Cablegate: Cem Uzan Stumps Youth in Istanbul

Published: Wed 28 May 2003 04:40 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Genc Party leader Cem Uzan's recent speech
to a gathering of university student leaders in Istanbul
provided insight into both his political skills and
shortcomings as he seeks to build on his surprisingly strong
showing in last year's election. While charismatic in some
ways, Uzan failed significantly to address key student
concerns about employment and education reform in the Q and A
session. Uzan also seems to have changed targets of
criticism, saying nothing about the United States and taking
only a brief swipe at the IMF. Instead, Uzan railed at
length against the European Customs Union (though not the EU,
interestingly). If Uzan is to burnish his up-and-coming
image and appear to voters as a serious candidate, he will
have to understand the feelings of Turkish voters on more
issues than just the pain of international integration. END
Heeeeeere's Cemmy!
2. (U) A youthful politician bounds onto stage. The applause
of the 1,400-person crowd rise to a near roar as he takes off
his blazer, and puts on the youth conference's t-shirt. Live
Star TV (owned by Uzan) cameras zoom in on the podium, while
a boom camera pans through the crowd. As a media
opportunity, Cem Uzan's recent speech at a "GencNet"
conference at Istanbul's Yeditepe University began very well.
3. (U) GencNet, a web site devoted to civic action by youth,
is supported by both the International Republican Institute
(IRI) and the ARI Movement, a local NGO which works to
develop civil society in Turkey. GencNet's basic message to
Turkish youth is "get involved," and this year's conference
allowed youth to vote on who they wanted for the keynote
speaker. Answer: Cem Uzan, leader of Genc (Youth) Party.
Proud Entry for Turkey
4. (U) Uzan's speech touched on all the major "hot topics" of
Turkish politics: war in Iraq, economic crisis, relations
with the EU and the US, and the Cyprus question.
Interestingly, though Uzan made passing reference to his
dislike for Turkey's "subservience" to IMF demands, he
refrained from further comment. Instead, he blamed a host of
Turkish economic woes (including joblessness, and drops in
agricultural and industrial exports) on the European Customs
Union, of which Turkey is a member.
5. (U) Stating he believed Turkey to have lost USD 70 billion
in customs revenues in the last seven years as a result of
the customs union membership, Uzan said that the EU was
charging Turkey "the price for EU membership" without
providing "the product" (i.e. full membership). In a further
political contortion, Uzan claimed to be pro-EU, but said
that Turkey must enter the European Union "proudly, not
begging to be accepted." However, he said he believed that
in the future, the EU would be a superpower, and if Turkey
were to join, it would be "part of that superpower."
6. (U) Twice in the course of the Q and A session, Uzan
visibly failed to address the questions posed to him
(questions for Uzan were submitted to the GencNet web site
and did not seem to have been given in advance to Uzan). In
both cases, the concerns were specific to Turkish university
students, and resulted effectively in meandering non-answers
from Uzan. In response to a roundly-applauded question on
what he would do as a future Prime Minister to encourage
post-university job prospects, especially in light of his
pledge to quadruple the number of Turkish universities, and
(as the questioner pointed out) the difficulty graduates
already face in the job market, Uzan blamed customs union
membership as the cause of lost jobs. He added that his
focus is on raising the number of universities; the question
of employment is unrelated. His answer was not applauded.
I said "no," but AK should have said "yes"
7. (U) When asked about his position on the war in Iraq, Uzan
made reference to several full-page adds he took out in his
family's newspapers and elsewhere. "As you all know, I was
against this war in Iraq, remembering the losses Turkey
suffered in the first Gulf War. However, the AK government
was inexperienced, and started bargaining, rather than
looking after Turkey's strategic interests. If the motion
(to allow the US bases and transit through Turkey) had been
approved, Turkey would have gotten a seat at the table to
decide the future of Iraq. The problem is not US-Turkish
relations, but Turkey's bargaining approach to the issue."
8. (SBU) Uzan benefited from slick public relations advice,
lumpenproletariat glee at his ability to swindle Motorola out
of USD 2 billion, and his widespread ownership of television
and press outlets in the Fall 2002 general election campaign,
and again in his early-2003 anti-US/anti-war media campaign.
However, his performance at the GencNet Conference suggests a
lack of knowledge on a variety of significant issues,
including higher education, employment, national security,
and Cyprus. Additionally, Uzan's schizophrenic positions on
the EU and war in Iraq serve to muddle his message. The
run-up to November's election was a sprint for Uzan. Any
future aspirations for parliament will be more of a political
"marathon," and require a broader and more persuasive message
than he has heretofore displayed. We will continue to press
Genc Party contacts as well on Uzan's defrauding of Motorola.
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