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Source: DK/RA-UM/Gruppeordnede sager 1909-1945. 139. D. 1, ”Tyrkiet - Indre Forhold”. Pakke 1, til 31. december 1916
Edition: Danish diplomatic sources
Departure of telegram: 07/24/1914
Arrival of telegram: 08/13/1914
Embassy/consular serial number: Nr. 2
Translated by: Matthias Bjørnlund
Last updated: 03/28/2012

The minister in Constantinople (Carl Ellis Wandel) to the Foreign Minister (Erik Scavenius)


Nr. 2
The Royal Legation. Constantinople, 24 July 1914.

Mr. Foreign Minister,

No significant difference of opinion has materialized between the members of the Turkish Parliament during the present session, and there do not seem to be organized parties there that represent different political ideas or nuances. Indeed, when the government requested a vote of confidence after having presented its program to the Chambers on the 19. of this month, it was enacted by 213 votes, and only one member voted against it.
The reason for this must be sought in the way in which the elections for the Chambers have been conducted.

The outdated election regulations of 1878 are still in force today, and the government – i.e. the Committee of "Union et Progres" – , which pretty much reigned supreme in the country after the conclusion of peace, was thereby able to influence the elections in an absolutely decisive manner.

After having decided to call new elections and to convene the Chamber of Deputies, the government administratively expelled almost all political opponents from Constantinople and from the other major cities of the country under the pretext of wanting to initiate an examination occasioned by the murder of the former Grand Vizier and Minister of War, Mahmoud Chevket Pacha [Mahmud Sevket Pasha], and the subsequent elections took place at a time when these persons were unable to stage an election campaign.

Three energetic men: Interior Minister Talaat Bey, Minister of War Enver Pacha, and then Police Prefect Azmi Bey, who was later dismissed because of the Kavakli Mustafa Affair and is presently member of the Chamber of Deputies, were heading the government and the Committee of "Union et Progrès," and they made sure that there was no real electoral campaign.

In Turkey, elections for the Chambers are conducted in such manner that the electorate elect the electors who then conduct the final election.
The list containing the names of those electors who were appointed by the Committee of "Union et Progrès" were distributed to the Mohammadan voters when they showed up to cast their votes, and the voters had to put those lists in the ballot boxes in the presence of the officials and gendarmes, ensuring that the electors were elected almost unanimously.

The electors who were entered on the lists were of course all supporters of the Committee of "U et P," and the election of the Deputees was only a mere formality.

While this method was used vis-à-vis the Mohammadan voters, it was quite another matter when it came to the election of the Christian Deputies.

The Christian voters have no reason to oppose the Committee of "U et P" as long as they are given the promises and guarantees they wish for, the more so since "U et P" is presently the only organized party with a positive program that exists in Turkey.

The opponents of "U et P" do point out the mistakes the Committee make, but they do not give any clear and precise indication as to how they want the country to be governed, and they have done nothing when they were in power.

As a consequence thereof the Christian voters do seem to seek to counteract the centralization system and the principle of "Turkey for the Turks" which "U et P" favor, but they see a greater possibility of improving their life conditions by reaching an understanding with the Committee rather than in breaking with it.

"U et P," on the other hand, want good relations with the Christian voters in order to give the appearance of a great and unified Ottoman nation in the eyes of Europe.

The government therefore initiated negotiations with the various Patriarchates and bargained with them on the number and election of candidates, whose names were entered on the abovementioned printed electoral lists after agreement was reached.

In many cases these negotiations only led to agreement through much dispute; they were broken off in several cases, and the Patriarchs declared as kind of a protest that they would not participate in the elections, which had as a result that the government made concessions and that agreement was reached.

In reality, the Christian voters in the Empire cannot independently occupy their designated seats in the Chamber of Deputies, given the fact that the electoral districts are always divided in such a way that the Mohammadan voters constitute a majority.

Wherever there is a compact group of Christian voters, that group is divided into small parts to which larger Mohammadan parts are connected.
It is in fact a matter of life or death for the Turks who constitute an actual minority in the country, given that there are at most 5 ½ to 6 million of them, while the rest are Arabs, Kurds, Laz, Cherkes [Circassians], Armenians, Greeks, etc.

The government therefore seeks to alter [the country's] appearance by dissolving the larger, compact groups made up by the various nationalities.

The settlement of migrants in and around the Christian villages that has been much mentioned lately; the suggestion to grant special privileges to Jews who settle in Armenia and Syria; and the government's obvious aversion to drive the Kurds away from those pieces of land they have unlawfully taken into possession; all seem to be caused by that same policy.

The obvious thing is therefore to view the present Turkish Parliament as a rather consensual whole made up of 2 main groups, namely A: "Union et Progrès" and B: the Deputies who represent the foreign nationalities, and it is only after that, that one might perhaps theoretically begin to track down different political tendencies and nuances within these groups.

It so happens that "Union et Progrès" is much too large a group to be able to form a real bloc without quarelling, and one notices clear signs of disagreement regarding the Committee's composition and at its General Assemblys, and it is only with much difficulty and by mutual concessions that it has up until now been possible to simply keep the party from disintegrating and avoid that the fierce clashes that take place during the negotiations have had fateful consequenses for the Committee.

Outside "U et P" one seems to be able to discern 2 kinds of Members in particular, both of whom are strongly tied to the Committee, namely:
A. Those Members who remain faithful to the Committee because they realize that without organization and union no power is possible. Those Members back down in some areas but dominate in others.

B. Those Members who only worry about their personal interests, and who always follow the majority.

Within the various national groups it is also possible to observe different tendencies, somewhat more clearly given that different political programs are represented, but this is all only in its infancy.

With the highest esteem I remain, Mr. Minister, yours faithfully

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