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Friday, December 31, 2004

Analysis: Tragedy cast political shadows - (United Press International)

"Analysis: Tragedy cast political shadows

By Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst

.....There is more recent precedent too for a terrible natural disaster catalyzing long festering resentment at an entrenched and incompetent government that was soon after swept out of office.

The great swathe of urban squalor and misery that sweeps crescent-like north of Istanbul and then eastward for 80 miles across the southern shore of the Black Sea is home to 10 million people. This usually forgotten region of Turkey briefly hit the international headlines in 1999 when the terrible Izmit earthquake killed 23,000 people.

The death toll was so horrendous because, as we noted in UPI Analysis at the time, developers had run up hundreds of shoddily built apartment blocks in defiance of building codes.

On Aug. 20, 1999, we warned in these columns, "The disaster may boost the appeal of Turkey's Islamic fundamentalists at the expense of the government, ultimately threatening Turkey's strong ties to the West. Turkey is a NATO member -- the only Muslim nation."

And sure enough, the anger and despair fostered by this event funneled a new wave of support to the Islamist Justice and Development Party, or AKP, led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan that propelled it to its landslide election victory in November 2002."

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