Monday, November 20, 2006

Local Greens unveil party program

Turkish Daily News, November 20, 2006
by IŞIL SARIYÜCE, Istanbul

Generating the latest ripples in the Turkish political scene, the Greens discussed their future party platform in an open debate with the public in Istanbul during the weekend. Despite the low public turnout, general coordinator Kadir Dadan said he was hopeful that the Greens would run in Turkish local elections in 2009.

The point most emphasized in the meetings was the call for creating a new and democratic constitution that does not restrict liberties. Greens seek to have a party platform that ranges from domestic issues, such as ethnic conflicts, to global problems like climate change. The Greens have oriented their platform to focus on ecology, the economy, justice and fair income distribution.

The Green movement in Turkey began in the 1980s with opposition to the building of a thermal power plant in Gökova and a nuclear power plant in Akkuyu. The Green Party was officially recognized in Turkey between 1988 and 1994. Since 2002, the goals of improving political activities and establishing a new Green Party in Turkey have been revived, said Ümit Şahin, climate change coordinator.

Over the weekend Greens discussed their draft party program with the public, which according to attendees, was an unusual move in Turkish politics. The Green leaders stressed transparency and democratic structure, which they said has been lacking in Turkish political tradition. Debates about Turkey's EU membership were lively.

Anne de Boer, a local counselor of Dutch Green Left Party was in Istanbul to attend program conference of Greens. "There has been a lack of green color in the Turkish political scene" in the past and the Greens here are still not strong enough, said Boer. However, he said that the Greens have already achieved substantial progress, noting that they have a decentralized structure that differs from other Turkish parties and, as an observer member in the European Green Party, have strong international ties to other Green parties.

De Boer sees a positive path ahead for the Green movement, but finding their way into Turkish Parliament might require a change in Turkey's election law. "It has an anti-democratic character," he said, referring to the law that requires a party to win at least 10 percent of the vote in order to be represented in Parliament. Under this law, the majority of Turkish voters are not represented by the party they elected.

He said that when he first came to Turkey in 1984, he noticed posters that read, "Turkey is ready for Europe." "It was strange to see these just after the [1980] coup, but currently I believe Turkey is ready and that Europe needs Turkey."

In some areas such as environmental policy, negotiations in Turkey will be difficult, De Boer said, because special interest groups such as big companies will want to interfere and create obstacles. "The people who want a democratic Turkey must speak out" he said.

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