TURKEY GOT TIRED
The Supreme Board of Election's (YSK's) cancelling the candidacies of 12 independent applicants caused tension both in politics and on the streets. Courts have eventually confirmed that the vetoes were unfair. The YSK is expected to take a step back and fix its mistake today.
Names like Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Gültan Kışanak, Sebahat Tuncel and Ertuğrul Kürkçü, whose participation in the upcoming general elections was blocked by the YSK, obtained the documents requested from them from the relevant courts. There are no more obstacles in the way for these candidates. The YSK will assess all objections during a gathering this morning, and is also expected to take a decision on them..
After the crisis over the Higher Election Board's [YSK's] having annulled the MP candidacies of seven independent applicants, supported by the Peace & Democracy Party (BDP), the Istanbul Basic Criminal Court reduced BDP lawmaker Sebahat Tuncel's punishment to six months. Tuncel's lawyer, Baran Doğan, made an application to the court on Wednesday; and in two hours, the court reduced the sentence of a one and a half years in prison to six months. Dogan said, "According to Election Law, Tuncel is eligible to join parliamentary elections as her sentence is less than a year."
Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Gültan Kışanak, Sebahat Tuncel, Ertuğrul Kürkçü and Salih Yıldız were given documents from courts proving "they are eligible to be elected," and objected to the YSK's decision that cancelied their candidacies. The YSK will examine these objections on Thursday.
PROTEST WITH WORK MACHINES
A group, including BDP member Emine Ayna and Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir, wanted to stage a protest march after making a statement in front of the BDP branch in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. When police tried to hamper the group, the group made a barricade with work machines. The group used fireworks and petrol bombs as police broke the windows of the work machines and detained those who used them. One person died in incidents in Bismil.
CHP'S ASSERTIVE GOALS IN ECONOMY
Republican People's Party (CHP) made public its program on the economy two months before the general elections. The program's title envisages "a new economy that focuses on people and production towards the 100th anniversary of the Republic."
Within the framework of CHP's program, the domestic savings-national income ratio will be increased to 18.8% in the next 4 years, and to 22% by 2023. Taxes based on the minimum wage will be cancelled, while the price of diesel oil will be fixed at 1.5 Turkish Liras for farmers, and SMEs will be provided with loans with zero interest.
KEMAL DERVIS CANDIDATE FOR IMF'S TOP POSITION
British newspapers wrote that Kemal Derviş might take over the presidency of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from Dominique Strauss-Kahn. French Minister Christine Lagarde and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown are Derviş's rivals in the competition.
CHILDREN SHOULD ALWAYS SMILE
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hosted children from around the world who came to Turkey for the April 23 National Sovereignty and Children's Day. Erdoğan wore the traditional clothes that the children had brought, and said, "Children should always smile, and you give a message to the world from here that there should be no wars and enmities should end."
USA SEIZES ASSETS OF FIVE TOP MEMBERS OF PKK
The United States made a significant decision to support Turkey's fight against the terrorist organization PKK. The U.S. administration declared Cemil Bayık, Duran Kalkan, Remzi Kartal, Sabri Ok and Adem Uzun "illicit drug traffickers," and seized their assets. In 2009, Washington included PKK top members Murat Karayılan, Ali Rıza Altun and Zübeyir Aydar in a black list.
MILLIYET SOLD TO ITS FIRST OWNER
Doğan Holding, which sat at the negotiation table to sell Milliyet and Vatan dailies, delivered the expected statement. The holding said that the two newspapers had been sold to Milliyet's first owner, Karacan-Demirören partnership, for $74 million USD.
ANTI-RACISM GROUP TO MARCH IN TURKEY ON ARMENIAN COMMEMORATION DAY
An anti-racism initiative will organize a series of protests and marches in Turkey on April 24, the date some countries commemorate the alleged Armenian genocide in the last days of the Ottoman Empire.
The commemoration march, organized by the "Say Stop to Racism and Nationalism!" initiative, will begin in Istanbul, while simultaneous demonstrations will also be held in the cities of Ankara, Bodrum, Bursa, Diyarbakır and İzmir.
Marchers will rally behind the slogan, "This pain belongs to all of us."
The initiative that is behind the demonstrations was jointly founded by Turkish intellectuals and civil-society representatives from Istanbul's Armenian community immediately after the assassination on Jan. 19, 2007, of Hrant Dink, the Armenian-Turkish editor-in-chief of the weekly Agos Prominent journalist and academic Cengiz Aktar described the initiative as "a citizens' enterprise" during an interview with the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review:
"Such commemorations are now publicly staged; that is crucially important. The people of Turkey will face the painful chapters of history one step at a time. Many new names have now been added to the participants in last year's commemoration, and the circle is growing," said Aktar, who is also a columnist for the paper.
Aktar was one of the leading names in the "I apologize" campaign launched in December 2008. Approximately 30,000 people, including many intellectuals and journalists, have signed the petition, which reads in part: "My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed and the denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Armenians were subjected to in 1915."
Armenia claims up to 1.5 million Armenians were systematically killed in 1915 under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey denies this, saying that any deaths were the result of civil strife that erupted when Armenians took up arms for independence in eastern Anatolia.
TURKEY'S MAIN OPPOSITION PARTY FOCUSES ON CHARTER DRAFT
Turkey's main opposition is debating adding the concept of "constitutional citizenship" to its charter proposal, instead of removing the definition of "Turkishness," as it had been expected to do, sources have said.
Republican People's Party, or CHP, deputy leader Sezgin Tanrıkulu, who is of Kurdish origin, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review that the party's constitution proposal would not include "terms that define ethnic identities."
The biggest debate on the new draft is over the definition of "being Turkish." The CHP appears to be leaning toward using "Citizen of the Republic of Turkey" instead of "Turkish" in its draft. Deputy leaders Tanrıkulu and Süheyl Batum both support the change, the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review has learned.
The party is expected to announce its constitutional draft May 20. The Constitution Drafting Committee, headed by Batum, also includes Tanrıkulu and party assembly member Dr. Binnaz Toprak. The committee consulted with citizens, scholars and intellectuals while creating its proposal, about which Batum informed the party's Central Executive Board on Tuesday.
Batum is backing the idea as long as the first four articles of the Constitution remain the same. The first four articles of the Constitution define the shape of the government, the qualities of the Turkish Republic, the integrity of the government and the national language, anthem and capital city.
The CHP's proposal is expected to change the language in Article 66 of the Constitution from "Everyone who has citizenship ties to Turkey is Turkish" to "Everyone who has citizenship ties is a citizen of the Republic of Turkey."
According to Tanrıkulu, the country's constitution should support freedom while accepting and defending the rights of people of all ethnic backgrounds, thus serving as a basic step to solving the longstanding Kurdish issue.
The current Constitution, despite being changed over the past nine years during the Justice and Development Party, or AKP's, rule, has not fixed the Kurdish issue, Tanrıkulu said. The CHP's proposal will also include a compromise under which Turkish will remain the official language for education, while elective courses can be offered in other languages.
The demands of citizens of all religions will be protected by the constitution through "the principle of equality" under the proposal. Mandatory religion classes will be regulated through the constitution, potentially removing the obligation for Alevi students.
Basic rights and freedoms will be expanded and the freedoms of thought, organizing, meeting and the press will be given legal protection through the constitution.
The CHP also proposes closing the country's Higher Education Board, or YÖK, and establishing a coordination commission instead. The move would make universities completely independent.
The diplomatic immunity of deputies would be limited and innovations such as law drafts from citizens, citizen vetoes and repeal referendums would be introduced.
A broad judiciary reform would close down Special High Criminal Courts and the Supreme Military Court while restricting the authority of the military judiciary.
The president's authority would also be further limited, and decisions by the president and the Constitutional Court would be supervised by the judiciary.
The National Security Council, or MGK, is also among the institutions set to be shut down.
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is meanwhile expected to announce the party's election manifesto Friday. In addition to the previous 41 promises made by the party chief, the manifesto will include lowering the 10% election threshold, reforming local government, and lessening the duration of mandatory military service, among other proposals, the Daily News has learned.
The CHP's manifesto will include calls for "an end to the pressure in the East and Southeast regions of Turkey to establish peace in society," "banning the subcontractor system of employment" and making every worker a union member; eliminating tuition for university education; giving male students "the option of serving in the military over the summer break;" the lengthening of the mandatory education period to 12 years, and government aid for families making less than the minimum wage.
TURKISH MEMBERSHIP OFF EU'S RADAR SCREEN UNTIL 2020
Turkish membership in the European Union is off the bloc's radar screen for the next decade, its decision not to include Turkey in the EU's budget for 2014-2020 appears to show.
"Including Turkey in the 2014-2020 budget would have meant that Turkey would be an EU member within this period. This is the last message French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel would like to give," said Demir Murat Seyrek, a managing partner of the Brussels-based Global Communications and an expert on the European Union.
Candidate countries receive special funding during their first five years of EU membership. An allocation has been foreseen for Croatia, another candidate country that started membership talks the same year as Turkey and is expected to conclude its negotiations later this year.
Member states' opposition to Turkey's joining the bloc caused the European Commission, tasked with preparing the budget, to rebuff the Turkish government's demands to have Turkey included in the EU's 2014-2020 financial considerations.
The EU decided in 2004 to start membership talks with Turkey, but has avoided giving a specific target date, something it has offered to other candidates that later joined the 27-nation bloc. The EU ruled in 2004 that while the objective of negotiations is accession, such talks are an open-ended process, "the outcome of which cannot be guaranteed."
This language was accepted to convince some member countries that were opposed to Turkey's eventual membership but did not want to be held responsible for blocking the start of negotiations. Since that time, opposition to Turkey's membership has grown stronger and the pace of reform in Ankara has slowed. The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has been pushing for a target date to finalize negotiations, saying it will have a motivating effect on the slackening enthusiasm among a Turkish public less and less convinced that Turkey will ever enter the bloc.
Discussions on the EU's long-term budget will officially begin only after the commission has tabled its own proposals in June 2011. Tough negotiations will then start for the next generation of spending programs -- talks that will probably conclude at the end of 2012.
The budget must be agreed upon by the European Council and the European Parliament.
Discussions have already started among member states on the general outlines of the budget, however, with the United Kingdom joining forces with France and Germany to demand a real-term freeze in the EU budget until the end of the decade.
The three countries' proposal that the union's budget should rise by no more than the rate of inflation over the period 2014-2020 has received support from Poland, Sweden, Finland and Austria.
"If this proposal is adopted, it will close the way to add an additional issue to the budget, making it difficult to include Turkey during the course of the next eight years," Seyrek said.
The negotiations on the EU budget come amid high stress on European national budgets due to the global financial crisis.
According to Seyrek, it would be futile for the AKP government to press for the inclusion of Turkey in the next seven-year budget, as France and many countries will be strongly against it. He added that being absent in the budget does not mean that it is impossible for Turkey to be a member within the next decade.
"Saying yes to Turkey's membership is, after all, a political decision. The fact that it is absent in the budget will not prevent Turkey from becoming a member," Seyrek said. "Candidate countries receive approximately 9 billion euros each year for the first five years. Turkey can live without that money."
Others, though, see Turkey's exclusion from the budget as a strong negative signal, dampening its hopes of EU accession.
TURKEY'S EU MEMBERSHIP TALKS DEADLOCKED, FM DAVUTOĞLU SAYS
Turkey's EU bid risks grinding to a halt amid rows with Cyprus and strong objections to its membership by Germany and France, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters Wednesday following a key meeting.
"The negotiation process [with the EU] is at a bottleneck despite all the efforts. The problem is not the technical process, but the political blockages," Davutoğlu said, adding that Turkey and the European Union had serious disagreements in their respective positions.
The minister made his remarks after Tuesday's meeting of the EU-Turkey Association Council in Brussels. Davutoğlu told a joint press conference with Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi that the problems were discussed transparently in the meeting and that, counter to media reports, there was no tension in the talks.
Ankara has demanded that the EU make a strategic consideration on three issues in order to overcome hurdles before Turkey's membership, Davutoğlu said.
Addressing the ongoing Cyprus issue, which some EU members have been using to block the opening of negotiation chapters, Davutoğlu said the ongoing impasse with the EU was due to political obstacles. "The Cyprus dispute has been considered and blocked unilaterally," he said, adding that the parties were still working to open the competition chapter in the talks.
"We hope it will be opened during the term of the Hungarian presidency. We are not pessimistic," Davutoğlu said, though he added that the opening of the chapter would not eliminate the hurdles.
Turkey has opened no new policy chapter recently in its negotiations with the EU in the longest period of diplomatic drought since the accession talks started in 2005. "There are differences between the EU and us on the possible steps to be taken in order to open the competition chapter," an official from the Turkish Foreign Ministry told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Wednesday.
Criticizing the EU's strict visa requirements for Turkish nationals, Davutoğlu criticized the bloc for failing to authorize the launching of negotiations over a visa-free travel regime for Turkish citizens, despite Turkey's progress in meeting the EU's conditions for starting such talks.
Ministers of EU member states have rejected the European Commission's request for a mandate to start visa-free regime talks with Turkey, blocking the dialogue with Ankara.
The Foreign Ministry official also said there had been no progress in the EU's proposal to broaden dialogue between Ankara and Brussels over foreign-policy issues.
"The strategic dialogue on foreign policy has yet to be established, since some EU members have been putting obstacles before launching a foreign-policy dialogue with Turkey," the official said.
Speaking at the joint press conference with Davutoğlu, the Romanian foreign minister expressed his country's support for Turkey's EU bid. "Turkey joining the EU will bolster the position of the [EU], increasing its importance as a global actor," Baconschi said.
Both Turkey and Romania will focus on energy and transportation projects in the coming years, particularly the Nabucco pipeline project, Davutoğlu said. He added that plans for strategic cooperation were expected to be finalized during a high-level visit to Romania after the June elections in Turkey.
Baconschi said that Romania expected Turkish companies to invest in Romania's infrastructure and energy industry.
Davutoğlu was set to meet his Latvian counterpart, Girts Valdis Kristovkis, on Wednesday after the Daily News went press.
DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS HIS PARTY DOES NOT THINK OF INCLUDING PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM IN A NEW AMENDMENT PACKAGE
Turkey's State Minister & Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said on Wednesday that the Justice & Development (AK) Party was not thinking of including the presidential system in a new amendment package to be introduced after the upcoming general elections.
Arinc said seeking or discussing a new system was nothing to be feared as they were not changing the regime; they were just seeking a new system with which the country could be better administered.
"This can be a presidential system or a semi-presidential system, or something peculiar to Turkey, or some new arrangement that can help us mend the deficiencies of the current system," Arinc told a televised interview.
Arinc said the AK Party was not thinking of including such arrangements in the new constitutional amendments planned to be made after the June 12th general elections.
The minister said the AK Party was willing to make a brief, liberal, new, contemporary, pluralist and civil constitution, by making use of drafts submitted by all segments of the society, after the elections.
Arinc said the new constitution would be prepared by the widest participation and would be put to referendum irrespective of how much it was supported by parliamentarians.
The minister said that the parliament, not the Higher Election Board (YSK), should decide on whether the president would serve for five or seven years.
Moreover, Arinc said, the party's target was to get at least 47% of the votes in the general elections.
"I think that it will be a good result to preserve this rate, and in my opinion, it is safe for a ruling party to win over 40% of the votes in Turkey," Arinc said.
Arinc also said such a result would mean a third-term AK Party government, which was the party's goal.
U.S. UNDERLINES IMPORTANCE OF AN INCLUSIVE POLITICAL PROCESS
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon said about the Turkey's Supreme Board of Elections' decision to cancel candidacy of 12 independent candidates that it was obviously critically important to have an inclusive political process and avoid any perception that people are being ruled out for political reasons.
Gordon said at a news conference, "I have seen the reports about the election commission ruling out 12 candidates and I would say I am not going to stand at this decision and make independent judgments about the merits of each case. What I could say more broadly is that it's obviously critically important to have an inclusive political process and avoid any perception that people are being ruled out for political reasons."
When reminded that the U.S. State Department's latest human rights report underlined the fact that press freedom in Turkey had decreased, Gordon said, "The report stands for itself, and obviously we stand by what is in the report. We have underscored in many ways, in many places, with Turkey and many other countries, the absolutely critical importance of free expression and independent media, and I think the human rights report is clear about trends that we've seen in Turkey and the importance of, you know, ensuring that an independent and free media takes place."
Asked about arrests under the Ergenekon case, Gordon told reporters, "it's a very complicated matter. What I would say is similar to what I said in response to the previous question. What is important is that certain principles be respected -- rule of law, transparency, inclusiveness. Again, it is impossible, standing here at this distance, to go through and understand exactly what is happening in particular judicial cases."
Asked whether those principles were respected right now in Turkey, Gordon said, "I don't have anything further than underscoring that I just can't, at this distance, go through and make a judgment on whether every arrest that has been made has followed the rule of law and been absolutely appropriate."
Gordon said about NATO's missile-shield project in Europe, "we have said that for the system to work most effectively, it requires a radar, ideally in Southeastern Europe. And we are currently engaged in the process of figuring out the best place to put that radar. We have not made a decision on that yet, but fully expect that sometime this year we'll make a decision on precisely where that radar should be."
He said, while answering a question about Turkey's role in brokering a cease-fire in Libya, "Well, I think we have all said there is a military operation under way with very specific goals -- protecting civilians, enforcing Security Council resolutions. And we've said, and President Obama has said very clearly, that Mr. Gadhafi needs to leave power. Having said all of that, we have been very clear all along that once Gadhafi leaves power, politics needs to take place; you need -- you need the Libyan people to be represented. And one of the steps that was taken to help with such a process was the U.N.'s appointment very early on of a special envoy, Mr. Khatib, who is playing that role. He's been several times to Libya already. So I think it is important that we all support Mr. Khatib in his efforts, but also that we continue to talk among ourselves -- that is to say, members of the broad international coalition that is working on the Libya issue -- about what Libya's political future might be, which, I want to underscore again, is really up to the people of Libya.
"So I think Turkey, like other members of the contact group and of NATO, has been a part of that process. And we have had those discussions together with Turkey and a number of other allies about what precisely is necessary: first to have a cease-fire, to ensure that Mr. Gadhafi leaves the scene, and to help the Libyans bring about the inclusive political process that they will need afterwards," he said.
Gordon said about Turkey-Armenia relations, "Turkey-Armenia relations aren't necessarily a subject for a NATO meeting, but I can say as a general rule that very often when we meet with our Turkish counterparts, and the secretary meets with her Turkish counterpart, the question of Turkey-Armenia comes up because it's very important to us. There have been efforts over the past several years to improve that relationship, which we've made clear we strongly support. Those efforts have recently stalled, which we've made clear we regret, because we believe it's in the interest of both countries to continue the normalization process, reestablish relations and have friendly relations and open trade from which both countries would benefit. So we continue to strongly support direct dialogue between the two countries and normalization of their relationship, and we bring it up very frequently with our counterparts on both sides."
A JOINT CONSULTATIVE COMMITTEE TO BE SET UP BETWEEN TURKEY AND TRNC
The chairperson of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) said on Wednesday that a joint consultative committee would be established between Turkey and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Turkey-EU Joint Consultative Committee's delegation headed by TOBB Chairman Rifat Hisarciklioglu had meetings with TRNC President Dervis Eroglu, Prime Minister Irsen Kucuk and other officials in Lefkosa.
Hisarciklioglu told AA correspondent that they decided to institutionalise cooperation between Turkey and TRNC and agreed to establish Turkey-TRNC Joint Consultative Committee.
The committee would convene once every three months, he added.