Elections in Turkey: A landmark for the Turkish political evolution

Posted in Asia | 15-Jul-07 | Author: Ioannis Michaletos

Supporters waving party flags cheer for Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan during a rally of his ruling AK Party as he campaigns for the upcoming early parliamentary elections in Ankara July 14, 2007.

On the 22nd of July, the long-awaited election battle begins in Turkey, in the most important Election Day the country has witnessed for decades. The division between secularists and Islamists has reached a critical level, and the winner of this antagonism would be able to dictate the developments in that country that range from the perennial Kurdish issue, to the EU accession negotiations and the overall social and economic policy. Moreover from a symbolic interpretation of events; a likely large victory of the Prime Minister Erdogan might well prove to be the beginning of the end of the Kemalist era in Turkey as it has been shaped since 1923.

For the time being, tensions are raising high in the Turkish-Iraqi borders with an alleged 200,000 troops being deployed along with numerous armored vehicles, attack helicopters and artillery units (1). It is unlikely that any military action would be taken before the elections, but it sure to predict that the outcome of the voting would dictate the direction by which Ankara would follow.

There are some possible scenarios that could outline any future predictions for the post-election period. Firstly, should the moderate Islamic AKP party by the current Prime Minister wins; it will have the political capital in initiating wide-range reforms in the social level and gradually become the centre of political gravity in the country, thus establishing for the first time a non-Kemalist rule in Turkey.

A second possibility would be for a slight victory of AKP, and in that case it will not have the appropriate political strength to control the political game. It is expected that it will try to influence smaller parties and make a range of concessions to them, compromising thus its original political platform that calls for the ending of past practices and the empowerment of the “Anatolian” masses that have gained considerable political clout over the past generation. A third scenario calls for the formation of a coalition government with AKP as the primal partner, in which as in case two it will not have a lot of space to maneuver and will have to compromise heavily.

Fourthly AKP could be left outside a new government, if the rest of the parties, create a grand coalition. In that case political tensions could dynamites the Turkish political life, because the incumbent administration of AKP has been able to muster considerable social support, and no one can safely predict the potential reactions of an AKP out of office after 5 years of dynamic rule.

The prospect of a Turkish invasion in the autonomous Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq is the challenge number one for any Administration regardless of the election outcome. The pro-Kurdish political party in Turkey (DTP) might be able to elect some 30 seats (If independent MP’s unite with the party after the election) in the new Parliament and would most certainly play a role in the new political landscape. A radical development would be the coalition between AKP and DTP that will enrage the Army figures and the far right, and on the other hand will ensure Mr. Erdogan elevated international status because of his boldness. This scenario is to be proven over the coming weeks.

The latest poll by the New Anatolian newspaper (2) provided the following results: AKP (42.3%), CHP (22.7%), MHP (15.6%), DP (4.1%), GP (3.8%), and DTP (3.9%), the rest-3.9%. The undecided voters are some 9.6%. It seems that AKP will emerge as a winner but it is not certain that it will be able to form a government without the assistance of another smaller party. Another recent gallop provided: 40.5% for AKP, 21% for CHP. 10.5% for MHP, 7% for DP and 6.5% for GP.

The main contesters

AKP Party (3) –Tayip Erdogan-

The Islamist Pime Minister is the face of the decade for Turkey. He managed to create a continuous uproar in the country by facing up with the Kemalist establishment, brought Islam in the daily agenda, whilst at the same time progressed the EU-Turkish negotiations and assisted in the economic expansion of the country. He is in dire straits due to the Kurdish issue that could become a blowback for his administration.

CHP Party (4) – Deniz Baykal-

The second largest party in Turkey and the main opponent of AKP. It is considered as the cornerstone of Kemalism in the state, and it has a strong back-up by the Army and the state bureaucracy. It main disadvantage is the archaic ideology it uses that fails to grasp the changing Turkish societal modes, in most respects.

MHP (5) – Delvet Bachtseli-

The party of “Nationalist action” is the right –nationalistic party of modern day Turkey. It opposes feverously Erdogan’s government and him personally and highlights a hard line against the Kurds. These elections will be a crucial barometer of its political influence in Turkey. Also it is likely it will cajole CHP in order to create a common front against Erdogan if AKP wins with a great majority

DP Party (6) –Mehmet Agar-

This party is following a moderate secularist path, but it will have great difficulties in becoming a member of the new parliament since it has to reach the 10% limit, and the polls don’t provide optimist results.

GP Party (7) –Uzan Tzem-

The leader of the party is a young Turkish tycoon and owner of multiple media corporations. His political platform is a mixture of nationalism, socialism, secularism, and it attracts support from different social classes. It is unlikely that GP would become a member of the Parliament because it fails to reach the 10% limit in the polls and afterwards its followers would be drawn into the rest of the parties in Turkey.

On overall the AKP Party would most likely emerge the winner in Turkey, the only enigma for the time being is the extent of the victory, that will have its own ramifications on how powerful would Erdogan be. Moreover the rest of secularist parties seem to be left with the option of cooperating between them, and forming a political front against the Islamists. The current political ambitions of the party leaders and the different approaches in social issues will certainly prove to be factors of difficulty for that development.

The social scenery in Turkey favors AKP, since it relies in the emerging and dynamic new middle class originating from Anatolia, the Southern and Northern Turkey and of Islamic origin (8). His only real challenge would be the Kurdish issue that will prove to be as the catalyst for upturns in the domestic Turkish politics for the next years.

Notes:

(1)

http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=16359§ionid=351020204

News brief by the Press TV-Anglophone Iranian station

(2) http://www.thenewanatolian.com/tna-27558.html

Election polls by a Turkish newspaper

(3)

www.akparti.org.tr/

The official website of the AKP Party

(4) www.chp.org.tr/

The official website of the CHP Party

(5) www.mhp.org.tr/

The official website of the MHP Party

(6) www.dyp.org.tr/

The official website of the DP Party

(7) http://www.habergenc.com/

The official website of the GB Party

(8) http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/04/25/europe/25turkey.php

Article by the International Herald Tribune on the raising Islamic middle class in Turkey

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