— The Erimtan Angle —

The institution of democracy is one of those sacrosanct principles of contemporary civilization universally praised and seldom questioned. Pundits and other commentators alike interpret democracy, expressed in “free-and-fair elections”, as providing the only secure base for peace and prosperity. Elections are thus seen as the one-and-only fundamental element of a healthy democracy giving voice to the will of the people and guaranteeing the individual’s as well as society’s freedoms. Hence, the regular recurrence of the cliché phrase that never in living memory has an election been more critical than the one fast approaching. And none more so than the imminent general election in Turkey: On 7 June, the Turkish electorate will choose 550 new members to the Grand National Assembly who will subsequently form the 25th Parliament of the Republic of Turkey. As the successor to the multi-ethnic and multi-religious Ottoman Empire (1299-1922), the Republic of Turkey has long been held up as a shining example of democracy in an Islamic context, even as a proponent of secular values in a region where the influence of religion is more often than not seen as detrimental to the personal freedoms of its citizens and understood as repressive at best. Observers in the West always saw Turkey as an exceptional case, as a country where the legacy of its founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) ensured that the power of Islam would never go beyond the personal realm or infringe individual choice. Generally, people saw Atatürk’s legacy, oftentimes referred to as Kemalism, as a heady mix of Turkish nationalism and secularism, even though the reality on the ground primarily consisted of the official promotion of “a permissive attitude towards Islamic restrictions and regulations (such as the prohibition of alcohol and the obligation of five daily prayers)”. As a result, “people at home as well as abroad referred to this Kemalist project advocating a lenient state of affairs as constituting ‘Turkish Secularism’ (called laiklik, in Turkish after the French laicité)”.[1] The advent of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (or AKP) in 2002 has convincingly brought an end to Turkey’s Kemalist traditions, and ushered in a post-Kemalist era.

The upcoming elections will undoubtedly prove crucial for the future of Turkey and its population. On the surface, four parties appear to be rallying for public favour: the ruling AKP and the three main opposition parties — the Republican People’s Party (or CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (or MHP) and the mainly Kurdish (or if you will, pro-Kurdish) Peoples’ Democratic Party (or HDP). In the course of the current election campaign, opinion polls and people-in-the-know have time and again asserted that the AKP’s popularity is now finally on the wane while the CHP’s appeal is rising and set to bring about an election outcome that would disrupt the AKP’s traditional hold over the country. At the same time, a constant murmur is heard about the HDP’s chances of breaching the electoral threshold of 10% and thereby becoming the effective kingmaker in Turkey’s next government. But in addition, a whole host of miniscule parties (without even a glimmer of hope of ever entering parliament) are also attempting to lure voters, either to the extreme left or the extreme right or Islamist side. The London-based journalist Michael Sercan Daventry gives these optimistic evaluations on his authoritative website James in Turkey: AKP, “Vote share in long-term decline. Plurality of votes almost certain. Seat loss very likely”. CHP, “Vote share rising slightly. Very likely to be main opposition. Seat gain likely”.MHP, “Vote share erratic in May [2015]. Very likely to be third party. Seat gain very likely”. HDP, “Slight but steady rise in vote share. More likely than not to cross 10 per cent threshold”.[2]  Here he is “[r]eviewing the television spots from the main political parties in the Turkish general election campaign”.

A decisive AKP victory will undoubtedly lead to dramatic changes in Turkey’s democracy, changes that would see its current parliamentary system replaced by a presidential one (if the ruling AKP were to gain at least 367 parliamentary seats). While, a threshold-breaching HDP (gaining about 50 seats with 10% of the votes) would arguably ensure that the Kurdish peace process, launched by the AKP government in the late 2000s, would come to fruition in the near future. A victorious CHP, on the other hand, would immediately set out to return Turkey to its Kemalist roots in an effort to erase any trace of the preceding Erdoğan years and restore Turkey’s erstwhile quasi-secularist credentials. Even though Tayyip Erdoğan now occupies the Presidency of Turkey and is thus supposed to be impartial and above politics, he still manages to deliver overly political messages and, as expressed by the political scientist Yüksel Sezgin, is “running his own electoral campaign and touring the country with a Koran in hand”. At a rally in the Anatolian town of Kırıkkale earlier this month, Erdoğan made his intentions plain: “You will not take me away from these stages, you will not silence me”. Speaking at the end of April in Ankara, on the other hand, the President even pronounced a clear programmatic statement, leaving no doubt about his hopes for the future: “[t]he parliamentary system has run its course. Turkey has opened the door to a new day [on] 10 August 2014, [on] the day that the people’s votes elected my person as president. There is one [clear] reality here [now], [that] you will need to give [us] 400 [parliamentary seats]. Give [us] 400 to found a new constitution. I am equal to every party. Give your vote to whomever you want to, but give [us] 400 [seats in parliament]”. Though he may be divisive and has attracted a lot of critics over the years, Tayyip Erdoğan remains an incredibly popular figure in Turkey. AKP supporters adore their leader and trust him to do what is good for them and the nation. While speculations regarding election outcomes and gaining or waning popularity are rife at the moment, is seems abundantly clear that Tayyip Erdoğan (and the AKP) are now on the verge of receiving a popular mandate to establish a New Turkey, a New Turkey that is firmly anchored in the Middle East and devoted to the tenets of Islam. In other words, “free-and-fair elections” will now arguably lead Turkey further down a post-Kemalist path where individual’s as well we society’s freedoms will become more and more constricted and circumscribed by the example of the Prophet Muhammad, turning the country into just another middle-eastern land with a distinctly Islamic flavour and hue, arguably further and further removed from the West and its civilization.

[1] C. Erimtan, “The end of “Secular Turkey” or Ottomans re-emergent?” RT Op-Edge (13 January 2015). http://rt.com/op-edge/221835-turkey-religion-secular-state/.

[2] “Turkey’s general election 2015” James in Turkey (22 May 2015). http://www.jamesinturkey.com/elections/turkeys-general-election-2015/.

Comments on: "Turkey’s 2015 Elections or AKP FTW!!!!" (1)

  1. […] Source: Turkey’s 2015 Elections or AKP FTW!!!! […]

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