Turkey returns to its own agenda after Olympic loss

Turkey returns to its own agenda after Olympic loss

“If the voting had been in, say April, or May,” said a source familiar with Turkey’s bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games in Istanbul, “You might have had a better chance. But after what happened in the Gezi protests it became more difficult.” 

The diplomatic source implied that the police response to protesters gave an idea about the motivation of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government; the perception in Western eyes became quite different to what Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan and his Cabinet have been trying to give to the outside world for the last 11 years. Apparently, Gezi was not the only reason, but it added up to the already worsening political tensions in the region with the rising threat of terrorism and the recent doping scandals involving Turkish athletes.

Sports Minister Suat Kılıç, who had said only a week ago that the doping scandals demonstrated his government’s effectiveness in its struggle against the use of doping and would actually help Istanbul win the right to host the 2020 Games, put the blame on the media yesterday, two days after the Sept. 7 vote in Buenos Aires. He said the media did not help the government motivate the Turkish people to act united as one, and had already earlier tweeted a message against those who were enjoying Istanbul’s loss, saying they had used up their ‘henna stocks.’ That was in reference to a Turkish slang proverb, you ‘henna your bottom’ when you are happy because of the difficulty of your rival (kind of like schadenfreude), in this case it was the government. 

Prime Minister Erdoğan took a more political stance and said that by not voting for Turkey, the Olympic Committee had ignored the one-and-a-half billion Muslims in the world.

Anyway, Turkey’s agenda, which would have been occupied by only one subject, Istanbul, if Erdoğan had won, is back to normal as of Monday. 

Full throttle diplomacy has been going on regarding a possible U.S.-lead military action on Syria over the weekend and on Monday. The U.S. had further contacts with the European Union, the Arab League, and the U.K. separately. Russia had talked to Syria, which had been in contact with Iran. Not much was asked on this round to Turkey, perhaps because Ankara has been pursuing an open hand policy and has already said it would take part in a coalition in every possible way, if asked.

Not only that. The KCK, a front organization of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), declared on early Monday morning that it had stopped withdrawing its militants from Turkish territory to Iraq, which was part of the government’s dialogue (or “peace” as Erdoğan calls it) process, to bring the country’s painful Kurdish problem to an end. The PKK claims that the government has not so far kept its promises, especially in the field of legal amendments. But the PKK also said it would continue with the de facto ceasefire. Erdoğan accused the PKK (in the Kandil Mountains of Iraq) and the Kurdish problem focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in Parliament, which shares the same grassroots as the PKK, of playing a “good cop-bad cop” game. Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ used even stronger rhetoric regarding the PKK threat, saying that Ankara was ready for “every scenario.”

Meanwhile, in the economic field, President Abdullah Gül’s chief economy advisor Durmuş Yılmaz said the Central Bank policies were not too bad for coping with the ongoing slide of the Turkish Lira, but recent political statements were not helping. The former governor of the Bank was implying that government ministers should avoid talking too much about interest rates and the Bank’s policies.

However, since Erdoğan has signaled that some of his ministers could be put forward as candidates for mayor posts of big cities for the March 2014 locals, it will not be easy for ministers to hold themselves back from giving sharp statements and trying to make an impression in the eyes of the prime minister. In practical terms, it is he who is going to be the sole elector for who is going to be what.