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Atlantic Council President Kempe Cannot Find Anything to Criticize Regarding Turkey Referendum

Atlantic Council is one of think tanks in Washington, DC. Mr. Frederick Kempe is the president. Mr. Kempe has spoken to Hurriyet over the weekend with regards to upcoming Energy Summit in İstanbul which will be held on April 27th. It will be 7th annual gathering.

It is known that the Turkish Government is funding the Summit.

So far 2017 speaker list does not have any dissident journalist whereas the Atlantic Council’s press person Nicole Hobbs, in late March told WHattı that there will be ‘intellectuals and journalists who present dissenting views’ at the Summit. For now it seems there aren’t any opposition politicians either. There are half a dozen leading ministers and advisers, including President Erdogan son in law Berat Albayrak, spokesperson of President Erdogan and Erdogan himself also on the list. Other AKP government bureaucrats surely will present the AKP government view.

So, the summit will be the PR work of the AKP Government, unless the last 2 days Atlantic Council adds dissenting voices.

Though it should be admitted that many of leading American experts of Turkey currently cannot even enter Turkey due to terror charges. Hundreds of dissenting journalists also outside of Turkey and cannot enter the country. So are some Kurdish and other politicians. But Mr. Kempe thinks ”the hopes on Turkey would be a democratic and secular model to Muslim world.” Many people stopped pointing Turkey as model as early as 2012 or 2013. Now people usually point Turkey as the leading journalist jailer country.

Where this leaves us?

Below, parts of the interview with Mr. Kempe in which Mr. Kempe tries hard not to criticize the Turkish government.

While the referendum was marred by irregularities, and these widespread allegations covered by practically all of leading Western publications, Mr. Kempe draws a rosy picture by ignoring all of complaints. Instead pointing out to the fact that referendum was turned out to be so close and this does not look like other authoritarian regimes in the region.

Mr. Kempe also thinks, below, jury is still out to decide whether Turkish Government has fired enough people, or arrested enough public servants and civilians. Turkey so far fired roughly 150K public servants and jailed about 50K people.

Mr. Kempe also compares Turkey with Middle East dictatorships whereas forgetting that Turkey has been a full EU membership candidate status since 2004.

Kempe also does not mention at all that the April 16th referendum was the worst election since 1946.

These are excerpts from the interview, translated by the WHatti team, below.

Ilhan Tanır



Hurriyet: You must have seen the news; main opposition party, Republian People’s Party (CHP) didn’t accept election results as legal due to the irregularity claims. Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), in their preliminary consideration have said that conditions weren’t equal in referendum. What is your view?

Kempe: Domestic politics always play a role but this isn’t our work focus. No doubt, President Erdoğan’s talk on Turkey’s regional and beyond regional role is going to increase international attention to the summit. Our summit isn’t designed for focusing on Turkish domestic policies, but I’m sure that there will be a curiosity among our delegates on how this constituonal changes will effect Turkey’s leadership priorities with their neighbors, Europe and USA relations. Main question for us is this: as their partners, how can we make constructive contribution for better and more secure Turkey based on democratic values, individual rights and superiority of law.

H: Lots of your colleagues that working in Washington and Brussels are thinking that new presidential system will damage Turkey’s predictability and consistency. They are worried that a leader with all power would make problems on democracy quailty. Do you share these worries?

Kempe: As you know, the ones criticizing President Erdoğan are asserting that Erdoğan himself is dragging Turkey into less democratic side and referendum will accelerate it. His supporters believes he should have more power for more secure environment. In a region where most of countries are either don’t make elections or making designed elections to 90 percent of the pro-government votes, Yes-No results were so close in the referendum. So it’s something to emphasise hopes on Turkey would be a democratic and secular model to Muslim world.

The athmosphere in American administration: Gulenist were in command of July 15.

H: You had high level meetings during your Turkey visit with your committe for summit preparations. Have you personally convinced on Fetullah Gülen and his community were behind of July 15 coup attempt?

Kempe: I’m not an expert in this area but during my meetings with the experts in American administration, the athmosphere was this; High level places in USA thinks that even Fetullah Gülen himself wasn’t in command but Gulenists were in command. This is what I heard on American side for a while.

H: What you said, is this a predominant general opinion on Gulenist matter in American administration?

Kempe: This is an impression I got from people in American administration who follows Turkey closely. The cleansing in the state after coup attempt whether is disproportional or inadequate, it’s still a matter of debate. However, there is no doubt about legality of Turkish government’s question whether coup attempt made by Gulen’s order or not. At least, this is what I heard from high level places.

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