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TURKEY


 

 

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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
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)

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Update No: 163 - (24/01/11)

Turkey today, on any issue is much more inclined to take a position which reflects its real power in the fractious neighbourhood of the middle-east, rather than just echo the US position, as was the case during the cold war years. For centuries as European duchies, principalities and small kingdoms grew in strength to eventually reach significant statehood, Turkey for seven centuries was already a major military power and built a large empire, including not only all of the Arabian peninsula, but along the north African coast to the Atlantic where the Sultan’s appointees ruled. Turkey’s European empire, included Albania, Serbia, Hungary, Macedonia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania. The Ottoman army was for a long time the best and most feared in Europe, the first to deploy heavy artillery and even reached as far as the gates of Vienna, at its zenith.

So Turkey is used to being a great power and whilst that light to some extent went out, or at least dimmed, after its defeat in WWI and the collapse of the Ottoman empire, the period since has seen a remarkable transition, led by the national hero Mustapha Kemal, in that this Moslem nation has learned to put religion in its place and become secular in the affairs of the world. As a key member of Nato – the only one except Norway sharing a border with the USSR, it built up a powerful military and although there has been no shortage of tensions between the military and the politicians, that has now largely been resolved.

Turkey opted to become a democracy and by and large it is in that sense an oasis, flanked by Syria – a dictatorship, Iran a large and powerful former adversary for centuries, Russia, another historic enemy, now its northern neighbour across the Black Sea, and Armenia a FSU state , a client of Russia. None of which are democracies.

Further, it is the largest and easily the best developed (and is potentially natural leader) of the ‘Turkic’ states, which after the collapse of the USSR include Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, all now independent nations sharing the enormous central Asian landmass.

All of this adds up to the fact that Turkey is both a regional giant politically and militarily, and ‘good news’ for the world at large in that it has shown the way in secularising an Islamic state, which many countries (Pakistan comes to mind), could gain a great deal from if they could emulate. Further, although their democracy has glitches, they are serious about it and also serious about receiving the respect which all of these credentials show that they deserve.

With this background it seems absurd that Israel should have so antagonised them over the matter of the Mavi Marmara flotilla, a seaborne publicity-seeking protest by mainly Turkish sympathisers for the population of the permanently besieged city of Gaza. After a botched assault by Israeli commandos eighty miles offshore, thus by some definitions piracy, the outcome was that nine unarmed protestors of Turkish nationality on the vessel were executed, for it is claimed using chair legs, iron bars, etc to resist the commandos. The term ‘execute’ seems the only appropriate one when one protestor took four bullets in the brain indeed there were thirty bullets wounds shared amongst the nine dead, who being unarmed clearly could not fire back. Israel has just held a judge-led enquiry and surprise, surprise, finds everything was as it should be. The UN had earlier published a report which talked of “an unacceptable level of brutality.”

Israel has fewer friends in the world than it used to have, which has much to do with the world watching the lack of progress in forming the ‘promised land’ of Palestine, a matter which has been outstanding for some sixty years. But Turkey and Israel used to get on together famously. Their militaries exercised together, they were friends. Is it that Israel now rests entirely on the fact that its lobby in Washington can deliver US aid any time it wants that it has no need of regional friends?

New Turkish constitution in the offing
Turkish voters strongly backed constitutional reforms back in September handing a government led by conservative Muslims a new victory in a power struggle with secular opponents over the country's direction. Legislation will shortly come before parliament.

"The winner today was Turkish democracy," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told followers as he declared victory in a vote analysts said boosts the chances of the ruling AK Party winning a third consecutive term in office in 2011.

Erdogan had portrayed the reforms as an effort to boost the Muslim nation's democracy and help its European Union candidacy.

Most of the package was uncontentious, but secular critics say changes to the way senior judges are named will strip the judiciary of its role in overseeing the executive.

The EU's executive European Commission, which had criticized the government for stifling public debate, welcomed the results. "As we consistently said in the past months, these reforms are a step in the right direction as they address a number of long-standing priorities in Turkey's efforts toward fully complying with the accession criteria," Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fuele said in a statement.

The government won backing for its package of 26 articles with a "Yes" vote of 58 percent, NTV broadcaster said, with 99 percent of ballot boxes counted. State-run Anatolia news agency also showed the "Yes" vote at 58 percent with 97 percent of the vote counted.

Inter party strife inevitable
While the outcome will be greeted by investors as a sign of confidence in a government credited with bringing in record foreign investment and managing strong economic growth, it will reinforce ideological divisions in the deeply polarized country.

"The ruling party will become even less receptive to the opposition, and the opposition will use tougher words and approaches to undermine the government," Faruk Logoglu, a former ambassador to Washington said.

The leader of the secularist opposition party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, said the government had taken a "big step" toward controlling the judiciary and his party would oppose AK attempts to monopolize power.

Analysts saw AK drawing comfort from the victory, lessening chances of imprudent spending in the run up to the election.

"This strong vote of confidence means markets will gain more confidence in there being a one-party majority in this year's election," said Simon Quijano-Evans, an economist at Cheuvreux based in Vienna. "The bottom-line is to continue to look for strength in Turkish equities and foreign exchange."

Prospects for elections
The outlook looks good for the incumbent AKP to have a third electoral victory in July. They have done remarkably well. They took over an economy with a 70% annual rate of inflation and reduced it to single figures. The economy is now booming after experiencing the full brunt of the global crisis.

The Kurdish rebels have been quelled. Ankara kept itself out of the Iraq War. Turkey is an oasis of stability in the Middle East, indeed, its logical local leader.

 

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