UPDATE 22 APRIL: The Supreme Election Board, after eight hours of discussions, has reinstated the candidacy of seven independent candidates.
The Baord had vetoed 12 mostly Kurdish applicants, including two current MPs.
Six Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) candidates and one independent were re-instated. There was no word about the other five who had been blocked.
Protests broke out in several cities across Turkey, with at least one person shot and killed by police on Wednesday, after the board's initial decision. br>
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Strasbourg, France last week, taking questions from the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly. When French MP Muriel Marland-Militello, whose grandfather was an Armenian born in Istanbul and escaped Turkey in 1915, asked how he would guarantee freedoms for religious minorities in Turkey, Erdogan said, “I believe this friend is French. She is also 'French” to Turkey', which is a saying in Turkish meaning that 'you don’t know anything about it'."
Another MP from Luxembourg, Anne Brasseur, asked: “You have mentioned the importance of freedom of press. The book Army of Imam was censured and and journalist Ahmet Sik was arrested. Can you tell us the reason of this? Can you tell us why a book was censured before its publication and its author was arrested?” Erdogan replied:
A structure without prejudice is very important. I didn’t collect these books. The judiciary tells executive forces to take action against this unpublished book and documents and information of some journalists. Imagine a warning comes to police regarding parts of a bomb, from its fuse to other materials, wouldn’t they go and get them? Because these constitute crime as well.
You always talk about an independent judiciary when you want to. You defend independent judiciary everywhere but when it comes to Turkey, you don’t want it! You want a judiciary dependent to executive. Excuse me, there is an independent judiciary and it does its job!
Asked about Turkey’s 10% threshold for a party to win Parliamentary seats, seen as a barrier to Kurdish participation, Erdogan continued his offensive strategy:
I must tell a reality. I am leader who was prisoned because of reading a poem. I stayed in for four months and we formed our party and won the elections. We have been governing for 8.5 years with our people’s kindness. The ten percent barrier was present when we formed our party. We have never done politics in the edges of either left or right. We have embraced everyone at the centre. I see that Romans are being expelled from France and there is no freedom for personal believes. The ones who want to say something to Turkey shall look at themselves first. Ten percent has nothing to do with democracy. 7-8 percent is even in Europe. We said that the barrier must continue for democracy and our people has the answer for that.
Erdogan's defiance in France was the escort for his party’s election manifesto, which proclaimed a vision for 2023 including pledges for the 100th anniversary of the modern Turkish state:
- Two new cities in Istanbul, one in the European and other in the Asian side of the bosphourus.
- Third bridge linking both sides in Istanbul.
- Third international airport in Istanbul.
- Doubling the length of the rail system.
- Advanced democracy, big economy, strong society, brand cities, leader country.
- New constitution, which is to be completely free of the militaristic outlook, will be prepared in a participatory and democratic way. It will be a short, clear, people-oriented constitution that is pro-freedom.
- Fighting terrorism and crime without leaving the boundaries of law.
- Istanbul will be in the first ten financial centres in the world.
- GNP at $2,064,000,000 and GDP per capita at more than $25,000.
- Unemployment rate falling to 5%.
- Career counselling for unemployed people.
- Increasing export to 500 billion US dollars from 36 billion in 2002.
- Tourist number will be 50 million.
- Compulsory education for 13 years.
- Three giant city hospitals in which conveyor belt will carry stretchers.
- Number of doctors increased to 200,000 from 120,000.
- 100,000 new houses for poor families for 100 TL ($65) a month without advance payment and deposit.
- One of the world's ten biggest ports built in Izmir.
- Full membership in the European Union despite unjust obstacles from some European countries.
- Effort to increase the international prestige of KKTC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus).
- Contribution to the stability in Balkans.
- Mutual lifting of visas and continuation of political dialogue with Turkic states.
Erdogan’s magical word is “stability”. This subtly-injected conservative motto is aimed at linking AKP’s interest in winning the election, with the largest majority possible, with proclamation of Turkish interests in an advanced democracy, a growing economy, a strong society, brand cities, and the profile of a leader country.
But proclamation is not the same as achievement.
The fate of an “advanced democracy”, based on a new Constitution, is a big question mark. Erdogan promised to bring in a new Constitution before the 2007 elections. What happened in the last four years?
A big economy, with total exports amounting $500 billion? According the Statistics Instit.tion of Turkey, In 2009/10, exports rose 11.6% but imports escalated by 31.7%. Turkey’s external debt is increasing sharply, from $170 million at the beginning of 2006 to $290 million at the end of 2010. The unemployment rate is still more than 11%.
Inflation decreased dramatically from 18.4% in 2003 to 6.4% in 2010. That figure may be far from compete, however: Turkey's consumer price index list includes hosepipe, cake, pistachio, madlen chocolate, lipstick, nail polish, underwear, tap, locker, tulle curtain, stove pipe, insect powder, broom, plaster, injector, spectacle glass, safety chain, car wax polish, ping pong ball, lego, flute, public bath fee, calamari, prawn, caviare, marble, ethyl alcohol, sack, dynamite, fibreglass, electricity meter, bulb, serum, roof tile, and ink.
What is missing in the figures? Daily products such as cheese, olive oil, olive, tea, egg, sugar, honey, pasta, coffee, bread, milk, meat, rice, cigarettes, margarine, flour, detergent, vegetables, fruits, telephone, juices, water, natural gas, and electricity.
A strong society towards an “advanced democracy”? No Turkish citizen is allowed to defend himself/herself in another language unless the court comes to the decision that he/she does not know Turkish at all. That is a violation of the 1923 Lausanne Treaty: “Despite the fact that there is a formal language, members of citizens who speak languages other than Turkish would be given adequate facilities for the oral use of their own language before the Courts.”
The trial of 152 defendants accused of membership of the Union of Kurdistan Communities/Tu rkey Assembly (KCK/TM), an alleged front organisation of the insurgent PKK, is an example of Ankara turning a deaf ear to its founding treaty. And the prosecution of hundreds of officials, activists, and elected mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) highlights the problems associated with Turkey's broad anti-terrorism laws, Human Rights Watch says.
Erdogan said Monday that there is “no Kurdish problem but problems of Kurds”, sidestepping the Kurdish demands for the abandonment of the 10% election barrier, a halt to military operations, the release of political prisoners, and the right to have education in mother language. The Erdogan of 2005, who said the Kurdish problem was a "reality" is no more.
On Monday, the Supreme Election Board (YSK) rejected 12 independent Kurdish candidates for Parliament due to their “previous convictions that can affect their election sufficiency”, even though two of the 12 are already MPs.
Aysel Tugluk, an MP from the opposition BDP, responded, “This decision will not bring us something. Once more, the message is given to Kurds. Vetoing people who are working on the solution of Kurdish problem on the grounds of an assembly is very concerning. We don’t see this decision as an ordinary one. It is a political decision.”
The Supreme Election Board also declared that the left-wing Freedom and Solidarity Party (ODP) cannot participate. The party’s chairman Alper Tas said: “YSK misdirected us. Then, it said that the documents were wrong. We will appeal to this decision.”
After mass protests and clashes throughout Turkey, the Board announced that candidates can runin the elections if they “complete their missing documents”. The tragic-comic episode was concluded when police fire on a group of protesters, leaving one person killed and two injured, on Wednesday.
Erdogan's tactic was to continue threatening the opposition. Speaking about the secret code scandal, in which authorities are alleged to have placed a code in examinations to assisted favoured candidates, he said:
All related institutions of the state are investigating the issue with great sensitivity. But I am asking whether you have proof that even one person was bestowed a privilege? No! But there is a group of young people who can abuse emotions and place doubts in hearts! Our youth shall see clearly those who exploit them and turn these claims into advantages. It is not a problem to have one thousand or two thousand young people walk in Taksim Square. While they say that they take a stand against the YGS exam, we will put five thousand, ten thousand against them. However, we are not in favour of tension in this country. Let the institutions do their job! Our youth shall know this!
Erdogan’s 2023 manifesto is far from realities. With Turkey's booming population, the construction of two new cities are nothing short of inviting more people and more problems. Instead an unnecessary project, Istanbul’s houses could have been improved and prepared for an expected earthquake. The manifesto is a document ignoring most parts of the country and its population, sidelining its Kurdish, Armenian, and Cyprus problems and freezing the EU admission process.
Erdogan claims that Ankara will be a “leader country”, probably meaning a regional leader in relation to rivals such as Iran, Egypt and Israel.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s “zero problem with neighboursm” coupled with political dialogue, mediation, economic cooperation and populist pro-Arab and pro-Persian discourse, have led to an increase in Ankara’s relative autonomy, given turmoil in Egypt and condemnation of Israel over the peace process and Gaza.
And Ankara is continuing its regional initiatives. While nuclear cooperation is developing with Russia, Turkey opened a third border crossing with Iran. Davutoglu said: “Our prime minister has set a target of $30 billion in annual trade with Iran. That is why we are opening this border crossing. We are announcing to the world that Turkey and Iran will be friends for eternity.” Turks and Arabs are willing to re-write their history in a new relationship Ambassador Mohammed Al-Fatah Naciri, the Arab League’s representative to Turkey, said:
Ministers of higher education and deans of universities are coming together from Turkey and the Arab world. We are looking at our syllabuses, at the way history is written about Arabs in Turkey and about Turks and Ottoman in the Arab world. We are looking at how we can remedy this.
But there are other realities, such as the problems with Turkey’s appication to join the European Union. Out of 35 chapters, only 13 have been successfully pursued since 2005, with only one concluded. There is nothing in the 2023 manifesto on the process, in particular, a Turkish resolution of the Kurdish issue that will satisfy European conditions.