US embassy cable - 96ANKARA813

REFAH'S GUL ANALYZES THE TURKISH ELECTIONS

Identifier: 96ANKARA813
Wikileaks: View 96ANKARA813 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Ankara
Created: 1996-01-24 16:47:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL PGOV KISL TU
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
null
 PTQ7856





                           CONFIDENTIAL     PTQ7856

PAGE 01        ANKARA  00813  01 OF 04  241647Z 
ACTION EUR-01   

INFO  LOG-00   AID-00   CIAE-00  SMEC-00  INL-01   OASY-00  DOEE-00  
      SRPP-00  INLB-01  H-01     TEDE-00  INR-00   LAB-01   L-01     
      ADS-00   M-00     NEA-01   NSAE-00  NSCE-00  OMB-01   PA-00    
      PM-00    PRS-00   P-00     SCT-00   SP-00    SS-00    TRSE-00  
      T-00     USIE-00  PMB-00   PRME-01  DRL-09   G-00       /018W
                  ------------------12F129  241647Z /38    
P 241647Z JAN 96
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3419
INFO 39WG INCIRLIK AB TU//CC/CV//
USDOCO 6ATAF IZMIR TU//CV//
USDOCO LANDSOUTHEAST IZMIR TU//CV//
USMISSION USNATO 
JOINT STAFF WASHDC
SECDEF WASHDC
EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
AMEMBASSY CAIRO 
AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 
AMEMBASSY RIYADH 
AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS 
AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 
AMCONSUL ADANA 
CTF PROVIDE COMFORT INCIRLIK AB TU//CC/CS/POLAD//
ODC ANKARA TU//TCH//
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 ANKARA 000813 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 

 
 
 
 
 
                           CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 02        ANKARA  00813  01 OF 04  241647Z 
E.O. 12958: DECL:1/24/05 
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, KISL, TU 
SUBJECT: REFAH'S GUL ANALYZES THE TURKISH ELECTIONS 
 
REF:  A)  ANKARA 742 (NOTAL)  B) 95 ANKARA 12177 (NOTAL) 
 
1.  CLASSIFIED BY JAMES T. HEG, ACTING POLITICAL 
COUNSELOR, EMBASSY ANKARA.  REASON 1.5 (B). 
 
2.  SUMMARY:  ON JANUARY 24, ACTING POLCOUNS AND POLOFF 
CALLED ON ABDULLAH GUL, VICE-CHAIRMAN AND KAYSERI 
PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTY OF THE ISLAMIST REFAH (WELFARE) 
PARTY, TO GET THE LATEST REFAH THINKING ON TURKISH 
POLITICS.  ACCORDING TO GUL: 
 
--REFAH, WHICH WON THE DECEMBER 24 GENERAL ELECTIONS 
WITH 21.5 PERCENT OF THE VOTE, COULD HAVE TALLIED 25-26 
PERCENT.  HE ATTRIBUTED THE DIFFERENCE TO SEVERAL 
FACTORS, INCLUDING: THE LACK OF FEMALE CANDIDATES AND 
OTHER POOR CANDIDATE CHOICES; RHETORICAL "EXAGGERATIONS" 
THAT MAY HAVE SCARED OFF SOME VOTERS; AND "CLEVER" 
MAINSTREAM MEDIA ATTACKS AGAINST REFAH. 
 
--THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN OF THE (NOMINALLY SOCIALIST) 
PRO-KURDISH PEOPLE'S DEMOCRACY PARTY (HADEP) ALSO COST 
REFAH SOME VOTES.  NEVERTHELESS, HADEP'S RELATIVELY POOR 
OVERALL SHOWING INDICATED THAT IT COULD NOT CAPTURE THE 
HEARTS OF THE "CONSERVATIVE" KURDS, WHO REJECTED LEFTIST 
POLITICAL NOSTRUMS. 
 
--MANY OTHER PARTIES WOULD TRY TO ADOPT SOME OF REFAH'S 
ORGANIZATIONAL STRATEGY, BUT LACK THE 
IDEOLOGICALLY-MOTIVATED PARTY CADRE THAT MAKE REFAH'S 
FAMOUS DOOR-TO-DOOR TACTICS SUCCESSFUL. 
 
--MOST OF THE MOTHERLAND PARTY (ANAP) ORGANIZATION, AND 
A SIZEABLE CHUNK OF TANSU CILLER'S TRUE PATH PARTY (DYP) 
WOULD, ABSENT PRESSURE FROM THE PARTY LEADERSHIP, LEAN 
TOWARD A PARTNERSHIP WITH REFAH.  A DYP-ANAP PARTNERSHIP 
WOULD ULTIMATELY PROVE UNWORKABLE; ANAP WOULD EVENTUALLY 
REJECT THE INCREASINGLY STATIST DYP. 
 
--REFAH'S "ADIL DUZEN" (JUST ORDER) PLATFORM CONTAINED 
SOME "EXAGGERATIONS," BUT THE PARTY WAS SERIOUS ABOUT 
ITS COMMITMENT TO APPLY ISLAMIC ETHICS TO THE ECONOMY. 
REFAH'S "TRUE" POSITION ON TURKEY'S ACCESSION TO THE EU 
CUSTOMS UNION WAS SIMILAR TO ANAP'S: THEY WOULD SEEK TO 
RENEGOTIATE SOME OF THE TERMS OF THE AGREEMENT. 
 
--REFAH WAS AGAINST EXTENDING OPERATION PROVIDE COMFORT, 
WHICH CREATES A POWER VACUUM IN NORTHERN IRAQ THAT THE 
SEPARATIST KURDISTAN WORKERS' PARTY (PKK) EXPLOITS TO 
TURKEY'S DETRIMENT.  END SUMMARY 
 
--------------------- 
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT 
-------------------- 
 
3. (C) IN A MEETING WITH ACTING POLCOUNS AND POLOFF 
JANUARY 24, REFAH PARTY VICE CHAIRMAN ABDULLAH GUL SAID 
THAT HE HAD EXPECTED REFAH TO WIN 25-26 PERCENT OF THE 
VOTE IN THE DECEMBER 24 GENERAL ELECTIONS, RATHER THAN 

THE 21.5 PERCENT IT ACTUALLY TALLIED.  HE ATTRIBUTED THE 
DIFFERENCE TO: THE LACK OF FEMALE CANDIDATES (HE 
INDICATED THAT THIS WOULD BE REMEDIED NEXT TIME); THE 
PRESENCE OF SOME UNCHARISMATIC OLD-TIMERS ON THE REFAH 
CANDIDATE SLATE; "EXAGGERATED" RHETORIC INTENDED TO 
CLEARLY DISTINGUISH REFAH FROM THE PACK AND ENERGIZE THE 
PARTY CADRE, BUT WHICH MAY HAVE ALIENATED SOME VOTERS; 
AND MORE "CLEVER AND INDIRECT" MAINSTREAM MEDIA ATTACKS 
AGAINST THE PARTY.  HE ALSO NOTED THAT THE GOVERNMENT 
PARTIES, WITH THEIR ACCESS TO PUBLIC COFFERS, HAD A 
POTENTIAL ADVANTAGE OVER THE REST.  TO ILLUSTRATE HIS 
POINT, HE CITED FORMER FINANCE MINISTER AYVAS GOKDEMIR, 
WHO GUL AND PROVINCIAL NEWSPAPERS CLAIMED WON A SEAT 
FROM KAYSERI ON THE DYP TICKET BY LITERALLY BUYING VOTES 
WITH PUBLIC CASH. 
 
4. (C) ACCORDING TO GUL, THE CHANGES IN THE ELECTORAL 
LAWS BEFORE THE ELECTION HURT REFAH.  IN KAYSERI, HE 
SAID, REFAH WON 34 PERCENT AND FOUR SEATS IN PARLIAMENT 
TO THE 14 PERCENT EACH FOR THE MOTHERLAND PARTY (ANAP) 
AND TANSU CILLER'S TRUE PATH PARTY (DYP).  HAD 
PROVINCIAL BARRAGES NOT BEEN ABANDONED ALTOGETHER BEFORE 
THE ELECTIONS AT THE BEHEST OF THE DYP-LED GOVERNMENT -- 
WHICH HAD INITIALLY SOUGHT A 15 PERCENT BARRIER -- REFAH 
WOULD HAVE SWEPT KAYSERI.  GUL NOTED THAT THE BARRAGES 
WERE NOT "JUST," BUT EXPRESSED AMUSEMENT AT THE PREVIOUS 
GOVERNMENT'S SUDDEN SEARCH FOR EQUITY IN THE FACE OF A 
REFAH CHALLENGE. 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
THE HADEP FACTOR: THANK GOD THEY'RE LEFTISTS 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
5. (C) GUL NOTED THAT THE ENTRY OF THE PRO-KURDISH 
PEOPLE'S DEMOCRACY PARTY (HADEP) INTO THE RACE COST 
REFAH SOME SUPPORT IN DIYARBAKIR AND ELSEWHERE, BUT 
CLAIMED THAT REFAH'S MISTAKES HELPED CONTRIBUTE TO 
HADEP'S SUCCESS IN SOME REGIONS.  HE VOLUNTEERED THAT 
THE PROVINCIAL REFAH ORGANIZATIONS IN THE SOUTHEAST 
"WERE RIGHT" TO PROTEST THE REFAH LEADERSHIP'S DECISION 
TO RUN RELATIVE NON-ENTITIES AGAINST POPULAR LOCALS. 
REFAH, HE SAID, HAD STUMBLED BADLY BY DECIDING AT THE 
LAST MINUTE TO DROP A POPULAR KURDISH IMAM FROM THE 
DIYARBAKIR SLATE, INDICATING THAT THE PROSPECTIVE 
CANDIDATE'S AGGRESSIVELY ACTIVIST STANCE CAUSED SOME 
UNEASE AMONG THE PARTY BRASS.  HE ASSERTED, HOWEVER, 
THAT MOST IF NOT ALL OF REFAH'S EASTERN DEPUTIES WERE 
KURDS. 
 
6. (C) THAT HADEP SECURED ONLY 4.5 PERCENT OF THE VOTE 
(AND THUS FAILED TO GET OVER THE NATIONAL 10 PERCENT 
BARRAGE AND ENTER PARLIAMENT), SAID GUL, INDICATED THAT 
HADEP "DOES NOT HAVE THE CONFIDENCE OF THE KURDS."  HE 
POINTED OUT THAT MOST KURDS NOW LIVED IN WESTERN TURKEY, 
WHERE HADEP RECEIVED NEGLIGIBLE SUPPORT.  WITH EVIDENT 
RESPECT, GUL OFFERED THAT HADEP'S LEADERS HAD INDEED 
FOUGHT FOR THE KURDISH CAUSE.  HE EMPHASIZED, HOWEVER, 
THAT "NONE OF THEM REALLY LIVED LIKE KURDS."  THE HADEP 
LEADERSHIP'S ROOTS EXTEND BACK TO THE FAR LEFT OF THE 
POLITICAL SPECTRUM, WHEREAS THEIR KURDISH CONSTITUENTS 
WERE "THE MOST CONSERVATIVE (READ, TRADITIONAL AND 
RELIGIOUS) PEOPLE IN TURKEY."  GUL ACKNOWLEDGED THAT 
HADEP RAN IMAMS ON ITS TICKET IN SIIRT PROVINCE, AND WAS 
SUPPORTED BY NAKSHIBENDI SHAYKH ABDULMELIK FIRAT (NOTE: 
FIRAT WAS RECENTLY ARRESTED AMIDST MUCH PUBLIC OUTCRY 
FOR ALLEGEDLY SHELTERING A KURDISTAN WORKERS' PARTY 
MEMBER - PKK - IN 1992.  HE IS THE GRANDSON OF SHAYKH 
SAIT, WHO LED THE FIRST KURDISH REBELLION AGAINST 
ATATURK IN THE 1920S.  BEFORE HIS ARREST, PRESS REPORTS 
INDICATED THAT FIRAT WAS TRYING TO FORM A NEW POLITICAL 
PARTY WITH ISLAMIST INTELLECTUAL AND FORMER REFAH 
DEPUTY HASAN MESARCI.  END NOTE).  GUL SAID, HOWEVER, 
THAT HADEP'S TACTICS -- ABSENT A REAL "STRATEGIC" CHANGE 
OF HEART -- WERE LARGELY "UNCONVINCING" TO RELIGIOUS 
KURDS; PKK LEADER OCALAN, GUL NOTED, ROUTINELY 
CONGRATULATED KURDS WHO COMPLETED A "HAJ" -- PILGRIMAGE 
-- TO MECCA.  HE SUGGESTED THAT HADEP COULD HAVE DONE 
BETTER IF IT HAD BEGUN ON THE "CONSERVATIVE" SIDE; 
"WE'RE THANKFUL", HE ADDED, "THAT THEY DIDN'T." 

 
-------------------------------- 
OFTEN IMITATED, NEVER DUPLICATED 
-------------------------------- 
 
7. (C) GUL SAID THAT, DUE TO REFAH'S ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN 
1994 AND 1995, OTHER PARTIES WERE TRYING TO EMULATE 
REFAH'S NOW-FAMOUS ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS, BUT WERE 
UNLIKELY TO SUCCEED.  "WE," HE SAID, "HAVE TRUE 
BELIEVERS" IN THE RANKS WHO WERE WILLING TO DO THE 
DAY-TO-DAY CANVASSING AND OTHER POLITICAL WORK FOR 
NOTHING IN RETURN.  GUL SAID THAT ANAP DEPUTY VEHBI 
DINCERLER AND CENTER-LEFT REPUBLICAN PEOPLE'S PARTY 
(CHP) DEPUTY ISMAIL CEM HAD TOLD HIM THAT NOT ONLY DID 
THEIR PARTIES LACK AN IDEOLOGICALLY-MOTIVATED CADRE, 
PARTY MORALE WAS SO LOW THAT POLITICIANS HAD TO PAY 
PEOPLE TO WORK THE LOUDSPEAKERS AND "EVEN TO SIT WITH 
THE CANDIDATES" ON CAMPAIGN BUSES.  ON THE OTHER HAND, 
HE SAID, REFAH SUPPORTERS DID NOT EXPECT SUCH LARGESSE 
FROM THE PARTY.  GUL POINTED TO THE FACT THAT THE 
REFAH-CONTROLLED PAYROLL IN ISTANBUL HAD ACTUALLY 
DECREASED FROM 44,000 TO 38,000 EMPLOYEES DURING REFAH 
MAYOR RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN'S TENURE; ANKARA HAD 
WITNESSED A SIMILAR DECLINE IN THE MUNICIPAL WORKFORCE 
UNDER REFAH MAYOR MELIH GOKCEK.  DESPITE THIS, REFAH DID 
WELL IN BOTH CITIES. 
 
------------------ 
COALITION-BUILDING 
------------------ 
 
8. (C) DURING THE CAMPAIGN, GUL SAID, PARTIES HAD A 
"DUTY TO SHOW THEIR REAL FACE TO THE PUBLIC."  A NEW 
REALITY NOW CONFRONTED REFAH, HOWEVER.  THE PARTY, HE 
SAID, HAD DEMONSTRATED THAT IT WAS WILLING TO COMPROMISE 
-- IT WAS NOW UP TO OTHERS TO DO THE SAME.  THE GREAT 
MAJORITY OF ANAP'S PROVINCIAL ORGANIZATIONS -- SOME 80 
PERCENT OF THE PARTY CADRE, HE ASSERTED -- AND ABOUT 
HALF OF DYP, WANTED A PARTNERSHIP WITH REFAH.  ABSENT 
PRESSURE FROM "MONARCHICAL" PARTY LEADERS, ABOUT 60 
PERCENT OF ANAP AND 40 PERCENT OF DYP DEPUTIES WOULD 
LEAN TOWARD REFAH, GUL ASSERTED. 
 
9. (C) "ANAYOL" (AN ANAP-DYP PARTNERSHIP) WON'T WORK," 
GUL PREDICTED; ANAP WOULD EVENTUALLY REJECT DYP, WHICH 
AS A RESULT OF THE ELECTIONS HAD BECOME MORE OF A 
STATIST PARTY.  HE ETCHED A PARALLEL WITH THE 1950'S, 
WHEN THE STATIST CHP FOUGHT IT OUT WITH ADNAN MENDERES' 
OLD DEMOCRAT PARTY (DP).  DYP, LIKE THE CHP OF THAT ERA, 
DREW ITS CANDIDATES FROM THE STATE BUREAUCRACIES, THE 
POLICE, AND THE MILITARY.  LIKE THE OLD "ELITIST" CHP, 
DYP FELT "ASHAMED" OF THE ACTUAL, LIVE VOTERS IT HOPED 
TO ENLIGHTEN THROUGH WESTERNIZATION.  MEANWHILE REFAH, 
GUL SAID, OWED ITS ELECTORAL SUCCESSES TO A POPULIST 
PLATFORM WHICH PROMOTED SUPPORT FOR ISLAM.  HE OBSERVED 
THAT THE GROWING MAINSTREAM FLIRTATION WITH RELIGIOUS 
VALUES REPRESENTED THE EMERGENCE OF TURKEY'S "TRUE 
FACE."  THIS HEALTHY DEVELOPMENT WAS LONG OVERDUE; 
CONTINUED STATE PRESSURE AGAINST THE EXPRESSION OF 
RELIGIOUS POLITICAL SENTIMENTS WOULD BE DANGEROUS FOR 
TURKISH STABILITY, GUL ASSERTED. 
 
------------------- 
WHAT IS TO BE DONE? 
------------------- 
 
10. (C) GUL SAID THAT "ADIL DUZEN" (THE PARTY'S "JUST 
ORDER" PLATFORM) WAS LARGELY "PROPAGANDA" THAT FEATURED 
TOO MANY OF REFAH LEADER ERBAKAN'S "EXAGGERATIONS." 
NEVERTHELESS, REFAH WAS SERIOUS ABOUT ITS COMMITMENT TO 
ISLAMIC PRINCIPLES.  GUL SAID FOR EXAMPLE THAT MOST 
TURKISH CITIZENS ("MYSELF INCLUDED") FOR RELIGIOUS 
REASONS WOULD PREFER AN ALTERNATIVE TO LENDING MONEY AT 
INTEREST.  HE NOTED, HOWEVER, THAT AL BARAKA TURK AND 
OTHER PRIVATE FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS THAT USED ISLAMIC 
RISK-SHARING SCHEMES IN LIEU OF INTEREST WERE IN FACT 
PROHIBITED BY LAW FROM ACTUALLY FULLY IMPLEMENTING THESE 
PROGRAMS.  THE STATE, GUL LAMENTED, WORRIED THAT SUCH 
INSTITUTIONS AND PRACTICES WERE DANGERS TO SECULARISM; 
REFAH SAW THEM AS "JUST BUSINESS."  (COMMENT:  AL BARAKA 
TURK'S ANKARA BRANCH DIRECTOR OSMAN KARA RECENTLY 
COMPLAINED TO POLOFF THAT EXISTING LAW DID NOT ALLOW 
SUCH PRIVATE FIRMS TO MAKE INVESTMENTS ALONG THE LINES 
OF STATE BANKS.  END COMMENT). 
 
--------------------- 
FOREIGN POLICY ISSUES 
--------------------- 
 
11. (C) GUL ALSO NOTED THAT ERBAKAN'S OPPOSITION TO 
TURKISH ACCESSION TO THE EUROPEAN CUSTOMS UNION WAS 
SIMILARLY "EXAGGERATED" FOR CAMPAIGN PURPOSES.  (NOTE: 
ERBAKAN PUBLICLY CALLED THE CU "A UNION OF INFIDELS" IN 
THE DAYS BEFORE THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIED 
TURKEY'S ENTRY.  END NOTE).  REFAH'S "TRUE" POSITION, AS 
GUL HAD STATED PUBLICLY IN EARLY DECEMBER, WAS SIMILAR 
TO ANAP'S.  REFAH WOULD SUPPORT ENTRY INTO THE CUSTOMS 
UNION, BUT WOULD SEEK TO RENEGOTIATE SOME OF THE TERMS 
(PARTICULARLY, THOSE WHICH DEALT WITH TARIFF AND OTHER 
TRADE RELATIONS WITH THIRD COUNTRIES).  HE ALSO 
REITERATED HIS VIEW (REPORTED REFTEL) THAT REFAH'S 
MISGIVINGS ABOUT A TURKISH LOSS OF SOVEREIGNTY IN THE 
EVENT OF FULL EU MEMBERSHIP WERE SIMILAR TO THOSE HELD 
BY DENMARK AND OTHER WESTERN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES.  GUL 
ADDED THAT REFAH WAS NOT OPPOSED TO TIES WITH THE U.S. 
AND EUROPE.  HE REMARKED THAT THE TYPICAL REFAH MEMBER 
HAD SPENT MUCH MORE TIME IN EUROPE THAN IN OTHER ISLAMIC 
COUNTRIES. 
 
12. (C) TURNING TO OPERATION PROVIDE COMFORT (PC II), 
GUL SAID REFAH DID NOT WISH TO SEE SECULAR STATIST 
GOVERNMENTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST; HE OBSERVED THAT SADDAM 
IN IRAQ AND ASSAD IN SYRIA WERE BOTH BAATHISTS, NOT 
MUSLIMS.  REFAH, HE OBSERVED, HAD ALWAYS OPPOSED PC II, 
WHICH HE SAID CREATED A POWER VACUUM IN THE NORTH AND 
FUELED TURKEY'S PROBLEMS WITH THE PKK. 
 
--------------------------- 
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME... 
--------------------------- 
 
13. (C) COMMENT:  GUL (WHOSE NAME MEANS "ROSE" IN 
TURKISH) IS THE PARTY OFFICIAL RESPONSIBLE FOR PUTTING 
THE BEST POSSIBLE SPIN ON THE IMAGE THAT ERBAKAN WOULD 
LIKE TO PRESENT TO WESTERNERS -- THAT IS, THAT REFAH IS 
AN ISLAMIC VERSION OF EUROPE'S CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS. 
MANY OF HIS REMARKS STRESSED THE REFAH PARTY'S ROOTS IN 
MAINSTREAM TURKISH POLITICS GOING BACK TO THE 1950S.  HE 
IS A THOUGHTFUL, CANDID OBSERVER AND APPARENTLY SINCERE 
BELIEVER IN THE ISLAMIST MESSAGE.  THERE ARE INDICATIONS 
THAT GUL, EVEN AT A RELATIVELY YOUNG AGE AND LEVEL OF 
EXPERIENCE (HE WAS FIRST ELECTED TO PARLIAMENT IN 1991) 
IS ATTEMPTING TO BUILD UP A FIEFDOM WITHIN REFAH BASED 
ON THE SUPPORT OF OTHER YOUNG, LIKE-MINDED DEPUTIES AND 
OTHER OFFICIALS.  IT WILL BE INTERESTING TO WATCH HOW 
(AND TO WHAT EXTENT HE IS GIVEN AN OPPORTUNITY) HE HELPS 
MANAGE RELATIONS BETWEEN THE RELATIVELY WORLDLY PARTY 
MEMBERS WHO WANT TO REACH A MODUS VIVENDI WITH THE WEST, 
AND THE MORE RADICAL AND CONFRONTATIONAL ELEMENTS WITHIN 
REFAH. 
 
GROSSMAN 

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