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HASAN KANBOLAT

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HASAN KANBOLAT
May 07, 2012, Monday

The results of the Greek and Armenian elections and Turkey

In addition to France and Serbia, parliamentary elections were held on May 6 in Turkey’s two major neighbors: Greece and Armenia.

The Greek parliamentary elections resulted in the collapse of the two-party system in the country. Yet no alternative party emerged as willing to or capable of removing the ruins of the economic collapse. The center of the political system became weaker. Small parties won big victories. The reaction against the European Union and the dynasty of the Greek political elites allowed new actors to emerge as the winners of the elections. The likelihood of a snap election is being discussed. It is true that the rise of the left in France and Greece is purely the result of dissatisfaction with the center-right parties. But will the left be able to make this victory permanent? Will it realize that it will melt away as it moves closer to the rightists’ policies? Time will tell.

In Armenia, we saw the recurrence of a typical post-Soviet development. The political scene did not change. President Serzh Sarksyan’s Republican Party (HHK) won the election by securing 44.5 percent of the national vote. This means that the state and the public will continue to be in permanent crisis. Armenians’ hopes about democracy, increased welfare, the elimination of poverty, the fight against corruption and change have been postponed to another time.

Greek Ambassador to Turkey Fotios-Jean Xydas ran for parliament from the Democratic Alliance. But the Democratic Alliance failed to pass the 3 percent election threshold. Xydas is from Mytilene. Like many diplomats in the Greek Embassy in Ankara, he is originally from Anatolia. Speaking about Turkish-Greek relations, Xydas had said, “Today’s developments result from the public opinion of the two countries rather than from politics.” What Greek political elites fail to see, Xydas sees and he makes bold statements about it.

The results of the parliamentary elections in Greece and Armenia were to indicate whether these countries would be able to get rid of the current internal political instability, frozen political processes and economic deadlock. Yet, we see that the current results are far from offering any solution to the ongoing political or economic problems. The results of the parliamentary elections imply that the public’s trust in the existing system will decrease further. In both countries, political parties fail to instill hope in the public or produce realistic projects. As a result, elections fail to solve any problems. Therefore, these two countries should accept the fact that they need regional cooperation and solidarity in a globalizing world. Considering the geography in which Greece and Armenia are located, they can only obtain stability to the extent that they work with Turkey. This is what has happened in the past. Both countries should now realize that the policies that target Turkey are far from being functional. Athens and Yerevan gain nothing by confronting Ankara. Both countries should understand that the West is politically and geographically far from them (Armenia is also far from Russia) and the solution is to work with Turkey. The three countries need each other.

Athens and Ankara are working on a new arrangement that would minimize the risk of tension over the Aegean Sea. Ankara is taking the preliminary steps for a new political initiative via the South Caucasian railways. These are confidence-building steps. Yet, bold steps must be taken for the integration of different peoples. The Greek islands have to increase economic integration with Anatolia in order to get rid of the economic crisis. To this end, Turkey should provide power and water to these islands. Today, producing power from diesel oil is both expensive and pollutes the environment. Moreover, Turks should be allowed to visit the Greek islands first without a visa and then with only their ID cards. Cultural centers should be opened mutually in both countries. In addition, Turkey and Greece should take steps for economic integration under an umbrella organization of the Aegean Union.

Turkey should unilaterally allow Armenian citizens to enter Turkey with their ID cards -- just like Greek, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) and Georgian citizens. As the doors of political diplomacy are closed, the doors of economic diplomacy should be opened. Baku does not want Turkey and Armenia to establish political ties before the issue of its Armenian-occupied lands is solved. It is right in this respect. But in order to regain the occupied territories, Baku will either dare to wage war against Armenia or seek a peaceful solution by allowing Armenia to democratize and integrate into the EU. The road to Armenia’s democratization goes through Turkey.