Sunday, July 22, 2007

Turkish Elections

The incumbent Justice and Development Party has won the parliamentary elections. This result was expected, and I don't get those that are so angry and disappointed at it. Here are vote and MP distributions in 2002 and today, as of now:

AKP - 2002: 34.43%, 365; 2007: 46.62%, 340
CHP - 2002: 19.41%, 177; 2007: 20.91%, 111
MHP - 2002: 8.35%, 0; 2007: 14.27%, 71
Independents - 2002: 0.96%, 8; 2007: 5.7%, 28.

If I were in Turkey today, I would have voted for AKP. It's not because I agree with the fellows at the Economist. Having spent some time in Turkey recently, I am well aware of the government's flaws, double standards and negligence, as well as the corruption allegations that seem well-founded. Despite some journalists' willingness to portray a different picture, much went wrong during their term, and we shouldn't forget. The murder of the Council of State judges, the murder of Hrant Dink, Article 301 and rising nationalism, the uneasy current account deficit, wide-spread unemployment among the youth, soaring crime rates, unbelievably atrocious crime stories, the EU disappointment, horrendous public transportation, the derailed fast train, worries over earthquakes, drought, erosion and forest fires that remain unaddressed, the deep divides in the society - and those are not only religious or ethnic divides, they are divides between rich and poor, educated and ignorant. They simply did not do enough. And they also did not lift the headscarf ban.

But let's take a look at AKP's rivals: CHP, one that does not formulate any policy except for stirring up fear and anger against religious fundamentalists, foreign investors, businessmen, European Union. They make up the "secular elite" alongside the military, and them branding themselves secular is not enough reason for anyone to vote for them. Their leader Deniz Baykal is famous for both his ambition that undermines the success of his own party and his incompetence.

I don't need to say much about the blind, irrational nationalism of MHP. Their increasing popularity is the only thing that truly disturbs me about this election. They are abusing the sentiment about the increasing clashes between the PKK and Turkish soldiers in the South East. Although the injustices done to Kurds by the Turkish state are clear, nothing can justify the violence inflicted by the PKK. Especially after reading Mutluluk by Zülfü Livaneli, I appreciate more and more the difficulty and meaning of what our soldiers are doing there, of course all we can do is imagine, there is no way to truly understand. It is so appalling and two-faced that the US and Iraqi Kurds are not trying in good faith to stop PKK. All the same, I find it very dangerous that growing numbers of people go for the hate-inflicting, "testosterone-driven" nationalism.

Finally, Mehmet Ağar's centre-right DP lost miserably, getting only 5.43% of the vote, despite its equivalent ANAP's failure to enter the election after a doomed merger between the parties. Ağar's alleged association with the "deep state" was a big liability, although the media seemed to forget the accusations and the trials. AKP gained much ground in centre-right to the expense of DP and ANAP. Centre right is the most favourable place to stand in Turkish political spectrum.

More people will be represented in this parliament than the last one, which is good. Running independent enabled Kurdish candidates in the eastern and south eastern provinces to get around the 10% threshold for political parties. They came first in Tunceli, Muş, Diyarbakır, Şırnak, Hakkari and Iğdır. AKP increased its votes but will have a healthier, smaller majority, forcing it to come up with a compromise candidate for President (unless they try to push through the referendum option immediately.)

A new party is desperately needed. A new party made up of liberal-minded, well-qualified, idealistic yet practical people. People who won't try to gain support by simply standing on one side or the other of the religious and ethnical divides, but instead work for better education and employment for all in good faith. People who understand the world economy and the importance of being open and competitive. A party that's not just the best option among the bad.

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