Turkish gov’t revisits exempted military service before 2015 polls
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu wears a karate uniform and poses with members of Turkey's national karate team following a parliamentary group meeting of his party in Ankara on Dec. 2. AFP Photo / Adem AltanThe Turkish government revisited a fresh implementation of what is called “paid military service” on the eve of next year’s parliamentary elections, exempting those who are over 27-year-old from compulsory military service in return of an 18,000 Turkish Lira payment, as of Dec. 31.
The government expects nearly 700,000 Turkish men to benefit from the exemption, while also boosting the country's budget.
“The money we will collect from this exemption will directly be transferred to our Defense Industry Fund to be used as part of our efforts to adopt a technology-intensive army,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said.
He said the decision was made during last week’s Supreme Military Council meeting, after assuring the army that the government will ease the conditions to become a professionally contracted soldier in a bid to compensate the needs of the Turkish Armed Forces.
“We are significantly easing the process for those who want to be contracted military personnel. Citizens who are over 20 years old can apply even if they have not fulfilled their compulsory military service. We will increase the number of contracted soldiers,” he said.
Davutoğlu recalled the Turkish military’s plans to adopt a fully modern, technology-intensive army by the year 2033 and underlined that the government will focus on developing national sources for the defense industry. “The money to be collected will be transferred to the Defense Industry Fund and will not be used elsewhere,” he said.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu criticized the government’s move for not being fair to those without the sufficient economic means to pay the fee for exemption.
“We suggested that the people who have the sufficient economic means should pay, but those without the means should not pay. Now, those who have money will not fulfill military service, but those without the means will have to go directly to keep guard duty. We do not approve of this. We are a social democratic party that sides with those who are in need,” he said.
On the current debate about reducing the 10 percent election threshold, Davutoğlu said this rule was not introduced by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and all parties were racing on equal conditions. Recalling that the previous government led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made three proposals to change the electoral system last year, Davutoğlu argued they never got a reply from the opposition parties.
“Those who were silent to our suggestions were the ones who are afraid of reducing the threshold,” he said.
The debate over the threshold was recently sparked after the top judge of the Constitutional Court revealed that the Curt is expected to finalize an individual application on the case within two or three weeks.
Davutoğlu underlined that neither the European Court of Human Rights nor the Constitutional Court ruled that the 10 percent threshold was unconstitutional in separate verdicts in the past.
“So what is the reason for launching such a debate now, just six months before the elections?” asked Davutoğlu.
CHP: Reduce it to 3 or 5 percent
Kılıçdaroğlu, meanwhile, called on the government to move to reduce the election threshold to 3 or 5 percent. “We have introduced two draft bills to this end. Let’s see who is sincere and who is not on this issue,” he said.
Underlining that the AKP received 34 percent of votes but occupied 64 percent of Parliament in the 2002 elections; 46 percent of the votes and 62 percent of Parliament in 2007; and 49 percent of votes and 60 percent of Parliament seats after 2011, Kılıçdaroğlu described this as “theft of the national will.”
“Do you think they would be disturbed by this accusation? No, they would not. Because stealing is their expertise,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, stressing that the election threshold was introduced by the military junta in the aftermath of the 1980 coup d’état.
“You say you are against coups. If you are against coups, then you must be against its law as well. Don’t get hide behind the coup plotters,” he said.