Turkey looks inward on vote

SUN JOURNAL

March 04, 2003

When Turkey's Parliament failed to pass a resolution Saturday authorizing U.S. troops to deploy there for an attack against Iraq, the refusal was reported as a shocking blow to the United States, which was counting on a foothold in Turkey to launch a northern front against Saddam Hussein.

The United States had offered Turkey $15 billion in grants and loans for the privilege.

While reporting in the United States emphasized the effect on plans for war, Turkish newspapers were caught up in the domestic implications. Some saw it as a humiliation of the Justice and Development Party, which dominates Parliament and thought it had the votes for approval. The party, led by politicians with Islamic connections, came to office three months ago criticizing a tradition of fiercely secular politics.

Following are excerpts from Turkish newspapers commenting on the vote:

Turkish Daily News (English language paper)

When the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power with an overwhelming majority, winning 34 percent of the votes and 363 seats in the 550-seat Parliament, there was jubilation in the country that at last a single-party majority had come to office that would be able to provide stability in our domestic political scene, which has been hurt by coalition governments and the bickering among their partners.

However, there were some experienced politicians, led by veteran former president Suleyman Demirel, who cautioned that having a massive parliamentary group did not necessarily mean political stability would be a foregone conclusion, saying that it was very hard to keep together such a parliamentary majority and have it function in harmony.

This was proven on Saturday, just less than three months after AKP came to power, with the humiliation in Parliament where about 98 deputies defected from the party to vote with the opposition. ...

Some observers said this indicated how democratic values are respected in the AKP and thus deputies are free to vote the way they wish without being forced by the leaders to toe the party line. However, veteran politicians said the AKP people trusted that their deputies would not desert them at the most crucial moment and thus humiliate the government and the party itself. ...

It is clear some deputies turned their backs on [party leader Recep Tayyip] Erdogan who, along with Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, had handpicked them as candidates before the elections. Analysts said that this added insult to injury. ...

The war on Iraq has deeply split the party and has led to parliamentary humiliation of such a massive majority. To some observers this is a particular situation linked to the Iraq crisis, while others say this is a part of a deeper deficiency in the party and that things will never be the same again in the ruling ranks.

There were too many anti-war cries throughout Turkey and the AKP leaders kept silent and even approved the protests. They paid lip service to several Islamists and other activists who opposed war on the "brotherly Muslim people" of Iraq.

Instead of explaining to the public the merits of putting an end to the totalitarian rule of Saddam Hussein, AKP people only laid the groundwork for the anti-war movement - which has now backfired on them. They tried to turn the tide but the vote on Saturday showed that they were too late. Thus the humiliation and thus the defeat. ...

Radikal (liberal paper)

... First of all, this proposal has not been a foreign policy matter but a domestic policy matter for the past couple of days. If AKP fails to renew this proposal and pass it from Parliament this week, it will be the shortest-term single-party government of the republican era.

As a matter of fact, the refusal of a demand by a government which has 363 deputies in Parliament is a vote of lack of confidence. It's a lack of confidence in the government. ...

In fact, economic problems will force the government to renew the proposal on Tuesday. In case the government fails for the second time, there will be no economy and AKP government left.

We will wait and see. ...

Hurriyet (center-right paper)

The entire world was probably shocked by the Turkish Parliament's refusal of the government proposal allowing in U.S. troops to open a northern front in Iraq and sending Turkish troops to northern Iraq. The "entire world" consists of the White House, Baghdad, British premier Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish General Staff.

... Can Turkey escape from the heavy outcomes of this decision? These outcomes will be economic problems, those games aiming to destabilize Turkey, the encouragement of those planning to found a Kurdish state, the approval of the so-called Armenian genocide claims by the U.S. congress. We will wait and see. ...

... AKP is inexperienced and incompetent in international relations and foreign policy matters. However, it was unexpected that AKP would be worn out in four months.

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