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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07ANKARA588 2007-03-14 15:34:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Ankara
Cable title:  

TURKEY: PRESSURE MOUNTING ON PM ERDOGAN BEFORE

Tags:   PGOV PREL TU 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 000588 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/02/2027
TAGS: PGOV PREL TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: PRESSURE MOUNTING ON PM ERDOGAN BEFORE
PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATIONS

REF: ANKARA 563

Classified By: Ambassador Ross Wilson for Reasons 1.4 (b, d)



1. (C) SUMMARY: Prime Minister Erdogan is the target of a
growing pressure campaign from various quarters in the run-up
to the filing for presidential candidacy on April 16. Recent
remarks by military and opposition leaders, along with
provocative media campaigns, are ratcheting up the tension in
an effort to force the ruling Justice and Development Party
(AKP) to respond or, preferably, stumble. Numerous events
planned for the election period will also offer Erdogan's
adversaries an opportunity to provoke and intensify the
current atmosphere of anxiety. The potential for this
pressure to generate a crisis situation is real, though
opponents of an Erdogan presidency have so far largely been
unable to mobilize the public. Both Erdogan and the
establishment, particularly the TGS, must calculate carefully
the risks of further increasing tensions in an already
volatile atmosphere. END SUMMARY.



2. (C) Chief of the General Staff General Yasar Buyukanit's
public sparring with the AKP (reported reftel) has elevated
tensions here. Combined with the 10th anniversary of the
TGS's "February 28 process" (the post-modern coup that
resulted in the collapse of the then-Islamist-led
government), this has renewed focus on just how delicate the
balance is between military and the AKP-led civilian
government. Former military officers, often interpreted as
messengers for TGS, have been forthright in their opposition
to an Erdogan presidency. Former TGS chief General Gunes
recently said that Erdogan should not become the president;
should he insist on it, "chaos will emerge" because the
military would refuse to go to the presidential palace (in
part because Erdogan's wife wears a headscarf). He spoke
favorably of former TGS chief General Hilmi Ozkok becoming
president.



3. (C) Republican People's Party (CHP) chairman Deniz Baykal
on the same day also publicly invoked the specter of "chaos."
He resurrected his claim that AKP needs two-thirds of
parliament to open the session for the first round of
presidential voting (which would require the presence of at
least 13 non-AKP members) and asserted that the issue may be
referred to the Constitutional Court. If the Court were to
find that the first round had not been valid and conclude
that the president had not been elected legitimately, Turkey
would automatically hold parliamentary elections in 90 days.
The opposition pushed this strategy forcefully in January in
an attempt to force the AKP to put up a compromise candidate
or hold parliamentary elections prior to, rather than after,
the presidential election. Although many experts on
parliamentary procedure concluded that both the constitution
and historical precedent indicate only one-third of the total
seats is necessary to convene parliament, for weeks
newspapers were filled with prominent jurists defending the
higher threshold.



4. (C) CHP-ally Cumhuriyet newspaper has been running a
sustained campaign of provocative prime-time television
commercials and front-page, above-the-fold warnings about the
presidential election for several weeks. Mainly funereal
black and bearing the birth and imaginary death dates of the
founder of modern Turkey (1881-2007), the ads warn, "On May
15, Turkey will go back in time 100 years... Are you aware of
the danger? Defend your republic." Clearly frustrated with
the bogeyman tactics, Erdogan reportedly told his
parliamentary group that the opposition "wants to scare
people and make them passive. Turkey will not become this
kingdom of horror."



5. (C) Apart from the pressures already brought to bear,
several upcoming events could provide openings for provoking
social disturbance. Some could take place once the
presidential election window opens on April 16. The
Ataturkist Thought Association plans to hold republican
parades two days before the election period begins. Middle
East Technical University's alumni association is organizing
a meeting of 500 NGOs to discuss the presidential issue.
DISK Labor Confederation plans to hold its May 1 rally in
Taksim Square in central Istanbul -- a location they have
shunned for 30 years, since its May Day rally resulted in a
number of deaths; DISK has already made clear its opposition
to an Erdogan presidency.

ANKARA 00000588 002 OF 002





6. (C) COMMENT. The military and some opposition leaders
seem determined to flash the crisis signs ahead of any AKP
(particularly Erdogan) bid for the presidency. Anti-Erdogan
and anti-AKP impulses are deeply felt in some sectors of
society, and -- although they vary widely -- polls indicate
that many Turks would not favor the perceived imbalance of an
AKP triple crown (prime ministry, parliament speaker, and
presidency). One disturbing development is the mushrooming
of ultra-nationalist, racist organizations whose broader
agenda encompasses opposition to an Erdogan presidency; many
of these like-minded hate-groups are run by or associated
with retired military officers and have close ties to an
array of media, from a daily newspaper to several television
stations. With less than five weeks until the opening of the
presidential election period, Erdogan's opponents have
underwhelmed with their street presence. If state
establishment power centers remain true to form, they will
flex their muscles behind closed doors and use tactics such
as threatening to publicize a rumored dossier on Erdogan's
corrupt or immoral activities. The temperature here will
continue to heat up, and more dramatic events during the
presidential race and its aftermath seem likely. END COMMENT.

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

WILSON