Alexa

Turkey's prime minister pledges reformist government and a renewed EU bid

Turkey's prime minister pledges reformist government and a renewed EU bid

Turkey's leader on Friday laid out a policy vision for the next five years that focuses on economic reforms, pursuing European Union membership and defending the state's secular and democratic principles.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who won a second mandate in parliamentary elections in July, said in parliament that the government will press ahead with democratic and judicial reforms, overhaul the constitution, and establish "zero tolerance" against torture.
His speech came three days after his close ally, Abdullah Gul, won the presidency in a parliamentary vote after months of confrontation with military-backed, secular circles. Gul approved a new Cabinet comprising politicians with Islamist and secular backgrounds, some with reformist streaks underscoring the Islamic-oriented government's commitment to winning EU entry.
"Our government sees the EU entry talks both as a way of integration and a reform process to improve political, economic, social and legal standards," said Erdogan, a devout Muslim.
Even so, many Turks remain deeply suspicious of the government's long-term intentions, fearing it will seek to impose Islamic values now that it has a virtual lock on power.
Legislators from Erdogan's Justice and Development Party are working on a draft proposal that overhauls the constitution _ a legacy of a 1980 military coup _ to make it more democratic, the government has said.
"Our new constitution must bring to life the democratic, secular and social state, governed by the rule of law, and protect individuals rights, and it must guarantee fundamental rights and liberties," said Erdogan, whose record shows a shift from advocacy of political Islam to a more moderate stance in which religion is not the driving force in policy-making.
Erdogan vowed to eradicate torture, which human rights groups say has persisted in detention centers despite vast improvements in the country.
"With an understanding of zero tolerance, we will fight with great determination _ just as we have done so far _ against human rights abuses such as torture, death under custody, which are unacceptable in democratic countries," Erdogan said.
Erdogan promised to continue reforms to boost the economy, maintain fiscal discipline and fight corruption. The government's policies, backed by the International Monetary Fund, have helped bring down soaring inflation to single-digit figures in the past five years.
Erdogan said the government would aim to more than double Turkey's exports to US$200 billion (euro147 billion) during its five-year term.
He pledged the government's resolve to fight separatist Kurdish rebels, whose attacks this year prompted the Turkish military to recommend an offensive against their bases in neighboring Iraq. Turkey's political leaders have instead appealed to Iraq and the United States to crack down on rebels operating in northern Iraq.
The program, however, made no mention of any measures to lift a ban on Islamic-style head scarves in schools and government offices, a symbolic issue that has had an especially polarizing effect on Turkish society.
Despite Erdogan's pledge to improve human rights, he did not mention Turkey's Article 301, which has been used to prosecute journalists, writers and academics for allegedly insulting Turkish identity. Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk and slain ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink were prosecuted under the law, which the EU wants Turkey to scrap.
Parliament was scheduled to hold a debate on the program on Monday before a vote of confidence on the government two days later. Erdogan's party has a majority in parliament and is almost certain to win the vote.
___
Associated Press Writer C. Onur Ant in Istanbul contributed to this report.


Updated : 2020-12-05 11:27 GMT+08:00