Turkey: Erdogan challenges Europe on death penalty

Analysts say key theme for presidential regime

14 November, 12:38

(ANSAmed) - ANKARA, NOVEMBER 14 - The country is on the brink of war with Syria, the conflict of Turkish Kurdistan with PKK is causing an increasing number of victims, and appeals from all over the world are pouring in for Kurdish detainees who are on their 63rd day of a hunger strike. Yet Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems to have the return of the death penalty in the country as a priority.

The Islamic national premier has raised the issue three times in a week, the local press noted, questioning a move which worries secularists in the country as well as the European Union. If the death penalty became once again legal in the country, it would be the end of Turkey's candidature for EU membership.

The death penalty was abolished ten years ago with Erdogan's support. But now the premier says he is in favour of capital punishment for a number of serious crimes. The state cannot forgive a murderer, only the victim's family can, he said, supporting a stance defended by Islam.

In Trebisonda, Erdogan said there is not only the EU in this world: the US, Russia, China and Japan still have the death penalty. A number of analysts, however, see the premier's move as part of a wider strategy to conquer an almost absolute power in the country.

'A political scenario for the institution of a strong presidential system has been discussed for a while in Ankara', said Murat Yetkin, an editorialist with the secularist daily Hurriyet, 'imposed by a referendum together with the promise to re-institute the death penalty'.

Surveys indicate that the majority of the Turkish population is in favour of the death penalty, especially against Abdullah Ocalan, who is imprisoned in Imrale. The leader of the PKK, the Kurdish armed, separatist group, was sentenced to death in 1999. But after the death penalty was scrapped in 2002 under EU pressure, Ocalan's sentence was converted to life imprisonment.

Erdogan aims to become president in 2014 but wants to go to the Cankaya palace with a presidential system which is tailor-made for him. The proposal of a presidential reform was presented by his party, the Akp, ten days ago. The entire opposition is against the plan. Erdogan has the absolute majority in parliament but he does not have enough votes for a constitutional reform. He could however overcome the opposition's veto with a referendum.

Surveys indicate that the majority of the country supports the plan and this is why, according to Hurriyet, the premier has thought about calling a referendum on both the presidential system and the death penalty, even at the expense of a future EU membership which seems increasingly difficult to the population.

Many suspect Erdogan of having a hidden agenda to re-Islamize the country, an agenda which analyst Mehmet Yilmaz said is increasingly coming out in the open. Erdogan, he said, 'has never believed in the EU objective' and used the European Union to win the strong arms with secularist military leaders.

But on the death penalty he is now showing the will to introduce 'religious norms in the law'. 'He feels stronger and doesn't feel it is necessary to hide his agenda anymore', said Yilmaz.



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