It is a new dawn, a new day and another win for the AKP. It is the first time in Turkish political history a governing party has managed to secure a third consecutive term in office. Is Turkey heading towards authoritarian rule or are we witnessing the much anticipated signs of political stability in a state which has been plagued with constant military intervention?
The build up and short-sightedness of the international media along with the endorsement of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) from ‘The Economist’ magazine, which fell short of its impartial ethos, did all but represent the outcomes in Turkey. Victory for the Justice and Development (AK) Party was expected nonetheless amongst many senior Turkish ex-officials, local media agencies and close campaign followers. It is evident that the CHP has fallen out of favour with the greater public in Turkey, with views that it cannot appeal to the masses as it is composed of staunch secularists, Kemalists and the old elite in bureaucracy and business. The main challenge to the AK Party fell to how many majority seats they would gain, as the composition in parliament is now more complex and intricate with the arrival of new Kurdish activists and advocating nationalists.
As the AKP emerged from the ballot boxes claiming half of the country’s votes, the party’s joy was short-lived as it failed to achieve its goal of obtaining two-thirds of seats in the Turkish Parliament. This would have seen an end to the 1982 constitution and a reformation of Ataturk’s secular nationalist regime.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made it clear on the eve of AKP’s impressive victory in his party headquarters in Ankara, that he will reach out to other factions and the opposition in particular, to launch a campaign for change and reform to the current constitution. The nonpartisan message was well received by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, CHP’s opposition leader, with regards to the Kurdish issue and the question of the veil. However, we expect to see disagreements with the traditionalist, Kemalist, backbench of the CHP, and Kılıçdaroğlu surrounding these topics. More so, the CHP unilaterally concur that any change towards a presidential system alternative to the parliamentary set-up will be blocked, a move which Erdoğan anticipates as he seeks greater control and freedom ‘with the preparation of a new, civilian and pro-democratic constitution’.
Turkey’s political system is based on a separation of powers. The executive power is exercised by the government. The legislative power is vested in both the government and Parliament. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Currently, the president is elected every five years by a public vote in Turkey. Executive power rests with the prime minister and the Cabinet.
Talk of the Turkish ‘model’ of democracy and exporting it to neighbouring countries is an arrogant yet flattering statement to say the least. Each state encompasses characteristics and features that are different from other countries; there is no blueprint to democracy. Certainly in the 21st century and under Erdoğan’s driven foreign policy, Turkey has been labelled as the bridge between Europe and the Middle East, a model for secularism and political Islam to co-exist, and a gateway for cultural political diplomacy in the Middle East. In spite of that, the otoban that runs from Istanbul to the South-eastern Anatolia region is unstable, inefficient and neglected. As the Arab states unfold with protesters and demonstrations against their regimes, Western states have turned to Turkey as the international voice and the influential role it can play in the region. Is Turkey pushing above its weight and being overstretched, should it focus more on domestic issues rather than flirt with the EU over accession talks and referee Arab revolts?
As a group of young teenagers make their short walk to the polling stations exercising their democratic right in Hatay, one of the poorest provinces in South-eastern Turkey, the sight and cries from the Syrian refugee camps are vivid and overwhelming. There is a slight pause and across the barbed fence an exchange of dialogues and memories are made staring deep into each other’s eyes without speaking. Here thousands of civilians have fled a dictatorial rule in search for peace and harmony, with hope of overthrowing the government and returning home. In answer to the question put forward, “Mankind is a single body and each nation a part of that body. We must never say ‘What does it matter to me if some part of the world is ailing?’ If there is such an illness, we must concern ourselves with it as though we were having that illness.” (Mustafa Kemal Atatürk)
Turkey has seen huge developments in the past decade or so, and will continue to grow and become a strong and sustainable player in international relations. The AKP since its inception and power in office has tackled issues which have been far too long overlooked, witnessed remarkable economic progress and succeeded in appealing to the masses. Kılıçdaroğlu has been a breath of fresh air to the CHP, giving greater responsibility to young party members, reforming the party council and challenging Erdoğan’s motives has all but been a healthy and fruitful contest. This election proved to be an act of democratic appreciation and attentiveness by the Turkish people as the Arab spring continues into the summer solstice, Ataturk’s resonant words are heard again, ‘Yurtta Barış, Dünyada Barış’. (Peace at home, peace in the world).
Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East
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