An election always contains sensational drama ready to be enjoyed even by the uninterested millions around the world. The best of entertainers in this arena is clearly America, with Britain as runners-up, showcasing their internal democracy before revealing their international hypocritical stance. But that’s just because they are the current world leaders and they can do whatever they want. Aside from them, since the founding of the republic by Kemal Ataturk, the general election in Turkey on the eve of Sunday 12th of June 2011, has seen wide-spread international recognition.
Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, A.K. Party) have once again triumphed, with a mandate to pursue its reform agenda. However, though they have won, the reform processes will deem it critical for the AK Party to join with the opposition. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s party scored some 50 percent of the vote, and has won 325 seats in the 550-member parliament, 42 short of winning the outright majority needed to rewrite Turkey’s 1982 military constitution without having to consult the parliament. It would have also meant that Erdoğan could have extended his power for the next ten years, taking a presidential role.
However, this is no longer possible. With 25.9 %, The Republican People’s party (CHP) came second with the only other party, the Nationalist Movement party (MHP) winning 13%. Speaking at a victory rally in the capital, Ankara, Erdoğan acknowledged the challenges ahead, mentioning the word “compromise” three times in an effort to forge support and reach a consensus with the opposition, to rewrite the constitution. This is a difficult task and many analysts have suggested that the AKP will face a rocky third term, with key issues requiring resolution.
More globally, their chances of joining the EU, a trial that has been on-going for the last 6 years, has been hindered through the curtailment of access for the Cypriots . With Israel and the Palestinian cause to also look over, and the Arab revolt, the AK Party finds itself in two minds – how to best serve their mentees in the East, whilst not angering their mentors in the West. These relations will once again come under the public gaze in coming weeks as preparations for a second Freedom Flotilla culminate. And most recently, Turkey’s relations with neighbouring Syria have jolted, and the 4000 plus refugees surging through the border, will eventually require a response from Erdoğan.
But the problems do not end here. Most immediately, several domestic issues need attention. Some argue for a possibility of an overheating economy, whilst others remain skeptical of their promises to enhance the cultural and political rights of the Kurds and other minorities. This time the minority voices will demand that their grievances be addressed, as 35 Kurdish independent candidates appear to have won seats in the parliament. Yet perhaps the biggest challenge for AKP is the secular opposition which claims to have faced a string of authoritarian measures from the Party, such as increased control over internet content and limiting press freedom. It appears that the secular Turks worry about AKP being a challenge to their European, modern lifestyle; measures such as internet censorship, instilling religious morals with respect to sexual content, and imposing restrictions on the availability of alcohol, remain as personal concerns for many secular Turks.
The secularists’ paranoia of the “Islamisation” of Turkey in the hands of AKP is unsound. It must be noted that most of these issues are blown out of proportion with such heightened concerns defaming the AKP, and detracting from their outstanding good work. Since their first landslide victory in 2002, the party has transformed the country’s domestic and international positioning. Western media outlets such as The Economist concur that the progress Turkey has made domestically and internationally since the AKP came to power, is unmatched in Turkey’s modern history. These achievements include: an economy that has evidently flourished with sound economic policies and progressive trade relations, constructive foreign policy helping Turkey regain international influence, investment in the social and educational sectors, efforts to resolve conflicts with minorities, and protecting rights to freedom of expression – including religious freedom for those who want to wear the veil. With such efforts to preserve the values of democracy, it is strange that secular Turks deem AKP as authoritarian.
The AKP Party needs to continue its robust and productive actions to accentuate further their global and personal image. To make a suggestion, the reformist fervor, for which they were recognised, needs to return at the forefront for Erdoğan. It makes no sense to cover what good has already been achieved.
The problem is not Erdoğan being pious or that the AKP has an Islamist “hidden agenda”, the worry is Erdoğan’s vehemence for more power, in seeking a position as President and thus, opening up the possibilty of shrinking public support. Nonetheless with further planned development schemes of canals and bridges, Erdoğan is rallying for more infrastructural development and economic progress. And for this, Erdoğan remains the man of commitment. With his charismatic speech, he seemed ever more embracing: “Today workers, pensioners, farmers have won. People in the villages have won. Today 74 million people have won. Today the western world, Tripoli, Gaza have won. The Middle East, the Balkans, Europe have won. Peace, justice and stability have won.”
Reclaim Your Stage:
The Platform is a groundbreaking blog that provides current affairs and cultural commentary. Our pieces offer challenging opinions from a range of spectrums; that’s why we love hosting a platform for them.