ISSN 2330-717X

Turkey: Voters Opted For Stability And Security – OpEd

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On 1 November 2015, I was one of thousands of volunteers for “Oy ve Ötesi” (Vote and Beyond), an independent group of observers operating at polling stations throughout Turkey.

We eight volunteers from different educational and social backgrounds came together between 6:45- 19:00 on Sunday in a high school classroom for a common purpose. Coming from very different walks of life, we had never seen each other before. We collected a total of 374 votes, counted them, recorded them, and certified them.

I believe in democracy, for as long as we have the freedom to choose, everything will improve in time by way of mutual communication and the desire to understand one another.

In Turkey’s November 1st general elections, the average populace prioritized security and stability in an ever increasingly volatile geography.

I continue to be optimistic for our markets. We do not have the luxury to say, “après moi le deluge” (after me, the deluge).

I would say that when the appropriate time comes, then we shall be able to prioritize market transparency, accountability, independent monitoring, rule of law, separation of powers, freedom of expression, and independent free media, and it is at that time when we can engage in better practices of parliamentary democracy, the results of which will allow for a better future.

***

Let me tell you a story you from the distant past. It was years and years ago. As a major contracting company, they were never able to get any orders from big public sector organizations. No matter how much they bid and bid, and fulfilled all the necessary requirements, in the end they never got any positive results.

One day a gentleman came to their office. He said, “Make a consulting agreement with me and let me provide you with full information on the tender”. They signed an agreement with his company in Panama and sent a lump sum of money to their offshore account for consulting services.

After this, a new tender was opened, everything was kept extremely secret. All interested parties were required to submit their proposal dossiers in sealed envelopes. They all handed in their documents 5 minutes before the closing time of the tender.

After their proposal documents were submitted, they were requested to leave the offices immediately in order to avoid any undesired flow of verbal information. Client locked their doors behind us. Everything was arranged behind closed doors. Participants were later asked to declare a second, lower bid price. Blind price quoting without any inside information on competitors has no meaning. However, on that evening, their consultant sent a fax to Company’s Ankara office containing all the information on their rivals’ prices.

If there is an information leak within a public institution, it most likely originates from the top, as the lower cadres wouldn’t dare to engage in such an activity. Such occurs not only in our geography, but all over the world.

As a young engineer who recently graduated from university, I thought that this must be “the way things work”. Since then, time has passed, all of those top decision makers have retired, and the public company at hand was privatized, sold and eventually disappeared from the market. Over all of these years, these archaic procedures have continued and improved.

Today we see new procedures. Your applications for tenders will not be answered unless you are close to the top political administrators, so you should look for new opportunities in Russia’s remote regions or in the Middle East. Considering this, how can we continue to run businesses in such a fragile economy? Can we bear the burden of ever increasing costs? The system has been closed and locked, and hence the economy and investment climate are also inaccessible. Even the works of the privileged few have faced this reality.

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I’ve had a difficult time understanding why we have shrouded natural gas prices in secrecy for so many years. I have also always envied the high investment placed in education by our northern neighbor Russia, their skilled mathematicians, their excellent market strategists. Our human capital has difficulty in matching theirs when it comes to trade negotiations in particular. Moreover, this is augmented by the fact that we should drastically and urgently reduce our dependence on their fuel supply. They will surely exploit our disadvantageous situation as long as this dependence continues.

If a trade agreement is kept behind closed doors, there is always some aspect thereof that goes against the people’s common benefit, there is always some aspect that favors top decision makers. The details of the Turkish Stream and Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) negotiations are still unclear. What shall we receive in return for what we concede? What will be the extent of this, our northern neighbor’s Christmas gift?

We know that Russian President Vladimir Putin has an Ph.D. degree in energy economics. There are rumors that ghost writers brought together the wording of his academic dissertation. Anyhow, that is his thesis. Nonetheless, he completely assimilated the content of academic discipline with his office. Compared to his preparations, our decision makers fumble when it comes to academic and practical learning.

At the end of WWII, regardless of the huge human losses they paid on the eastern front, our northern neighbor crushed the last resistance of the Nazi German Army in May 1945. They then turned to the Far East and crushed the Japanese Army in Manchuria in August 1945.

Similarly, the country has now entered with its full weight into the Syrian theater in the most recent phase of the conflict. They have come to Syria for a long, if not permanent stay. Syria is now commencing a long-term accession to Russian territory as had also been the case for Eastern Europe and Manchuria.

We do not have weapons that can counter Russia’s SU-30 fighter planes or its T-90 war tanks. We should have designed and manufacture these weapons much earlier. There’s nothing more we can do right now other than trying to remain peaceful and independent.

***

The transatlantic superpower of the United States has no intention of interfering in the Syrian Civil War, nor does it need to become embroiled in any international conflict before the 2016 presidential elections. For a long period of time, it has pursued a “policy of indifference” towards us in our relations. In international relations, indifference is worse than insult. Leaders meeting on 15-16 November this year for the G20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey have no serious agenda. Western Leaders will come and go all in one-day. They will talk about popular and easy topic, “global warming”. They will talk about important issues among themselves in bilateral meetings, and the only thing that we will supply during the G20 Summit is the daily catering and hotel services.

On the other hand, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has already completed his mission. It makes no difference whether he stays or goes, Syria is now falling under Russian domination. We have limited capabilities when it comes to dealing with events south of our border. There is not much we can do. We can close our borders and we can limit or block passage between us. We are trapped to the south. The only thing we can do is to reduce our dependence on imported energy, imported fossil fuels, and imported natural gas.

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Our general elections were held at the beginning of this month on 1 November 2015. As long as we have the freedom to choose in free elections, we should believe in and trust the common sense and common wisdom of the voters of this nation. We must understand that in these elections the voters opted for stability and security, which they have desperately needed in recent days.

Haluk Direskeneli

Haluk Direskeneli

Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP, Entergy), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

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