Some amazingly prescient observations from an ABC Radio National program on Erdogan, dated April 2014.
Previous governments had set in motion the economic and political reforms necessary for Turkey to join the European Union and the new prime minister initially seemed keen to follow through on EU membership. At the end of 2005, the first generation of EU reforms needed to start negotiations were complete, but then Erdoğan seemed to lose interest.
‘He had got what he needed out of the EU process,’ says Hugh Pope, Turkey/Cyprus project director with the International Crisis Group. ‘It had propelled him to a great deal of popularity in the first years of his government but at the end of the day, the EU process is quite an interesting broadening of democracy, opening up of government accounts, opening up of the economy to competition, and since Erdoğan is very much about controlling the country, I think that one of the reasons he didn't want more EU was this meant a dilution of his own power.’
Erdoğan’s pro-EU posture brought foreign capital to Turkey, fuelling the good economic times that have underpinned his political popularity. EU membership conditions also allowed his government to sideline the military, who had been responsible for over 30 coups and attempted coups since the establishment of the Turkish republic in 1923.
‘I think always his main focus, what he really wanted was to have closer relationships with the rest of the Middle East, with the Sunni Middle East’ says Jenkins.
‘Although they deny it publicly, there is no question that Erdoğan and the other members of the leadership of the AK Party are very strong Ottoman nostalgists, and although they don't want to bring back the Ottoman Empire as it was, they do want a neo-Ottoman sphere of influence in the Middle East. And I think that was always their ultimate goal and their ultimate dream, rather than EU membership.’
IN 2005 ERDOGAN visited Australia. He spoke at Melbourne University and gave the game away on the temporary use of democracy to bring about an Islamic nirvana.
This is from Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News (English language version), 12 August 2005.
Turkey and Australia concluded this trade treaty in 2005.
I has some provisions about the effect of civil disturbance and states of emergency.
I've reprinted the brief on Turkey's political situation (from 2005) filed with the treaty. Note paras 4 and 5.
Political Brief on Turkey
1. The Republic of Turkey has a unicameral parliament, the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA), with 550 Deputies (Parliamentarians). Executive power is vested in the Head of State, the President, who is chosen by the TGNA for a term of seven years (President Ahmet Necdet Sezer since 16 May 2000). Legislative power is vested in the Head of Government and a Council of Ministers (Cabinet) which usually numbers around 35. The Deputies are elected on a first-past-the-post system for a five-year term. Political parties must achieve a national threshold of 10 per cent of the vote to gain representation in the TGNA. There is universal suffrage with a minimum voting age of 18.
2. An early general election, triggered by former Prime Minister Ecevit's ill health and rifts in his coalition government, was held on 3 November 2002 (elections were not due until April 2004). Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan's moderate Islamist 'Justice and Development Party' (AKP), established in 2001, won a convincing victory over the mainstream parties. With almost 35 per cent of the vote, AKP won 363 of the 550 seats in parliament, a majority which allows AKP to govern in its own right. At around 80 per cent, voter turnout for the election was high.
3. The only other party in the election to exceed the 10 per cent threshold of votes required for parliamentary representation was Mr Deniz Baykal's 'Republican People's Party' (CHP). With around 20 per cent of the vote, CHP gained 178 seats.
4. Mr Erdogan had been barred from running in the election because of a 1998 conviction for 'Islamist sedition', and so had been unable to be named Prime Minister. Mr Abdullah Gul was named Prime Minister after the elections on 3 November 2002. Legislation was then passed allowing Mr Erdogan to run for parliament. A special rerun of the General Election in the province of Siirt on 9 March 2003 resulted in the election of Mr Erdogan to a seat in the Parliament, and he was appointed Prime Minister on 13 March 2003.
5. The AKP Government has said it will work within the framework of Turkey's secular constitution and will respect Turkey's traditional pro-Western stance (Turkey is a member of NATO). The AKP Government has also said it will accelerate efforts aimed at securing EU membership for Turkey, and work cooperatively with the IMF (which is providing Ankara with a USD 16 billion loan package to help stabilise the country's economy) and the World Bank. Turkey began formal accession negotiations with the European Union in October 2005.
6. Turkey continues to face a separatist problem in the majority Kurdish south- east of the country. The separatist Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) called a truce to its 15 year insurgency when its leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was captured in February 1999. The Turkish Government eased restrictions on the public use of the Kurdish language in 2004 and an appeal court released a prominent Kurdish politician - Leyla Zana - from jail in June 2004. However, there has been a resurgence in PKK terror attacks, including on tourists, since the PKK called off a five-year long cease-fire in mid-2004.
I think it's fair to say that Erdogan's history is strongly suggestive of Turkey's future. Allah uh-Akhbar.