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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 237,972 182,848 147,700 21
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,790 2,500 2,530 92
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Turkey


Update No: 122 - (26/07/07)

An AKP victory
The elections to parliament in Turkey on July 22nd went more or less as predicted. The incumbent AKP gained ground, increasing its share of the vote from 34% in 2002 to 47%, an apparent triumph. It was decidedly a triumph to poll as much as 52% in the Kurdish south-east. But appearances are deceptive.

The rules of the parliamentary game have been changed. Both friends and opponents can, however, agree that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's religious-conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) is in the driving seat for now. It is also clear that 23 mostly "independent" Kurdish representatives have been elected to parliament. Kurdish politicians have labelled themselves "independent" to circumvent a 10-percent hurdle that has kept pro-Kurdish parties out of parliament in all their previous attempts.

Erdogan's AKP, nevertheless, has about 340 of the 550 parliamentary seats and has not achieved the nearly two-thirds majority of 367 mandates it previously enjoyed. The AKP may still be able to govern without a coalition partner, but even that is uncertain. The Nationalistic Movement Party (MHP) and the Republican People's Party (CHP), which was founded by Atatürk, may strive to form a anti-AKP coalition. This would, however, be a difficult undertaking. It is hardly expected, for instance, that the Kurds will give their support to the left or the nationalistic right.

Two vital issues settled
There were two significant developments contained within the election results and the first was essential. The poll victory gives Premier Erdogan the power to resist the military over the all-important issue of war or peace. Democracy is prevailing in Turkey, as it did in 2003 when parliament refused to allow the military to go to war in Iraq with the US. This time round Erdogan should be able to resist them going to war on their own in Iraq. There is still the question of whether Erdogan wants to resist the military in this matter. They are itching to take on the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), which has its military base in the two Kurdish enclaves in Iraq.

The second major development is the fact that the Kurdish minority now have genuine representation in the Turkish Parliament with twenty-three members. Whilst secularist detractors focus on alleged "Islamic" tendencies with the AK Party, it has been very clear for some time that Mr Erdogan is a man that Kurds can reasonably expect to be able to "do business" with, he is no racist.

So now there is significant Kurdish representation in a Parliament whose government is not anti-Kurdish, indeed has majority Kurdish support, and is willing to engage in dialogue with Kurds. 

But the presidential hurdle still remains
The lifespan of the coming legislative period may be the shortest in the country's history if the parliament does not succeed in electing the country's president within two months. If there is no head of state, the parliament cannot dedicate itself to supporting the executive or to begin its actual legislative tasks and would be forced to dissolve itself. 

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül was nominated for the post by the AKP and would have been elected if the army had not declared him persona non grata for the country's highest office. The fact that the Constitutional Court declared the parliament's vote invalid permitted a referendum on whether the public should choose the next president. None of Turkey's political parties has suggested other candidates for the job. 

The Army "to the rescue" once again?
This is the point where all Turkish eyes turn to the military leaders. The army still represents an insurmountable hurdle for civil Turkish bodies. This is because the army sees itself as the protector of the secular republic -- based on the reforms instituted by Atatürk, the country's founder -- and because it would not accept a change of direction that would diminish Turkey's laity, the strict separation of religion and state affairs. This is exactly what Erdogan is being accused of because he is suspected of promoting the Islamization of Turkey by means of democracy. Unfortunately, it can therefore be expected that the generals would not be shy about intervening and temporarily abandoning a pluralistic democracy, as occurred in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997.

For none of the parties can offer a panacea. The daily rising death toll from the fight with the militant Kurdish separatist organization PKK is adding to the already enormous domestic pressure. Soldiers' burials are time and again turned into nationalistic demonstrations aimed against the AKP. Meanwhile the burials of Kurds lead to protest demonstrations aimed against the state and often lead to violent confrontations.

The war can perhaps be postponed
Yet the electoral success perhaps relieves the government of the need to launch an invasion of Iraq that had been threatened by the army in heated pre-electoral rhetoric. The AKP now has all the legitimacy it needs, without that accorded by a military adventure of very dubious outcome. The Kurdish forces there, who are backing separatist ones in Turkey proper (where there are 13million Kurds), know every inch of their mountainous terrain and could fight a successful guerrilla war against even the valiant and hard-bitten Turkish army. But war cannot even now be ruled out. 

The victory is a personal triumph for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who could prove to be a statesman, steering his religious party away from the perils of confrontation, either with the country's secular tradition, protected by the army, or with Kurdish separatists, squalid nuisance though they are (as we shall see later).

The AKP, whose name signifies in full 'The Justice and Development Party,' really mean what they stand for. They are successors to the outlawed 'Welfare Party.' The three ideas of their past and present nomenclature animate their practice. They know how to look after their own, the poor and the outcast, running a welfare state of their devising within the state. In this they resemble Hezbollah and Hamas, which also possess the knack of electoral success. Everybody is made to feel that they belong. 

The party's religious identity helps enormously here of course. Its regular members are devout and law-abiding. The role of alms-giving in Islam is vital to the practice of the religion, much more so than jihad, which has not always been integral to it, contrary to widespread opinion. In its heyday in the European Middle Ages the practitioners of Islam were originally at any rate notably more tolerant and pacific than the rampaging crusaders of the Christian Cross and the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. 

Erdogan is in that civilised tradition, that of Saladin. He is devout, but no fanatic; he would hardly be so popular in Washington, if he was. He even tried to bring in Turkey over onto the US side over Iraq in 2003. It is decidedly fortunate that he narrowly failed, losing a close vote in parliament in March of that year, otherwise Turkish intervention could have marred one undoubted success story there, the integrity and flourishing state of two Kurdish provinces in the north, although of course everything is in jeopardy because of the mayhem elsewhere in Iraq. 

Overture to the Kurds
So successful has the party been in putting the poor, the migrant and the religious into the centre of public life that it even won the support, as we have seen, of a clear majority of the Kurds, whose language is illegal and who have never supported mainstream political parties beforehand. This is a truly remarkable achievement.

Mr. Erdogan's party certainly does not act like other Islamist parties. The AKP is the leading voice in favour of Turkey joining the European Union, and it is opposed to the Turkish army's threats to invade Iraq to wage war against Kurdish militants there. Many observers feel that the AKP is planning to grant semi-autonomous status to the Kurds, as with the Catalans in Spain.

The situation is tangled. Two facts make this clear. While the unemployment rate in Turkey stands at close to 10 percent, the figure is closer to 60 percent in the Kurdish south-east region. And while some cities in western Turkey, where much of the country's industry is located, have per capita incomes that are on par with some parts of Europe, many cities in the mostly agrarian southeast have per capita incomes that are more in-line with developing nations. 

No pro-Kurdish party has before gained representation in Turkey's parliament in almost two decades, shut out by Turkey's high election threshold - the highest in Europe - that requires a party to gain at least 10 percent of the national vote to receive legislative seats. In Turkey's last election, in 2002, the DTP (then known as the Democratic Peoples' Party, or DEHAP) swept most of the voting districts in the predominantly-Kurdish southeast, but had only 6% of the overall vote and so no parliamentary representation at all. 

The election threshold does not apply to independent candidates, though, and for the polls the DTP decided to make an end run and field its candidates as unaffiliated. This innovative tactic created an unprecedented opportunity for the Kurdish community's voice to be heard on the national political level. 

If more than 20 of the "independents" make it into parliament, then by law they are able to regroup under their party's banner. That is exactly what has happened, with 23 seats.

The prospect of a strong Kurdish representation in Ankara was already creating a sense of excitement in many parts of the southeast and, observers say, presents both an opportunity and a challenge for Turks and Kurds at a time when attacks by the outlawed PKK on Turkish forces are on the rise. Those attacks have prompted Turkey's political and military establishment to contemplate invading northern Iraq with the aim of destroying PKK training and logistics bases. 

The last time a pro-Kurdish party made it into parliament, 16 years ago, ended in disaster when the new parliamentarians insisted on taking their oath in Kurdish and were kicked out of the body and ultimately jailed. The question now, many say, is whether Turkey is ready to accept a pro-Kurdish party in parliament and whether the Kurdish politicians have matured enough to moderate their positions? 

"We all have changed. I think both sides now see more clearly that they cannot win the war," says Cuneyt Ulsever, a columnist with Hurriyet, Turkey's largest daily newspaper. "Before you could have not even written about the Kurdish issue, now even the people in the street are talking about this issue." 

"If the DTP can act like a general Turkish party rather than talk about the Kurdish problem right from the beginning, that would be more easily digested by the public," Ulsever continued. "But if they came out right from the beginning and called for freedom for [Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK's jailed leader], then there would be hell." 

Hilmi Aydogdu, the DTP's Diyarbakir chairman, says the party's candidates are not going to parliament "to fight" but to try and foster dialogue with the other parties there. "This way we hope to break the way people have been looking at us and to show that our aim is to be integrated with Turkey," says Aydogdu, who recently served a two-month prison sentence in connection with a roundup of several of the DTP's top leaders around Turkey.

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Turkey records strong budget surplus for May

Finance Minister, Kemal Unakitan, has said that privatisation is state policy and that Turkey is a global factor in the economic arena. This was recently announced during a visit to the Municipality of Eskisehir. Unakitan's wife, Ahsen Unakitan, Eskisehir Governor, Kadir Halisici, and Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy, Murat Mercan, accompanied the finance minister to Eskisehir. Unakitan said Turkey is integrated into the global economy, New Europe reported. 
He emphasised that they, as a government, wanted to increase the competitiveness of entrepreneurs by decreasing social security premiums and tax burdens on employers. "The IMF executive directors agreed with us on removing tax burden on employment. We have been unable to send a bill towards this end to Parliament due to the legislature's heavy agenda. This issue will be talked about in the coming parliamentary session." 
Turkey recorded a budgetary surplus of 2.04 billion Turkish liras for the month of May, Unakitan announced. Speaking at a meeting in Ankara, Unakitan said that budget income for May was 19.7 billion Turkish liras while state expenditure for the month was 17.6 billion Turkish liras. Unakitan said the budget deficit in Jan-May period was 3.3 billion Turkish liras and the month primary surplus was 20.3 billion Turkish liras.

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