Unshaken bureaucracy

After the nasty surprise of the latest elections, Turkey’s traditional bureaucracy has returned to manifest its regulatory role in domestic political affairs, thereby defeating the expectations of various governments – including the Greek one, of course, which originally saw Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the poll-winning Justice and Development party (AK), as a reliable interlocutor with a conciliatory touch on all issues. During a top-level meeting last week, Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Chief of Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok restored the status of Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash as sole negotiator on the Cyprus issue. The day after, Sezer vetoed the constitutional changes promoted by the Justice and Development party that would have paved the way for Erdogan to become a parliamentary deputy and subsequently prime minister. Both were logical and expected developments. Denktash has been the leader of the breakaway state and the closest aide of Ankara for years as well as of the military bureaucracy which ought to back him – as they did. When Erdogan was appointed head of the neo-Islamic party, on the other hand, he knew well that the Turkish Constitution barred him from entering Parliament or from taking a post in the new administration. In this respect, the Turkish president was right to rebuff a constitutional amendment tailored to favor just one person, though he gave the AK a clear mandate to form a government. Erdogan, the Islamic-leaning leader, tried to blackmail the secular Turkish system and suffered an inevitable defeat. The Greek government, which viewed the popular victory in. Turkey as analogous to that of socialist PASOK in 1981 and yearned to see the collapse of Ankara’s traditional establishment, is now beginning to worry, as the expected revolution, so to speak, did not occur. In light of these developments, the Greek political elite will have to accept as fact that Greek-Turkish relations and Turkey’s stance on the Cyprus question will still be shaped by the Foreign Ministry and Army General Staff and not by the neo-Islamic party’s Cabinet. This is not a negative development, for it will force Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his administration to tackle foreign policy issues not as a trade balance, that is, by resorting to creative accounting tactics, but as a qualitatively superior political activity. Athens and Nicosia will have to readjust their expectations for a solution to the Cyprus problem. Specifically, the Greek administration will have to ask the mediators who see Ankara’s and Denktash’s approach on Cyprus in positive light to explain their statements. Otherwise, the entire issue will degenerate into a political parody and the blame for its failure will not lie just with the Turkish side.

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