Books on Turkey
Update No: 118 - (29/03/07)
Looming presidential election in May
Turkish political debate is dominated by a single issue right now: Will Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once jailed for pro-Islamist statements, become
president? Erdogan has shown restraint and moderation in office, but he heads a
religious party. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, known as the AKP,
controls parliament, which elects the president. If he wants the job, it is
there for the asking
The thought of Erdogan and his headscarved wife, Emine, welcoming heads of state
at the presidential palace in Ankara alarms Turkish secularists, who say he
would make Turkey more like neighbouring Iran. Those secularists include many
members of the military, which has led three coups since 1960. But Erdogan is no
Khomeini or even Khameini. He has respected the secular state, enshrined as such
since Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s and 1930s, although he is certainly a devout
Muslim. But then so are many Turks.
Concern that the legislature will elect him as president in May, possibly
provoking a confrontation with the generals, has kept interest rates high and
curbed stock prices in Turkey, an ally of the U.S. and a candidate for European
Union membership. ''If Erdogan insists on becoming president it will create
great tension in Turkey,'' Ilter Turkmen, who was foreign minister following the
1980 military coup, said in an interview. ``Institutions like the army will make
it clear that this is not something they can look at with magnanimity.''
To many, Erdogan, 53, as a devout Muslim, is too divisive to head the Turkish
republic, where secularism is enshrined in the constitution. In 1999, Erdogan
spent four months in jail for ''inciting religious hatred'' after reading out a
poem at a political rally that said ''the mosques are our barracks, the domes
our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers.''
Wife barred by the President
Erdogan's wife, Emine, 52, has been barred from many state functions by
President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, 65, a staunch secularist, because she wears an
Islamic-style headscarf. Erdogan's roots are in a pro-Islamic political party
that was forced from power in 1997 amid military pressure.
''What's at stake here is the political regime in Turkey,'' Onur Oymen, deputy
head of the main opposition Republican People's Party, said in an interview. ''Erdogan's
main intention is to make Turkey a moderate Islamic state, instead of a secular
If chosen as president for a seven-year term, Erdogan would appoint judges to
the Constitutional Court and be able to veto laws passed by parliament. The
assembly can override a veto by passing a law a second time unchanged.
Tensions over Erdogan's potential bid are already having an impact on
equities and the lira. ''Prices on Turkish markets have been hurt by Erdogan's
possible candidacy and the uncertainty over who will run,'' said Yarkin Cebeci,
an economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Istanbul. ''If he fields an
acceptable candidate, then we'll definitely see a rally.''
Even though Erdogan is the country's most popular politician, only 35 per cent
of Turks want him to be president, according to a February poll of 2,403 people
by Ankara-based research company Metropoll. Still, most investors expect him to
succeed Sezer, according to a January survey commissioned by Goldman Sachs Plc.
If Erdogan doesn't run, potential candidates include Defence Minister Vecdi
Gonul and State Minister Mehmet Aydin, both members of Erdogan's party whose
wives don't wear headscarves. State Minister for Women's Affairs Nimet Cubukcu
is also a potential candidate and would be Turkey's first woman president.
After the Ottomans
The presidency is of deep symbolic importance to many Turks as a pillar of
the Western-oriented state founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk after the collapse
of the theocratic Ottoman Empire following World War I.
Ataturk, a war hero, aimed to wrench Turkey from its past and integrate it with
the West. He changed the Turkish alphabet from Arabic to Latin script and banned
religious clothing, such as fez and the headscarf, in government buildings.
After Ataturk died in 1938, the army appointed itself as guardian of the secular
democracy he created. In 1982, a military-led government introduced a
constitution that referred to Ataturk as Turkey's ''immortal leader and the
unrivalled hero,'' and stated that ''there shall be no interference whatsoever
by sacred religious feelings in state affairs and politics.''
Erdogan's party says it respects secularism. ''We won't do anything that might
hurt political stability in Turkey,'' Reha Denemec, one of the AKP's deputy
leaders, said in an interview.
Erdogan has already fought with the secular establishment. In 2004,
parliament approved a law making it easier for graduates of Islamic schools to
enter university. It shelved the bill after the military objected and Sezer
Last year Sezer, the former head of the Constitutional Court, rejected Erdogan's
nomination of Adnan Buyukdeniz as central-bank governor. Buyukdeniz is chief
executive of Albaraka Turk, a lender that follows Islamic rules barring interest
Party members including the speaker of parliament, Bulent Arinc, have urged
changes to the constitution to lift curbs on religion, including the ban on
At the same time, the AKP has reduced the army's influence over political
decision-making, which helped Turkey win membership talks with the EU in October
''The old guard in Turkey are afraid of losing their power and they don't want
to lose the presidency,'' said Dogu Ergil, a Turk who is professor of politics
and sociology at Uppsala University in Sweden. ''While Erdogan has Islamist
leanings, I think he has learned the limitations of the system. If he hasn't,
then hell will be raised.''
Pegasus Airlines to launch budget air carrier
Turkish Pegasus Airlines said it has teamed up with Georgian Industrial Group
(GIG) to launch a low-cost air carrier in Georgia, website reporter.gr said on
The new airline will be based in Tbilisi and will operate domestic flights in
Georgia, Pegasus said in a statement on February 20, 2007. GIG has interests in
the media, energy, cement, transport and pharmaceuticals sector. It also owns
charter air carrier Vipavia.
Kanuni Motor plans to start exports in 2008
Turkish motorcycles maker Kanuni Motor said it will start exports in 2008,
seeking to enter new markets as part of plans to expand outside Turkey, New
Target markets are countries on the Balkans, in the Middle East, Europe and
Africa and more particularly Romania, Albania, Cyprus, Egypt, Bosnia and Syria,
company sales and marketing director, Said Orhan, said on March 13th.
Kanuni sold 43,000 motorcycles in 2006 and expects sales to reach 50,000 units
this year, as it also plans to grow on the domestic market as well. Turkey's
motorcycle sales are seen going up to 400,000 units in 2007 compared to 330,000
last year, Orhan said adding that the market has the potential to reach a value
of some US$ one billion (760 million Euro) in the next few years, up from the
current level of US$500 million (379.6 million Euro).
Domestic producers that suffered from the cheap Chinese imports started to
recover after the introduction of higher import taxes which also forced many
motorcycle importers to seize operations, bringing their number down to 50 from
200 at the beginning of 2006. Kanuni Motor is part of local industrial group
Bank Asya net profit jumps 57% in 2006
It was a very good year in 2006 for Turkish Islamic lender Bank Asya, which
said its net profit jumped 57 per cent year-on-year from 2005 to 146 million
Turkish Lira (US$101.4 million) in 2006, it was reported on March 7th by bank
officials who were delighted with the results.
The bank's profit before taxes stood at 196 million Lira (US$136.9 million) and
total assets expanded 60 per cent to 4.18 billion Lira (US$2.93 billion), the
Bank Asya cash loans rose to 3.06 billion Lira (US$2.14 billion) and
shareholders' equity surged 114 per cent to 633 million Lira. The bank expanded
its network to 92 branches and the number of employees to 2,365 last year,
general director Unal Kabaca said.
Other Islamic lenders active in Turkey include Turkiye Finans, Albaraka Turk and
Kuveyt Turk. Islamic banks operate in compliance with the Islamic religious law
Sharia, which bans the payment and receipt of interest. Instead they use a
system of sharing profit from returns on approved investments to make the
financial structure work.
Oil refiner Tupras 2006 profits up 22%
Turkish oil refiner Tupras said its profits rose 22 per cent last year, its
first under its new ownership of Turkey's Koc group and Shell, website
reporter.gr said on February 21st.
Tupras said it sold a total of 26.14 million mt of refined products in 2006, up
4.7 per cent on the 24.97 million mt it sold in 2005 and posted a net profit of
US$480 million up 22 per cent on the US$376 million it recorded the previous
Zorlu Enerji in talks to build power plants in Israel
Head of energy group of Zorlu Holding, Murat Sungur Bursa, said that Zorlu
Enerji was holding talks for building two power plants that run on natural gas,
New Europe reported.
The power plants will have energy production capacities of 100 MW and 50 MW,
Last year, Zorlu Enerji acquired a 25 per cent stake in Dorad Energy Limited of
Israel, which builds an energy power plant with 800MW capacity in the city of
Ashkelon. Zorlu took part in the construction of the power plant and will
undertake the maintenance works of the power plant for 20 years. Bursa again
said that Zorlu Enerji might bid in the tender for the construction of two
thermal power plants at Afsin Elbistan.
According to the public announcement for the tender, each unit will have a
minimum installed capacity of 1,200 megawatt and the winning company will
operate the thermal power plant units for 30 years. Currently there are two
thermal units at the power plant (with installed capacities of 1,355 mw and
The thermal power plants are expected to cost US$ four billion. In January, the
deadline to submit bids was delayed by two months to Mar 27th; however energy
minister Hilmi Guler said that any further extension to place bids was possible.
S. Korea, Turkey to celebrate diplomatic ties
South Korea's Defence Minister, Kim Jang-soo, is coming to Turkey to attend
functions to mark the 50th anniversary of normalisation of ties between the two
countries, Defence Ministry officials said. He was accompanied by 16 delegates
including officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Defence
Acquisition Programme Administration (DAPA) and the Ministry of Culture and
Tourism, TurkishPress.com reported.
Kim will meet with Turkish National Defence Minister, Vecdi Gonul, to discuss
ways to promote relations between the two nations and arms sales, ministry
officials said. While in Ankara, Kim is expected to promote South Korea's first
domestically-made battle tank featuring an auto-loaded 120-millimeter cannon and
the ability to cross shallow rivers. South Korea has applied for the Turkish
tank acquisition bid with its next-generation amphibious tanks codenamed
"XK2." The underwater tank is described by the Defence Ministry as the
world's best in defending against aircraft. Turkey is a main weapons trading
partner with South Korea. Seoul is now delivering 350 K-9 self-propelled guns to
Turkey under a 2001 contract and negotiating Korea's export of K-1 tanks, XK2
main battle tanks and KT-1 trainer jets. Kim is also scheduled to pay a courtesy
call to Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Tradesmen exchange agreement between Turkey and Italy
A cooperation agreement for the exchange of tradesmen between Turkey and Italy
was signed on March 6th by the executives of Italian Chamber of Commerce and
Union of Credit Cooperatives of Turkish Tradesmen & Craftsmen (TESKOMB),
website thenewanatolian.com reported.
"Within the framework of the agreement, obstacles encountered by Turkish
tradesmen and craftsmen while exporting their products to EU countries, will be
removed," said Kadir Akgul, chairman of TESKOMB.
Turkcell to ink US$3bn loan
Turkey's largest cell-phone operator Turkcell will sign an agreement on February
26th for US$ three billion syndicated loan, website reporter.gr said on
Turkcell in January mandated Akbank, Citibank NA Garanti Bankasi, HSBC Bank, JP
Morgan and Standard Bank as lead arrangers for the unsecured syndicated loan.
The company had announced that it would use the loan for possible international
investments and in the company's general funding requirements. Turkcell, later,
stated it was holding talks for setting up a consortium that will bid in the
third GSM licence tender in Saudi Arabia after local media speculated that
Turkcell formed a consortium with Alwaleed bin Talal's Kingdom Holding to bid
jointly in the tender, the website reported. The deadline to bid for Saudi
Arabia's third GSM licence expired on February 24th.