President plants ally to reform authority

April 12, 2001

The battle between Turkey's president and the leadership of the country's higher education authority, Yok, has intensified following President Ahmet Necdet Sezer's decision to appoint Burhan Senatalar to its general council.

Professor Senatalar, a well-known critic of Yok, immediately launched a verbal salvo against the Yok leadership, saying that it had "had its day".

"Our esteemed president is not sending me there to perpetuate the system as it stands. Seeing that we have been saying the old system is no good, our new task is to establish a new system," he said.

President Sezer has made no secret of his opposition to Yok, which he accuses of being undemocratic.

Yok was created by the army in 1982 after the 1980 military coup and was given wide-ranging powers in a bid to end the political unrest in the universities that had claimed hundreds of lives in the 1970s.

But Yok has drawn widespread criticism over its centralist powers, such as the appointment of university rectors.

Appointments to the authority's general council have become the centre of the bitter dispute between the president and Yok's leadership.

President Sezer has used his quota of appointments to the council to fill it with reform-minded appointees He has also used his power of veto to block many of the appointments made by Yok's leaders.

The Yok leadership, however, retains control of key decision-making institutions and the support of the military, which has two positions on the general council.

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