Saturday, June 15, 2002

Go Turkey, Go US!


I missed the US World Cup matches - too busy, plus I didn't expect them to luck into the next round. Plus nobody in the US seems to care - all the bloggers are talking about the Lakers. I've enjoyed watching the Turkey matches, although they've been playing a mediocre game. They looked pretty good against China, they showed more spirit than they did against Costa Rica, and more class and sportsmanship than against Brazil. I'll be pulling for them in the next round, but my crystal ball likes Brazil. Turkey and the US both stumbled into the second round, but Brazil has been kicking ass.

Turkish leadership crisis making western news


I'm back, at least for the moment, and I'll try to make up for my absence with some Turkish-specific stuff that you're not reading in the other blogs. I've mentioned the Turkish leadership crisis, namely that elderly Prime Minister Ecevit's health is not good, and the prospects for what will happen if he steps down aren't any better. Last week this story hit the mainstream western press, mainly because the PM missed an important meeting with EU representatives on Turkey's membership bid.

The situation is basically the same as the last time I mentioned it, which means it's more likely to be a problem. At first his doctors were saying that Mr. Ecevit's problem was just "intestinal", which made it sound like food poisoning, but now "a spinal disorder, Parkinson's disease, and a cracked rib" have all been added to the list. When the same doctors claim his health is perfectly fine (he just needs to rest at home for a few more weeks), it's a little hard to believe them.

The succession is iffy. When I first wrote about it, Mr. Ecevit's coalition partners were sternly rebuking calls for new elections, which were mostly coming from politicians not in the current coalition. Now Devlet Bahceli, one of the coalition party leaders, is making a lot of noise himself. He doesn't want new elections, of course, since polls show he wouldn't even make it back into Parliament, much less into the government. But he's insisting that if Ecevit steps down, he's the man to take his place. Ecevit's party only has 1 more seat in Parliament than Bahceli's, so he has a case.

But the guy's a nut, who claims to have put his involvment with the mob and right wing terrorists behind him. Maybe so, but the noise he's making is still right wing. He's calling for the execution of Ocalan, the leader of the PKK, the violent Kurdish separatist group. Ocalan is safely in jail now, captured a few years back with the help of the Israelis and Greeks, and has gotten the PKK to end their terrorist campaign, which in turn has stopped the Turkish army from burning down villages of PKK "sympathizers". But if Bahceli gets his way, Ocalan will be executed, and my crystal ball sees the likely results of that to be a return to terror for Turkish civilians and US-sponsored brutality against dirt-poor people.

Guys like Bahceli don't much care that oppression doesn't inspire loyalty.

So the possible post-Ecevit outcomes are 1) an ultra-nationalist who finds Turkey's human rights record to be too soft, 2) an Islamic moderate who the military is trying to get thrown in jail for "embarrassing the military" and praising the proto-Taliban a decade ago, 3) a coup, or 4) a miracle. My crystal ball suggests 1, 2, and 3 could well happen in succession, over a relatively short time (a year?)

None of these possibilities bode well for Turkey's chances with the EU. Not that the chances are great anyway, but Ecevit has been pushing Turkey along that road, and the others are sure to shove it over the guard rail.
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