed to pass the 10 percent
electoral threshold in 1999 and 2002.

7. (C) SHP Secretary General Cafer Yuksel describes his party
as a contemporary social democratic party that seeks
to combine modern social democracy with Turkish
social-economic and constitutional realities and a respect
for the Ataturkist elements of the state. He admits that
SHP's ideology is similar to CHP's and asserts that there are
many "good people" still in CHP. According to Yuksel, most
SHP members were people who had been members of CHP but left
because of Baykal's excessive authoritarianism and their
desire to create a truly internally democratic social
democratic party. Other Embassy contacts, including former
SHP secretary general Fikri Saglar, claim that SHP's
leadership is already moving in an authoritarian direction.
The party's public image was badly damaged in 2002 when SHP
flirted with an electoral alliance with a pro-Kurdish party.
According to Saglar, the SHP's grassroots supported the
merger, but party leader Murat Karayalcin blocked it.


8. (C) Democratic Left Party (DSP) Secretary General Tayfun
Icli says his party is not a social democratic party like
CHP and SHP, but a "nationalistic, leftist, secular, and
democratic" party. DSP won the 1999 election with 22 percent
of the vote, but the party's popularity was decimated by
corruption allegations, the twin economic shocks of 2000 and
2001, and then-PM ecevit's frailty. In the 2002 election,
DSP received less than two percent of the vote. DSP leaders
do not expect DSP to come back to parliament anytime soon.
DSP VP Huseyin Pazarci is not optimistic about DSP returning
to parliament after the next election. He believes it will
take time for CHP to fully discredit itself, after which
left-of-center voters would return to DSP. SecGen Tayfun and
DSP VP Ahmet Tan, moreover, do not expect many CHP MPs to
defect to DSP. The previous DSP-led coalition government was
brought down by defections from DSP, so those who remain in
the party have a strong aversion to accepting MPs defecting
from other parties.

9. (C) Comment. For a number of reasons, Turkish center-left
opposition political parties have been unable to capitalize
on the inertia, missteps, and problems confronting Erdogan
and the AKP. The major reason is that the public views them
as vehicles for elitist, authoritarian, and self-serving
politicians who have failed in the past, either because of
corruption or poor performance in government.

10. (C) Comment, contd.: A second major reason for the
left-of-center opposition,s failure is its refusal to engage
in the unglamorous work of retail, grassroots party building.
AKP focuses precisely on this grassroots work, giving it a
huge organizational advantage over its rivals. Finally,
left-of-center parties have failed to overcome the
traditional lack of intra-party democracy in Turkey. While
AKP suffers from the same defect, internal party reform could
breathe new life into parties on the left. As things stand,
party members are promoted for unthinking loyalty to the
party leader, not for innovation or political skill. This
contributes to tactical and ideological stagnation, and
attenuates the center-left,s ability to mount a serious
challenge to AKP. End Comment.