Countries that were once part of the Ottoman Empire, some of which are currently experiencing turbulent times and witnessing uprisings, are highly interested in the June 12 general elections in Turkey, State Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek has said.
Çiçek, who shared his opinions on the winds of change in the Middle East and North Africa, where most countries that were formerly parts of the Ottoman state are located, said many groups in the region see Turkey as a second home. “Every election is important, but this is much more important. What is going on around us also indicates this. There is serious turbulence in the area, of which we are at the center. Every country is tasting this transformation; there is bloody change in some of them. This is all happening in places that were part of the Ottoman Empire. Their eyes and ears are all turned to Turkey. Whenever they have problems, they turn to Turkey. They are also curious about the results of the June 12 elections. This goes to show how important Turkey has become in the region.”
Çiçek said a new constitution would be the country's priority agenda after the elections, saying adopting a new constitution was the responsibility of all the political parties in the nation. He said in an area where demands for more rights and freedoms are at the forefront, it would be impossible to continue on one's path with a constitution essentially prepared by the military.
Turkey's current Constitution, adopted in 1982, was drafted in the post-1980 coup d'état period.
The minister said: “We have a Constitution that has different priorities than we do. Turkey can't continue with this Constitution. The referendum [on a constitutional amendment package] on Sept. 12, 2010 clearly showed the people's demand for change. The Republican People's Party [CHP] in 1993 said our Constitution was apt to cause a regime crisis. We treat this statement as a promise [to support constitutional change]. Voters should follow up on the promises of political parties for constitutional change. Civil society organizations should also put pressure on parties in this regard, because after the elections we will enter a period of ifs and buts,” he said.
Çiçek also criticized main opposition CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, accusing him of having stolen his election promises from the AK Party. “They are presenting what we have done in a new wrapper. This is plagiarism,” he said. The family insurance plan, an election promise by Kılıçdaroğlu, is currently in place as part of a program of the Payments without Premiums Directorate of the Social Security Institution (SGK). He said another party earlier promised to build a high-speed railway to Konya. He said this has been done by the AK Party and that trial runs between Konya and Ankara are set to commence on May 25.
He said opposition parties were generous in their promises but had a difficult time explaining where they will find the resources to fulfill those promises. “The CHP, when you ask them how they will finance their promises, points to money from the sale of 2-B land [plots that are considered to have lost their status as forests], but they went to the Constitutional Court to annul the 2-B law. This is entirely demagogical and wrong, but it is a style that we are familiar with,” he said. The CHP was saying one thing in the morning, only to change it in the afternoon, he noted, recalling that Kılıçdaroğlu apologized to a former AK Party minister for having accused him of corruption when the two ran into each other at a business union meeting but reiterated his allegations later during an election rally.
Çiçek also offered his opinion on the recent increase in violence in the Southeast. He said the Ergenekon terrorist organization, whose suspected members are currently in jail on charges of plotting to overthrow the government, and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) were cooperating to organize violent demonstrations in the hope of undermining the popularity of the AK Party in the country's Kurdish-dominated provinces when the elections are less than a month away.
“They [Ergenekon and PKK] don't believe in the people, in democracy. Their plans to create chaos have been exposed, undeniably. Their methods are about killing and bloodshed. They are increasing violence to pressure ordinary citizens [to vote for the pro-Kurdish party]. They say they demand freedom but force people to shut down their businesses. The most important right is the right to life. Instead of this, they throw Molotov cocktails at businesses.”