Gen. Kenan Evren, head of Turkey's military government and leader of the coup that suspended democracy here last September, sounds like a man interested in remaining in higher political office.
"I want to tell you at this stage, I have not come to any decision before a parliamentary democratic system is reestablished on solid ground in Turkey," he said during an interview at the presidential palace. While asserting that the takeover was not launched "in order [for me] to become president," but to prevent civil war, Evren added that "at the time when there are normal elections for the office of president, I shall act in accordance with the will and intentions of the people."
For the interview, his staff insisted that questions be submitted in advance. Evren read most of his answers from detailed statements prepared beforehand and translated from Turkish into English by a government translator. But the talk ranged beyond this prepared situation and this account is drawn solely from his extemporaneous remarks or from his responses to questions not submitted in advance.
In these answers, he showed a willingness to see things in a political context, as well as a defensiveness over concerns, voiced chiefly in Western Europe, that democracy has been sent to the showers here for some time to come.
"I want to underscore that Turkey will return to a parliamentary democratic system," Evren said, though he refused to name a date on grounds that too much complex work lies ahead to do so. "This shall be done not because the West wishes it, but because it is a system that best suits Turkey and is [suited] to the Turkish nation and the wishes of the Turkish people themselves. It was [kemal] Ataturk [founder of the republic] who said the democratic system is best suited to Turkey. Since we are his sons and took over from him, we shall see to it his wishes are realized."
Senior Western diplomats and well-informed Turks believe it will be at least two years before a new constitution can be drawn up, setting the stage for an election. The constituent assembly to do the work will be named by the five-man National Security Council Evren heads. Excluded from the assembly will be anyone elected in the last civilian government -- on the ground that they created the crisis that brought on the military intervention by failing to deal effectively with terrorists.
These observers feel certain the new constitution will substantially increase the powers of an elected president at the expense of the parliament, a reverse of the situation since the 1960s, when the constitution drawn up after the military intervention of that time weakened the presidency in favor of the national legislature.
Evren, while saying that "I'm prepared to go home as a simple citizen" if the country wishes, talked of the future with the air of a man who may talked of the future with the air of a man who may be around for some time. Under the last elected premier, Suleyman Demirel, Turkey launched a new economic program in January 1980 to combat inflation, raise industrial productivity and and end the unprofitability of the nationhs 28 state-owned economic enterprises, which have been criticized for poor management, padded payrolls and inefficiency. Evren emphasized that his government has explanded the program.
"These enterprises had the habit of losing [money] prior to Sept. 12," the day of the coup, he said, "and were never in profit. Losses were conpensated from the treasury. We are very much determined to stop this practice. Whether people are happy or not, we will follow this stringent policy."
Evren ticked off petroleum, coal, cigarettes, alcohol and sugar as items whose prices have been increased recently to bring them more in line with their actual cost. "The [political] parties in power before did not dare to do this, in fear of losing precious votes. We lost treasury money and there was an increase in the inflation rate. We dare make these increases, while the [earlier] governments didn't."