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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: 167 - (28/05/11)

Turkey is an extraordinary country, a key to the Middle East – and much else besides.

It is a member of NATO; but in no way a stooge of the US. For instance, in 2003 its parliament refused to allow the US -led coalition troops to use Turkey as a base for the invasion of Iraq, a matter of no small moment at the time.

Key to the Middle East
The politics of the Middle East might appear to be simple – Israel against the rest. Actually Turkey, which is only 5% in Europe and 95% in the Middle East, is in many ways the arbiter of the region.

It is not automatically anti-Israeli, far from it; but it is now very much anti- the present Israeli government. That is to say it is very anti-Netanyahu and his policy of expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

It has been consequently the target of intense diplomatic activity of late. The mullahs in Iran may be Shia, while the AKP(Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi) Justice and Development Party, the Islamicist party in power in Turkey, is Sunni. But they are both after all, Muslims ( a fact that would be readily acknowledged by the Iranians, even if not so easily by the Turks). Tehran is vigorously courting Ankara. The hands-off policy vis-a-vis the Iraq conflict is paying off handsomely for the Turks here.

A dubious deal
The Iranian leadership are convinced that they can put maximum pressure on Tel Aviv by playing the Turkish card to the full.

They have forged a deal for Ankara to accept the enrichment of Iran's low-enriched uranium in Turkey no less. "The Iranians have manipulated Turkey and Brazil in appearing to accept the enrichment of part of their uranium on Turkish soil," an official said on condition of anonymity.

"The Iranians have already pulled off such a trick in the past -- by pretending to accept such a procedure to lower tensions and reduce the risk of harsher international sanctions, then refusing to follow through," he said. Top diplomats from Iran, Brazil and Turkey on May 17 signed a deal which will allow Tehran to swap its low-enriched uranium in return for nuclear fuel in an exchange to take place on Turkish soil.

The official said the Iranian initiative was likely to "complicate issues" for world powers looking to rein in Iran's nuclear programme. "It is going to be much more difficult for the United States or the Europeans to reject this arrangement because it's no longer just about Iran, which is a much easier situation to manage," he said.
There is no doubt that this dubious deal has upset the pattern of Middle Eastern politics. Turkey is vigorously independent and so long as it is run by the AKP, is no sure friend of an Israel ruled by Netanyahu. But nor is it a sworn enemy - and that counts for a good deal in such a sulphurous region as the Middle East.

Coming elections
Upcoming general elections in Turkey are crucial, though it is broadly believed that the AKP will remain in power for the next term, which would be its third, as well. The AKP has already hinted at major constitutional reforms that have raised many 'ifs' and 'buts' among many circles, especially after the decision of a military court against the AKP.

Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the head of the AKP, has undertaken a massive purge of his own party ahead of this summer's elections. Only 146 of the 333 AKP deputies have been renominated to stand again in the elections. There is no doubt that he is re-asserting his authority. The newcomers will of course be picked men.

Economy booming
If the ruling party is so certain to win, there is a good reason for this, a booming economy. Erdogan never needed to be reminded of the US electoral dictum – ' it's the economy – stupid.'

Turkey, about two decades ago, had as distraught an economy as Pakistan has right now. But due to its commitment to its nation and prolonged democratic political change, Turkey stands among G-20 member states today. In fact, Turkey has attained the status of having the15th largest economy of the world with GDP levels almost tripled to $ 618 billion in 2009, up from $ 231 billion in 2002, while GDP per capita soared to $ 8,590, up from $ 3,500 in the given period.

The Turkish economy has been flourishing by leaps and bounds, as the Turkish Government in general and the AK Party in particular, have extensively focused on currency reforms, housing projects, social security and healthcare, support for SMEs, foreign policy for Africa & Near East, logistic, tax, educational, and tourism reforms, whereby it has reshaped post-2002 and Turkey has rapidly jumped into top 20 progressive economies’ slot.

From militarism to moderate Islam
Turkey also underwent an army coup in 1982 and has struggled for almost 18 years to get rid of a military-devised constitution. It was Erdogan and his relatively conservative AKP, whose roots are in Islam, which advocated a liberal market economy and Turkish membership of the European Union (EU). The AKP took the initiative in campaigning against the dictator’s given constitution of 1982.

After long untiring efforts, in September 2010, a Turkish Constitutional Referendum was held, wherein 58% of Turks supported the AKP’s constitutional amendments against 42% opposing them. A recent referendum also indicated the likely upshot of the forthcoming 2011 General Elections in Turkey where AK Party is aspiring to succeed for the third consecutive time.

The primarily secular society of Turkey, where conservatism and liberalism survive in parallel, has always yearned to be declared as part of the EU. The current ruling party was given the status of an observer member in the European People’s Party (EPP) of the EU and is expected to become a full member of the EPP if the EU ever admits Turkey’s membership.

It is one of the notions among the analysts that if Turkey is not given EU membership by ruining all efforts of AK Party, it may again split into two: the reformists and conservatives factions, which may ignite another phase of political turmoil in Turkey. Since the army has always remained the major claimant to protect the secularism of Turkey, it is in search of the Achilles’ heel of AK Party to topple its regime.

Tussles between Turkish military and courts with AK Party have remained more evident during both regimes of AK Party. In recent days, another verdict by a military court in Turkey surprised the government when the Military High Administrative Court (MHAC) rejected the petitions filed by Defense and Interior ministries to revisit the verdict of Supreme Military Council against promotions of three senior commanders for their alleged involvement in a coup plan, Sledgehammer.

Since August 2010, promotions of these three commanders including an admiral turned into a Gordian’s knot because government had suspended them following the article 65 of Turkish Armed Forces Law (TAFL) that states a member of the military who is imprisoned or being tried cannot be promoted.

Earlier in September 2010, the three commanders submitted an appeal against government’s decision in Supreme Military Council, which issued a stay of government’s decision, and later in December 2010, the final verdict of court endorsed the promotions of the three commanders. The AKP government re-appealed the court to revisit its decision, but on 18th February 2011, the Military High Administrative Court Chambers Council convened to discuss the requests and came out to stand with its previous decision.

The only option left to end this showdown between the AKP government and the Turkish military is for Erdogan, who is after all premier, to use his maximum authority and retire these three commanders.

 

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