Behind closed doors, Erdoğan said he could not have any contact with any Israeli officials until "peace" is enforced. As a matter of fact, information leaked from the Prime Ministry indicates Israeli officials who want to pay a visit to Turkey are being turned down and urged to "bring in peace first." Will Erdoğan and his government remain satisfied with this as the rage against Israel increases in the AKP and the party’s radical grassroots demand action?
What can be done? The answer comes from the AKP Central Executive Board, or MKYK. As Erdoğan explained in the MKYK meeting that the ceasefire is a must and no contact would be established with Israel unless they provide peace in the region. "At this point, there is nothing to talk about but the ceasefire," said Erdoğan, according to a MKYK member who also gave the details of Erdoğan’s tour in the Middle East and his contacts with the Western leaders.
Some MKYK members ask for "sanctions" against Israel. Several members even suggested rehashing the controversial military agreements reached between Israel and Turkey in the past. During the REFAHYOL coalition period, former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan had stricken a few military contracts with Israel. In the AKP opposition period Erdoğan and Abdullah Gül criticized them and regarded as a "shame." But now, some members of the MKYK asked for the revival of the said agreements. On Aug. 28, 1996, for instance, an agreement for modernization of F-4s and F-16s in the Turkish Air Force was signed. Another one was signed for military cooperation, mutual personnel training also in 1996. And other governments at different times also had political, commercial, military and strategic deals with Israel.
That, some AKP members in the MKYK suggested sanctions through these agreements. Erdoğan listened to them but made no comment. For now, they have remained as suggestions. If Israel remains in Gaza and if the death toll increases more, will the AKP try to tame down the rage in the grassroots by reviving the contracts? It seems that "diplomacy speech" will continue and I think Israel’s attitude determines where the words come to an endÉ
It seems that the military as well is concerned, just like the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, leader Deniz Baykal, that the arrests are not "judicial" but "political." These "serious concerns" once again have become apparent when Başbuğ, who is known as the "ice warrior," met Erdoğan after a six-hour commanders’ summit. "Melting" period between the military and the AKP government concerning laicism has been replaced by "tension atmosphere" due to the latest detentions.
Apparently, the Ergenekon case will give birth to serious results not only at the top of the state but in political arena as well. Turkey will hold local polls on March 29. And general elections are almost four years away. The Ergenekon case will not come to conclusion by March 29. Therefore, the verdict will have no direct impact on the local elections. However, one easily can see that the Ergenekon case will likely be used as an election gimmick in campaign trials by the governing AKP and the main opposition CHP. The CHP gives the impression that they will focus on "corruption" and the AKP’s settling the score with the regime on the axis of the Ergenekon case. Or in a way, the fight between laics and anti-laics will hunt us again. The AKP, on the other hand, will voice their struggle with crime gangs and try to beat the CHP at this point.
It is impossible to see who will win what by adopting such approaches in the local polls. But it could be useful to share a comment on general elections that has already circled around the back doors of Parliament because by the time of the upcoming elections, which will be held in four years from now, the Ergenekon case will be concluded. And the verdict will be a key element to shape up both the government and the opposition in Turkey. If the claims in the case of the century, Ergenekon, are proven at the court, Baykal who volunteered to be advocate of this case will be in a difficult position. But if the court says the claims are baseless and especially if the detainee generals are set free, then Erdoğan saying "I am the prosecutor of this case" will have a difficult time to express himself. We could easily make the following prediction: Regardless of its conclusion, the Ergenekon will seriously shake politics.
Parties reveal election budgets
On the first day of 2009, Erdoğan announced Melih Gökçek as his candidate for Ankara mayor, Asım Güzelbey for Gaziantep and Ahmet Küçükler for Erzurum. He obviously had doubts in these provinces. Plenty of opinion polls and delaying his announcement revealed his concerns in the deep. It was also known that party members had troubles with these names who fail to have the support of the party establishment and parliamentary deputies. So alternatives were being looked for in the AKP. Alright, but why did Erdoğan decide to go ahead with them, although he is not much willing?
At the beginning, the AKP had tended toward winning the bastions of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, and the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP. Erdoğan wanted to win the provinces such as Diyarbakır, Batman, İzmir, Trabzon, Eskişehir in addition to the Çankaya county in Ankara. In these cities, however, ambitious candidates did not come forward. Even in Diyarbakır, the AKP couldn’t find anyone to nominate and had to announce Abdurrahman Kurt for the city. Economic crisis, corruption claims, rival candidates and opinion polls that were not going well for the AKP pushed Erdoğan to go for a tactical change. So he adopted a strategy to protect his own castles rather than take over that of the others. Although this tactic may not maintain the 47 percent AKP won in 2007 general elections, it could at least prove the 41 percent victory of the 2004 local elections in which the AKP won a total of 51 provinces, 12 of which are big cities, 468 counties and 1,247 villages.
Alevis send invites to non-Muslims
The only solid AKP opening toward Alevis was an Alevi fast-breaking dinner (iftar) last year. A second similar dinner will be held on Jan. 7 in Istanbul. The AKP couldn’t do any other openings toward Alevis, but Alevis have already opened up to non-Muslims and invited leaders of the non-Muslim congregations to the dinner. The AKP Istanbul Deputy Reha Çamuroğlu justifies the reason as "An emphasis on multi-religion Istanbul." That’s fine but will the AKP make a step forward to Alevis? We’ll hear it from Erdoğan who will participate in the dinner. If there comes out no solid AKP step, the opening will unavoidably be read as a "pie in the sky."
Köksal’s study will become the new agenda item in April because he is planning to reintroduce a new constitution draft. First item on the agenda is formation of a new office, "Turkey Representative." Previously, he made an attempt of "Consensus Commission" initiative but he had to shelve it when the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, did not agree to send any officer to the commission.
The commission did not come to life but the Parliamentary Bylaw Consensus Commission was established instead, becoming a key step for constitutional changes. Any modifications on the bylaw make some constitutional amendments necessary. Upon the need for changes, Toptan gave a directive for the formation of a scholars’ delegation consisting of experts in the subject area and launched a "narrow-scope constitutional amendment." The study will be completed by March. Following the local elections, Toptan will present it to political parties’ view. The main item is the creation of "Turkey representative."
I asked Toptan about the new constitution initiative. Toptan, recalling that the bylaw necessitated some changes, sees this as an opportunity for constitutional amendments on which parties may agree. Toptan said he would visit party leaders, immediately after the elections, present the study and ask for their help. The parliament speaker is especially hopeful for the "Turkey representative." Let’s look at the details together:
Parliament will consist of 550 deputies, 450 of who will be elected in accordance with the current system. The remaining 100 deputies will be named "Turkey representatives." They will be determined with respect to voting percentages of the parties. A deputy will represent any political party that reached 1 percent even if the party fails to overcome the national threshold. Therefore, small parties including the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, will have the chance to be represented in Parliament. Parties will be able to nominate any scientists, scholars, intellectuals, artists or businessmen or other respectable individuals.
On one side candidates are being determined and targets are being revealed on the other. The most ambitious politician is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Months ago he started the castle war. He revealed the desire to take over İzmir, the castle of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, and the Çankaya district in Ankara. Erdoğan also underlined that he wants Diyarbakır in the Southeast, the castle of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, for years. That was not enough for him. Erdoğan paid visits to the region, criticized DTP municipalities, created a problem out of litter in streets and claimed, "We will wipe off the dirt."
An important backdrop was behind Erdoğan’s bold ambition to take over the "castles" which he voiced long ago. In the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, he was planning to introduce "strong candidates" for the CHP and the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, castles: State Minister Kürşad Tüzmen for CHP’s castle Mersin, Culture Minister of Ertuğrul Günay for CHP’s castle İzmir, Public Works Minister Faruk Özak for Trabzon, Agriculture Minister Medhi Eker for DTP’s castle Diyarbakır. But there is more.
The slogan "castles will be taken over by ministers" was put into action. Erdoğan selected four ministers from the Cabinet as new candidates and therefore has a chance of revision at the Council of Ministers. But the Prime Minister changed his mind. This time "deputy candidate" formula was introduced at the party’s central executive. AKP’s Abdurrahman Kurt was considered for Diyarbakır, Orhan Gümrükçüoğlu for Trabzon, Erdal Kalkan for İzmir.
As the committee gave up the project of "minister candidates" and narrowed the objectives, the "castle" self-criticism was being voiced. Some committee members said the move to take over the castles was a mistake.