Third Victory of Moderate Islamists in Turkey
THIRD VICTORY OF MODERATE ISLAMISTS IN TURKEY
By Gülçin Erdi Lelandais, Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations
This year has seen political uprisings in a number of countries, including Turkey. In some cases the uprisings have led to elections and political reform. Here, Gülçin Erdi Lelandais, Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations explains more about the recent elections in the country. How was the election won? Will the result ensure a stable political future for the country?
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) (known as a moderate Islamist party) won a third straight term in office in Sunday’s elections, riding a wave of popular support stemming from political stability and continued economic growth in the country (according to the Turkish media).
The AKP garnered 50 per cent of support (326 deputies); with the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the second largest opposition party Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) trailing far behind, with 26 per cent (135) and 13 per cent (53 deputies) respectively. The biggest surprise of these elections is the success of independent candidates standing for Parliament, supported by the Peace and Democracy Party, representing the Kurdish political movement. They will be represented by 36 deputies in the Turkish Parliament. This new political panorama could also propose new perspectives for the evolution of the Turkish political field.
The main opposition is of course the most disappointed of this election. They were expecting to dramatically increase their vote.
The electoral triumph of the AKP does not give to Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Turkish Prime Minister) what he dearly wished: a reinforced majority of two thirds allowing him to revise or renew the Constitution through the parliamentary route. With 326 deputies at the Parliament, not only will the AKP not be able to adopt a new Constitution alone, but it will not be able to ratify changes by referendum (this rule requires the agreement of at least 330 deputies). If the AKP truly wants to renew the Turkish Constitution, it will be necessary to cooperate with the opposition within the new assembly. The experiment proves that the context is not easy and that it supposes that one is ready to make compromises. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be compelled to be more modest and cooperative in his projects of transformation of the Turkish political system.
The main opposition is of course the most disappointed of this election. They were expecting to dramatically increase their vote. However, the support that CHP gave to defendants in a legal proceeding about the preparation of a coup d’état against the government, its radical opposition to the Muslim headscarf in schools and its obsession with the personality cult of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk didn’t persuade sufficient voters. The results show that the Kemalist party seems to be a formation of the past, which still does not manage to incarnate an alternative political future for Turkey. Like in the Spain of the 1980s, when to vote for the Popular Party (a formation resulting from a popular alliance created by the nostalgics of Franco’s regime) was felt by a part of the electorate to be a vote being likely to support a return to the old regime. In Turkey today, many voters refuse to vote CHP because that would be equivalent to supporting a former political regime where the Turkish army was dramatically powerful. The same thing can be said for the MHP. These elections confirm that the only raison d'être of this party remains the rejection of other and nationalist aspirations, especially against Kurdish people. Under these conditions, the political way of the MHP is seen as narrow and too partisan.
After having reused the strategy of the independent candidatures because of the national elective barrier of 10 per cent, the BDP almost doubled its number of seats in 2011 compared with 2007. It now has a group of 36 deputies (against 22 in 2007), in which famous figures are counted, in particular Leyla Zana, the “Pasionaria” of the Kurdish cause, elected in 1991 then condemned in 1994 to 15 years in prison (which will give her the Sakharov Price awarded by the European Parliament). She was released in 2004. The BDP can also be proud, moreover, to have introduced to the Turkish Parliament the first Christian Syriac deputy, Erol Dora. The Kurds have thus all the reasons to be satisfied. They will constitute a real political force in the parliament and could make their claims in the new Constitution. Indeed, they could bring to the AKP the voices which it is missing in reforming the Constitution. However, there is reason to believe that the BDP would negotiate hard to provide such support, and would demand that the majority party abandoned its nationalist rhetoric of electoral campaign.
This new victory for the AKP has come despite the recent authoritarian tendencies of its leader...
This new victory for the AKP has come despite the recent authoritarian tendencies of its leader, Tayyip Erdogan who does not hesitate to take legal proceedings against journalists and writers who criticise him. If we have to note that the AKP has succeeded in opening EU accession talks in 2005, reduced the role of Turkish Army in the country’s political life and established a more independent foreign policy, in particular with respect to the United States, we should not forget that its government has set up the most neoliberal measures in several sectors especially housing, retirement and social security. The coming months will say if the political and economic orientations of the government will be moderated or not.
An international workshop State, Society and Politics in Changing Turkey will be held on 20th June 2011 in Milburn House (Institute of Advanced Study) at 10:15am. The recent social, cultural and political changes of Turkey but also the fundaments of political regime will be discussed during the workshop.
Dr. Gülçin E. Lelandais is Marie Curie Fellow at the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations. After a university graduate diploma on International Relations at University of Galatasaray in Istanbul, she obtained an MA in International Relations at Sciences Po Paris and a PHD on sociology at Cadis-EHESS in France on identity construction of Alterglobalisation movements in Turkey. Her research and teaching interests are located in the intersections between the forms of collective action, transnational protests and social and political environment of Turkey. Before coming to CRER, She was lecturer at Institut d'etudes politiques de Toulouse and postdoctoral researcher at CURAPP at the University of Picardie Jules Verne. She has previously taught on undergraduate and postgraduate level on Political Science and Sociology of Collective Action. She is also in the editorial board of the journal Cultures & Conflicts.
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