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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06ANKARA6460 2006-11-20 15:22:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Ankara
Cable title:  

AKP PARTY CONGRESS: AIMING AT THE 2007 ELECTION

Tags:   PGOV PREL TU 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 ANKARA 006460 

SIPDIS

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/16/2031
TAGS: PGOV PREL TU
SUBJECT: AKP PARTY CONGRESS: AIMING AT THE 2007 ELECTION

REF: A. ANKARA 4102

B. ANKARA 6727

Classified By: Political Counselor Janice G. Weiner for Reasons 1.4(b),
(d)



1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The second ordinary congress of Turkey's
ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) saw Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan re-elected as party chairman without
contest and conveyed an image of the five-year old party as a
mature, sophisticated organization with a domestic focus but
global reach. In his speech, Erdogan avoided or glossed over
controversial topics, including the future of the party, to
sing a number that hit all the right notes: Ataturk's
principles, social solidarity, and AKP's many economic
successes. The convention amended party by-laws to further
consolidate power and control at the top to ensure a smooth
transition from Erdogan to his likely heir, FM Gul, should
Erdogan become Turkey's president in May. Funeral services
for the late Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit distracted from the
convention and delayed Erdogan's arrival by hours; although
the subdued atmosphere may not have been as apparent on
television, the party fizzled before his speech ended. After
a full day of funeral coverage, viewer fatigue may have
reduced the convention's audience at home, too. END SUMMARY.



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


Snappy, Organized ...and Exhausted


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





2. (U) The November 11 convention, the AKP's second, was
striking for its deft organization -- assigned seats,
lanyards, badges, high-quality interpretation headsets, and
bagged lunches for guests who waited much longer for the key
speakers than originally planned. Out of respect for the
funeral of former Prime Minister Ecevit held the same day,
Erdogan ordered the folk dance performance cancelled, and the
convention began with a moment of silence for Ataturk and
Ecevit. Music did not begin until late afternoon, before
party vice chairman Abdullah Gul arrived. Louder music and
rapid-fire video montages of Erdogan with world leaders
presaged the chairman's much-delayed entrance to enthusiastic
cheering, chanting, and flag waving.



3. (SBU) Over the course of Erdogan's two-hour speech,
however, energy levels fizzled. Originally set for morning,
the speech was re-scheduled to two o'clock to accommodate
Erdogan's attendance at Ecevit's funeral. It began closer to
four, due to funeral-related delays. The bused-in crowds
that had waited eagerly for Erdogan all day finally ran out
of steam--and time: their buses were headed home. By the end
of his speech, all the delegates on the floor were in place,
but the risers were 70 percent empty. A few people even
dozed off.



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


An International Smorgasbord: All You Can Eat


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





4. (U) Breaking with past practice, the AKP invited foreign
speakers to address the crowd, in addition to reading the
telegrams from Tony Blair, Angela Merkel and others. Some of
the 14 speakers hailed from ideological affiliates of the
party or of Turkey (Macedonia, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan), but the
roster transcended ideology to showcase AKP's global

ANKARA 00006460 002 OF 004


connections. Organizers hastily rescheduled the guest
speakers to fill the time before Erdogan's speech, but the
extended program wore out the crowd. The European Liberals
representative took the opportunity to blend praise for AKP's
accomplishments with a patronizing lecture beginning with,
"We want you to join, but you must understand what the EU
is." The Chinese Communist Party representative's lengthy
and ceremonial address was cut short by anxious organizers
already well behind schedule. The Iraqi Islamic Party
speaker won applause and whistles of support when he began
his speech with the "bismallah" prayer.



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



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


Erdogan's Speech: "Where Were We, and Where Are We Now?"


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



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





5. (U) Erdogan's speech emphasized the AKP's economic
successes, pointing out that life for regular Turks is more
comfortable now than when AKP took office. He referred to
single digit inflation, buying power, job creation ("we
created as many jobs as there are civil servants"), and the
reduction in interest rates. He talked about Turks traveling
on airplanes "like they used to travel on the bus." He
listed expanded educational capacity, improving hospital
conditions, housing construction, natural gas being extended
to 40 provinces, and KOYDES' role in bringing roads, water
and infrastructure improvements to every city and village in
Turkey. He pointed out AKP's big achievement of reducing the
age to be elected to parliament from 30 to 25 and said that
he hopes to see wo 25-year olds in the next parliament. He
concluded by saying that Turkey was the 20th largest economy
in the world and aspired to be the 6th biggest in the EU.



6. (U) Responding to growing tension in Turkish politics,
Erdogan reacted to those who implicitly warn AKP with the
slogan, "Turkey is secular and will remain secular," by
objecting to politicizing Ataturk's principles: "they are
simply to be implemented." "One should say: Turkey is a
democratic, secular, social state of law. If one of these
four principles does not exist, then the Republic of Turkey
would remain incomplete on the path to becoming a state."



7. (U) On the big themes of social solidarity and peace,
Erdogan decried discrimination on the basis of race,
religion, region, and sex, and described social stability as
the means to destroy the roots of terrorism. He claimed that
AKP has three "redlines:" it rejects ethnic, regional, and
religious forms of nationalism. He described the ethnic
diversity in Turkey as its richness and said that no ethnic
origin should be excluded; the tie between Turks of diverse
backgrounds is their Turkish citizenship: citizens are Turks
plus their ethnic origin. He acknowledged that some regions
had been neglected and pointed to the village support program
KOYDES as a tool to improve that situation. He gave a nod to
the diversity of religious sects and denied any
discrimination against them.



8. (U) On international issues, Erdogan portrayed Turkey as a
world contributor. Turkish soldiers are not just defending
borders, but bringing peace to the world. He reminded that
the process of joining the EU started in 1959 and said, "We
always stick to our promises in a way that suits our
citizens." Recalling the Greek-Cypriot rejection of the
Bergenstock agreement, he defended the government's record on
Cyprus: "We gave Northern Cyprus the prestige that didn't

ANKARA 00006460 003 OF 004


exist before us; you can't say that Cyprus has been given
away."



9. (U) Erdogan touched only lightly on Israel/Palestine,
saying that no human being could defend the bombarding of
women and children. His words on Iraq were similarly
measured and brief. He claimed 60 people are dying a day;
the US is suffering 27,000 casualties and 3,000 deaths;
100-150 Turks providing logistical support have been killed.
He welcomed the appointment of the Special Envoys for
Combating the PKK, but warned that Turkey could not wait long
for a positive result.



10. (U) On the character of the AKP, Erdogan declared, "We
are a party of the center." In an effort to portray the
party as one of conscious Muslims rather than one with an
Islamic agenda, he said that AKP does not conduct
"politics-of-identity" but rather "politics-with-identity,"
rejects extremism and fundamentalism, and is a
people-oriented party: "We love the creation, because of the
one who created it." This observation was one of the very
few overt gestures Erdogan made to the faith community in his
speech.




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


AKP Takes a Bite out of Internal Democracy


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





11. (C) Undermining its reputation for intra-party democracy,
AKP delegates adopted some amendment to the party by-laws
that continued a recen trend toward internal
authoritarianism (reftel A). Most significantly, a member
seeking to become a candidate for party chairman must now
obtain the signatures of 20 percent, or 291, of the
delegates. The new threshold will make it easier for FM Gul,
Erdogan's likely heir, to retain control should Erdogan
decide to become president in May (reftel B) by limiting the
number of challengers. Saban Disli, AKP Deputy Chairman for
International Relations, admitted in a November 14 meeting
that the change appears undemocratic and half-heartedly
defended it as necessary to prevent members with marginal
support from muddying the race for party chairman. In the
same vein, Disli sheepishly explained that delegates voted to
let the party chairman choose the 12 powerful deputies from
among the 50 Central Decision Making Board members, rather
than continuing to have the 50 elect the 12. Disli conceded
that the changes were largely driven by delegates' commitment
to Erdogan, and might need to be modified when the party
leadership roster changed.



12. (C) Other by-law amendments pertained to party
discipline, clarifying that members who criticize the party
administrators in the media or who don't follow binding
consensus decisions will face discipline, including
expulsion. Certain amendments, such as ending the special
status of 350 founding party members as "natural delegates",
were in response to a prosecutor's complaint pending before
the Constitutional Court. The party failed to make great
strides in increasing participation by women, despite claims
that this is a priority. The number of female Board members
increased from 10 to 12 (7 without headscarf, 5 covered).
Despite this positive, if modest step, by our calculations,
only ten percent of the delegates were women (50 percent of
those wore headscarves).

ANKARA 00006460 004 OF 004





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


Comment


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





13. (C) Erdogan's speech affirmed that the AKP is driving for
the center-right with a message of tolerance and inclusivity.
He leaned hard on the AKP's acknowledged economic
achievements to appeal to the pocketbook sense of housewives
and working poor and to counter the media's undercoverage
that has contributed to a general lack of appreciation of
these achievements by ordinary Turks. His audience warmly
received his reference to the Creator, but he did not
particularly emphasize the issues -- in particular, education
-- that speak to the more religiously oriented within his
party. The uncontroversial speech and surrounding visuals
conveyed an image of an internationalist, moderate,
world-class leader, and contrasted starkly with the
stridently nationalistic and belligerently anti-AKP tone
heard of late from the secularist establishment, from
President Sezer to opposition party leaders to the military.
More than anything, the television-conscious image
projection, the video montages of Erdogan embracing foreign
leaders, and his preference for bridge-building language over
substantively controversial issues or about the party's
future all point to AKP's mindfulness of next November's
parliamentary election.



14. (C) While many commentators detected subtle signs that
Gul was Erdogan's anointed successor as party leader, the
gestures toward Gul were more likely a continuation of a
successful, if at times tense, unequal partnership with
Erdogan at the helm and Gul and parliamentary speaker Bulent
Arinc in supporting roles. (As speaker, Arinc could not
attend the convention, but delegates received his telegram
with wild enthusiasm). The convention was still clearly the
Tayyip Erdogan Show. If this was indeed Erdogan's last
address to the party, it seems clear he and the party
leadership wanted to cement control and discipline, and lay
the groundwork for a smooth handoff to Gul as the next party
chairman. END COMMENT.


Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/ankara/

WILSON