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Viewing cable 08ANKARA691, IMPLICATIONS OF AKP CLOSURE CASE AND OUR PUBLIC

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ANKARA691 2008-04-11 12:12 2010-11-28 18:06 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Ankara
VZCZCXRO9919
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHFL RUEHKUK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHAK #0691/01 1021244
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 111244Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5884
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/39ABG INCIRLIK AB TU
RHMFISS/425ABG IZMIR TU//CC//
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU
RUEPGAB/MNF-I C2X BAGHDAD IZ
RHMFISS/USCENTCOM SPECIAL HANDLING MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 000691 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
EUCOM PLEASE PASS TO POLAD 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/10/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL TU
SUBJECT: IMPLICATIONS OF AKP CLOSURE CASE AND OUR PUBLIC 
POSTURE 
 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR ROSS WILSON FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D) 
 
1. (c) Summary:  The closure case against Turkey's ruling 
Justice and Development Party (AKP) is a blow to this 
country's future.  It reflects unresolved conflicts about the 
nature of Turkey, the state, the extent of popular democracy 
and the role of religion in society.  It also results from 
failed leadership by PM Erdogan over the nine months since 
his re-election victory last July.  The outcome is uncertain, 
but the crisis here must be viewed through the peculiar 
entity that is Turkish democracy -- imperfect, crabbed, but 
functional in its way.  US priorities are sustaining our 
ability to work with this country on mutual interests and 
supporting its democratic process in a broad sense, but we 
should avoid opining on the specifics of Turkish politics. 
This approach will respect the raucous and historic debate 
and politicking among Turks taking place now about the future 
of their country -- a vital process for democracy here to 
continue to mature.  End Summary. 
 
Implications of the Closure Case 
-------------------------------- 
 
2. (c) Here is one way of looking at the AKP closure case. 
It is an attempted judicial coup, a Clausewitz-like extension 
of politics by legal means.  The indictment reads like a 
political tract.  It relies on newspaper clippings to justify 
excluding the party and 70-odd leaders from politics.  Among 
more bizarre bits of proof that the AKP intends to undo 
secularism are press reports of Secretary Powell praising the 
country,s "moderate Muslim" government and on its support 
for BMENA.  The propriety of banning parties is questionable 
in any democracy.  A ban based on a legally weak indictment 
of a party which nine months ago received 47 percent of the 
vote nationally and pluralities in 76 out of Turkey's 85 
constituencies looks like a travesty for democratic values 
and the rule of law. 
 
3. (c) Another way of looking at the case focuses on its 
consistency with democracy Turkish style.  The constitution 
and laws have long provided for banning politicians and 
dissolving parties, 26 of which have fallen victim.  The AKP 
had many years in office to change this and other 
questionable policies (like Article 301 on insulting 
Turkishness), but did not.  What looks to Western democracies 
like an unusual power in the judiciary to compromise the 
results of last July's election is one of Turkey's check and 
balancing mechanisms to protect the rights of the minority -- 
in this case secularists who feel threatened by the AKP. 
 
4. (c) Some truth exists in both of these points of view. 
One clear thing is that PM Erdogan has stumbled badly.  One 
blunder was failing to make political bans more difficult 
when relevant legislation was amended several years ago.  As 
if dizzy with his own success, Erdogan failed to reassure the 
53 percent who voted against his government last July that it 
would respect their interests too.  He failed to use his 
re-election mandate to continue EU-related reforms that were 
the most formidable tools for calming fears of Islamization 
and untrammeled majority rule.  He allowed himself to be 
goaded by the National Action Party (MHP) into putting the 
headscarf ban at the head of the reform queue.  For this 
short-term populist win, he sacrificed a larger 
constitutional reform package that would have significantly 
strengthened Turkey's democracy.  Effective, progressive 
governance that was the hallmark of early AKP years in office 
dried up in the 2007 election year, and no momentum returned 
after that.  These and other missteps exacerbated fears among 
many that Erdogan was going too far, too fast; that there 
were no effective constraints on the AKP (especially after 
the military's botched intervention last spring); and that 
fundamentalists might soon dominate the bureaucracy, 
judiciary, universities, etc., to change Turkey in dangerous 
and permanent ways. 
 
5. (c) The closure case on its face is a set-back for 
democracy and stability in Turkey.  For many, especially the 
large swath of previously neglected voters who make up 
Turkey's emerging middle class and whom Erdogan's populism 
galvanized, the message is that Turkish democracy is too 
poorly developed to protect their interests against the 
traditional elite.  This message is even more threatening to 
 
ANKARA 00000691  002 OF 003 
 
 
those here who are still marginalized, especially Kurds. 
More broadly, the case looks like, and to some extent is, the 
revenge of an unelected and unaccountable bureaucracy against 
Erdogan and popular democracy.  Turks fear the Deep State and 
many, including strong critics of the AKP, are deeply 
uncomfortable with the judiciary's attempt to manipulate the 
power balance.  Associated turmoil also renders Turkey's 
vulnerable economy more uncertain at a time when global 
trends are already very negative; a big downturn would 
reinforce the sense of crisis here. 
 
6. (c) Today, however, Turkey remains a secure, relatively 
stable emerging democracy.  There is no serious violence on 
the streets, and the economy has not crashed.  The closure 
case is not a catastrophe or the undoing of Turkey's peculiar 
and imperfect democracy, at least not now.  It is better seen 
as one among many moves in a very long chess game that all 
sides here, including Erdogan and the AKP, are adept at 
playing.  The mere fact of the indictment has already 
moderated the AKP's rhetoric and pushed it to emphasize 
effective governance and more consensual policies, especially 
EU accession-related reform.  It is only a slight 
exaggeration to say that this is the way Turkey's crabbed, 
military-drafted constitution intended the system to work. 
Figures ranging from former President Demirel to former 
parliamentary Speaker Cetin have remarked to us recently that 
Turkey has seen worse and will come through these 
difficulties all right.  At this point, at least, their 
reassurances seem more justified than not. 
 
7. (c) How matters will play out in the short-medium term is 
uncertain. 
 
-- A "victorious" AKP will still face intransigent opposition 
from one-third of the public, not to mention the courts, 
bureaucrats and generals. 
 
-- A post-closure AKP will reorganize under a new name and 
almost certainly still have the votes among its un-banned MPs 
to form the next government alone.  People already talk about 
plausible, post-closure scenarios that involve bringing 
Erdogan and other potentially banned figures back into the 
picture. 
 
-- Banishing the AKP will not change the reality that the 
main opposition parties are weak, divided and ill-equipped 
for 21st century politics.  Space may be created for a new 
centrist party, but credible leaders are not evident now, and 
the outlook for new elections that would propel them to 
prominence is uncertain.  The Islamist fringe in and outside 
the AKP could coalesce and become more radical; tarikats like 
the Gulenists may become more significant power centers than 
they are now. 
 
Without broad constitutional reform to replace the current 
top-down state and better protect individual liberties, and 
without more consensus on the extent and limits of secularism 
in modern Turkey, this struggle is likely to continue. 
 
8. (c) This episode will last at least six months and 
possibly a year or more.  In the meantime, Turkey's 
leadership will be distracted and cautious.  Unfortunately, 
this comes during a period of immense challenges to and 
opportunities for Turkish interests domestically and in the 
region that include the Kurdish issue, relations with Iraq 
and the KRG, energy security, Cyprus, Armenia, EU accession, 
terrorism, etc.  Policy creativity, never Turkey's strong 
suit, will diminish.  We also note that before the 
Constitutional Court decides the AKP's fate, it will likely 
rule on the headscarf amendments; reinstituting the ban at 
universities may actually calm matters and defuse the 
anti-AKP case.  The Court may also rule on the closure of the 
Kurdish nationalist Democratic Society Party (DTP); this 
could prove more explosive than the AKP case, given that DTP 
leaders and constituents accept much less of the 
constitutional/legal order here than the AKP mainstream. 
 
Our Public Posture 
------------------ 
 
9. (c) None of this changes the reality that Turkey is an 
extremely important ally in a dangerous region and that it 
 
ANKARA 00000691  003 OF 003 
 
 
is, despite many faults, more democratic and free than any 
other country in the Muslim world.  We should not stifle, 
through our intervention, what should fundamentally be a 
debate by Turks about the future of their country that is 
essential if its democratic institutions are to mature. 
Doing so would make this a US issue in ways harmful to our 
interests, our influence and to democratic values here.  We 
should stick to general principles, and let Turks sort out 
the details.  At some point, as matters develop, our 
intervention to head off a political meltdown here may be 
necessary, but that moment isn't now and may well never come. 
 
10. (c) With this in mind, our public comments should take a 
positive and high road.  We should: 
 
-- Make clear our strong support for Turkey, its democratic 
institutions and its commitment to democratic values and 
secular principles that define our alliance and partnership. 
 
-- Urge Turkey's leaders and institutions to work for 
pragmatic solutions that reinforce stability and build 
consensus at a critical time for the country and in the 
region. 
 
-- Emphasize support for Turkey's goal of accession to the EU 
and its need to legislate and implement comprehensive 
political and economic reforms that will sustain that goal 
and secure liberty and prosperity in the future. 
 
-- Look forward to continuing to work with Turkey on behalf 
of common interests in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Caucasus, the 
Balkans, on terrorism, on energy security, on the Cyprus 
problem and elsewhere in the region and the world. 
 
Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at 
http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turk ey 
 
WILSON