THE MAIN PROBLEM

Hurriyet Daily News
Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Common sense eventually prevailed and Republican People's Party,
or CHP, leader Deniz Baykal accepted a request from Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan and extended an invitation to the premier
for a tete-a-tete meeting at the CHP headquarters sometime next
week. Finally, the CHP has taken a constructive step rather than
insisting on stubbornness or aggressiveness, a characteristic that
has become synonymous with the leadership style of Baykal.

The CHP leader not only invited Erdogan to a tete-a-tete meeting
at the CHP headquarters but asked him to have the meeting in front
of cameras and the broadcast of the discussion on a mutually agreed
channel at a mutually agreed date so that the nation could learn what
was discussed and avoid a second controversial "Dolmabahce concord."

So far, Erdogan has not replied to the recorded meeting request
of Baykal, yet he welcomed the meeting invitation. Although it was
clear from Baykal's letter that the CHP remained skeptical of the
government's opening intentions and most likely will not cooperate with
it, it was good that Baykal has agreed to invite the premier to the
CHP headquarters and listen from the mouth of the horse, as they say,
what indeed are the intentions and plans of the government. Would
Erdogan reveal such details at a recorded meeting, is of course
another problem.

An interesting poll

However, it is obvious that the nation is very much confused
on the opening intentions of the government. A public opinion
poll conducted by the Eurasia Public Opinion Research Center, or
AKAM, clearly demonstrated the opening rhetoric of the Justice and
Development Party, or AKP, government could not stop the erosion in
the popularity of the ruling party that dipped to 38 percent in the
March local polls from the 47 percent level the party received in
the July 2007 parliamentary elections.

According to the AKAM public opinion poll, which was conducted
through face-to-face i vinces, including Istanbul, Ankara, Bursa,
Kocaeli, Edirne, Van, Erzurum, Å~^anlıurfa and Diyarbakır with
a total 2,150 people, only 30 percent of the interviewed said they
would vote for the AKP if elections were to be held this weekend. The
CHP, which received 23 percent of the votes in the March local polls
has apparently increased its public support to around 25.3 percent,
while support for the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, was at 14.5
percent level. 5.2 percent said they would support the Democratic
Society Party, or DTP, while the Islamist Saadet, or Felicity Party,
received backing from 4.5 percent, the far right Great Unity Party,
or BBP, was supported by 2.2 percent and the Democrat Party, or DP,
was backed by two percent. These results, while they are nothing more
than a public opinion poll and might not be indicative of what might
be the political picture after the next elections as at present there
is no election in the horizon yet, still are indicative of the public
trend and obviously demonstrate that erosion in the AKP popularity
is continuing.

That was the widespread expectation anyhow. Many people were
already stressing that the Kurdish move, or democracy opening, of the
government might produce a very heavy price for the AKP in the western
and central Anatolian provinces and some modest gains in the east and
southeast. It is obvious that AKP needs to undertake a more serious
effort to explain itself and its openings to the Turkish people,
because even if it still remains the biggest party, a 30 percent or
less electoral support cannot bring it to power alone.

Since we mentioned the AKAM poll, let's continue with the main
theme of that poll. AKAM did not try to measure the public support
for parties. Rather, it wanted to identify the main problems of
the country. According to AKAM poll, neither the Kurdish opening,
the Armenia protocols or even the Cyprus problem were considered by
the public as the main problem of the country. For understandable
reasons, and I sincerely hope the CHP, which claims to be a social
democrat party, will take this poll very seriously, 29 percent of the
polled group defined unemployment as Turkey's most important problem,
while 27 percent said economy. That is 56 percent of Turks listed
economic hardships and unemployment as the most important problem
of today's Turkey. Only 17 percent listed the Kurdish issue and 11
percent listed education while 48.5 percent said they agreed that the
Turkish judiciary was under political pressure. 38 percent said the
so-called Ergenekon investigation and trials were part of a political
vendetta campaign.

What is indeed Turkey's main problem?