property sales to foreigners is one of the most controversial issues in Turkey. The law that regulates property sales to foreigners, enacted in the first years of the republic, has been debated and amended several times during the last nine years. The Constitutional Court has previously canceled six amendments concerning the law. While the opposition has approached the amendment with the mindset that "selling land is selling the national wealth,” people are carefully observing both the opposition's claims and the government's further steps.
At a taxi rank in Ankara's Tandoğan neighborhood I unintentionally eavesdropped on a debate over whether "selling land to foreigners is selling the national wealth or not." A man who declared that he does not vote for the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) asked his friends -- who did support the AK Party in the elections -- "Why do we sell property to foreigners whose countries do not sell property to our citizens?"
The most important difference between the amendment that was passed by Parliament last Thursday and the other amendments is that it lifted the principle of reciprocity with respect to property sales to foreigners. When I asked an AK Party deputy -- who is also a lawyer -- about the new amendment, he said: "Yes, we lifted the principle of reciprocity with respect to property sales to foreigners, but the new amendment introduces a much more effective mechanism. The Cabinet will determine the list of countries whose citizens will be able to acquire property in Turkey. It will be more rational and functional."
The new amendment increases the amount of land that foreigners can buy up to 30 hectares, while the purchase of any area of land up to 60 hectares will require a permit from the Cabinet. Where necessary, the Cabinet has the right to limit the amount of land foreigners can buy, cancel or even ban the purchase.
What are the implementation challenges concerning the principle of reciprocity? How will the new regulation work more effectively and rationally?
In some countries that allow Turkish citizens to buy property, Turkish citizens face very complicated procedures and the transaction process takes a lot of time. In other words, they allow the purchase on paper, but they impose very off-putting procedures for Turkish citizens who want to acquire property in these countries.
Taking into account the past experience of Turkish citizens who want to buy property in foreign countries, the Cabinet will determine the list of countries whose citizens will be allowed to buy real estate in Turkey. The citizens of the countries that create obstacles for Turkish citizens who want to acquire property in these countries will not be able to buy real estate in Turkey. However, citizens of some Arab countries where Turkish citizens are not entitled to own property will be included in the list.
The amendment pleased representatives of the real estate and construction sectors. Because of the principle of reciprocity, many citizens of Arab and Middle Eastern countries who actually wanted to buy property in Turkey have instead purchased property in European countries which do not apply the principle of reciprocity to their property transactions.
The opposition strongly opposes the amendment and wants to create public pressure to show a reaction against it. However, the AK Party has put forward strong arguments.
In order to make sure the Constitutional Court does not cancel the amendment, the government has considered the sensitiveness of the court members and limited the amount of land that the foreigners can buy in Turkey. According to the new regulations, in metropolitan districts, more than 10 percent of improved lands cannot be sold to foreigners. The Cabinet's right to increase the amount of land that foreigners can buy is limited to 60 hectares.
While pleasing both the buyer and seller, the amendment made the opposition unhappy.
What is happening in ‘new CHP'
The “new” Republican People's Party (CHP) faced another crisis before it could persuade people of the sincerity of the new CHP, which was formed after Deniz Baykal stepped down as leader and aims to increase the party's votes by changing the party's anti-religion image. It seems the reason for the crisis is disagreement between the CHP executives.
The resignation of Gürsel Tekin, the second man who shaped the new CHP's vision, caused considerable damage to the party's image.
A former CHP executive who wanted to remain anonymous said: "The CHP administration has not clarified what it means by ‘the new' and each of the CHP executives make their own ‘new' descriptions. This is the main problem with the new CHP."
While Tekin gives priority to intra-party democracy and being close to the people, Nihat Matkap and Erdoğan Toprak want to go through the next CHP congress in which an election to chose a new chairman will be held without many problems.
The straw that broke the camel's back was Matkap and Toprak's attempt to change the delegation structure of the provinces and districts. At that point, Tekin confronted Matkap and Toprak.
So, what was CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu's stance? Since Kılıçdaroğlu, who was trying to remain impartial to the two groups, failed to clarify his stance on intra-party democracy, a crisis of confidence between Kılıçdaroğlu and Tekin was triggered.
Another former CHP executive who asked to remain anonymous claimed that the CHP is going through a sectarian division. “Both the CHP administration and local organizations are dominated by Alevis. Is it normal that in İstanbul 30 of 39 heads of the district branches of the CHP are Alevi?" he asked.
It does not appear that the new CHP will solve its problems in the near future.