The Turkish parliamentary elections were this last Sunday… and despite public protests in the last few months against the ruling party AKP, they still won with a resounding 47 per cent of the popular vote. Turkish bloggers wrote extensively this week about their predictions of the elections and what future these elections will bring, the process of voting, the increase in independent candidates, and now that the election is over will someone fix the streetlights?
If you were watching the pre-election speculation you would have found that there was a ton of material out there to help you from YouTube campaign videos to political primers on the Turkish election system. Bloggers took informal polls on the parties and debated the voting rights of the Turkish diaspora, they discussed the unprecedented number of independent candidates and the hope that whoever wins as long as they can fix the streetlights on their street they would be happy. And some bloggers, like Bea from Turkey and My Foreign Perspectives wrote about why they support one party over another:
Can you believe a country with no unemployment, let alone an emerging economy like Turkey? What about only 1YTL ($1.25USD) for diesel fuel, is it possible? Well whether or not it's possible, that's exactly what some of the major politicians are promising.
CHP says they can stop the crisis of unemployment in this country, even though, they have not accomplished anything for years. MHP holds that they will get rid of the taxes which push up the cost of fuel, and the poor will be rich. They also have no legs to stand on from their past record. Conversely, AK Party promises to continue on the path they've been on since taking office in 2002.
Sorry if I offend some that say AK Party wants to implement Shari'a law; nevertheless, yes, I do support the AK Party because they have, in fact, shown their determination to do something good for the country. It matters not if a little money disappeared; the majority went into the country coffers versus the pockets of politicians.
The Voting Begins
Erkan's Field Diary kept an ongoing hourly record of the election results as well as expat blogger James in Turkey. Me and Others detailed some of the issues facing voters in order to get to the polls and the ease of voting:
i did some more translation until my father came and my wife woke up so that we could have some idea about the elections. he told me that the poll station was not crowded and it didnt take more than 5 minutes to vote for his choice, but it took almost an hour to go there and come back. he said that he felt the heat for the bad even though it was early hours of the morning.
and i vote
now it was our turn to go voting, which was as easy as crossing the street. our poll station was in the primary school just across the street, and i dont think there can be one more voter who walked shorter than we did. we just got out, got rid of the garbage i was holding, walked across the street, entered the school building and actually loved the way it was designed, made a very short search and found the classroom we were going to vote, and that was it.
there are times when two or even more elections are hold together. when it is the case it turns a slightly hard business to correctly vote for the correct event and envolope correctly in that big mass of papers you find in your hands. but this was not the case, there was only one sheet of paper, and stamping on the name and enveloping your sheet was an easy thing.
Idil from Ignore Me If You Can proudly displays her ink-covered finger:
That isn’t me flipping the finger at you.
That isn’t me showing you my new manicure because frankly..wouldn’tve been a very good nail job.
That’s me doing my duty as a Turkish nationalist and voting for the future of my country. At 8AM. ‘Cause I’m a nutjob.
I bumped into my 80+ year old neighbour who was so happy to see that “Turkeys youth got up early to come vote”.
She was adorable in her 60s style hat, still giving a damn.
Stepping Down With Grace
Two bloggers noticed that when the results were announced in the election, that the losing party reacted oddly. From Hans at Internations Musings:
Did I miss something? It is normal when a party wins an election the other party leaders send their congratulations to the leader of the winning party, or not? I didn't have seen such a move from neither Baykal nor Bahçeli. Showing respect for the winner? When I watched this evening a program a CHP guy simply said that the AKP didn't win the election. Maybe I can not count but 47% of the votes is a landslide victory. And, it looks like Deniz Baykal will stay. He looks like a gentleman but he doesn't behave accordingly.
And from Talk Turkey:
Here in the US, the loser calls the winner to concede the election and offer congratulations on a campaign well run, as soon as the results become quite obvious.
Contrary to the civility shown here even after heated debates and sometimes a nasty campaign process, the situation in Turkey is quite the opposite. It was the winner who placed phone calls to offer condolences to the losers yesterday. Something I am sure he didn't have to do especially when such things are not accustomed.
Speaking of losers, Mr. Baykal made it clear that he will not step down from party leadership. I guess he's not afraid to show his face in public even after the huge embarrassment he caused himself and his followers. In ‘civil’ countries, the loser of an election, sometimes with a lesser margin of defeat, blames himself for the party's losses and clears the way for new leadership, all for the sake of his party and his country. Obviously this is not the case with Mr. Baykal.
AKP Won! Now What?
Despite the postings of regret of the elections and the exhaustion of them or the “I told you so's”, many bloggers are now looking to the road ahead for Turkey and how the parliamentary elections will affect the presidential choice. From Celal at Icarus Redeemed:
Logically speaking there were only three possible outcomes :
1) AKP gets an increased majority in the parliament, obtains the 367 MPs needed to install its own choice as president. If that happens look for a coup by the military.
2) AKP maintains its current single party majority — the status quo.
AKP is not happy but the Army is not unhappy — i.e. status quo.
Look for more of the same general level of stability.
3) AKP loses its current single party majority and has to form a coalition goverment. Erdogan has said he would resign from polticis if this were to happen. Look for turmoil and unrest with some jostling and attempted power grabs by Kurds. A state of turmoil is not too untypical of Turkish politics and could get out of hand in a couple of years bringing another coup to restore balance.
The most stable outcome therefore is no.2.
And while many lament that this election signifies the end of the left in Turkey, Erkan points out that the AKP party's victory is a true sign of what is the center of Turkish politics:
I would claim that a new political spectrum emerges now.
It really depends on the future actions of major actors but according to the latest election results AKP becomes the center. I would agree with their claim that they are not center right but the center. AKP still relies on center right mostly but with some important transfers and incorporation of some valuable political actors such as Ertuğrul Günay AKP can continue to colonize the center. There comes two nationalist parties. CHP leads the nationalist left and MHP leads the nationalist right. During the long and fragmented fieldwork process, my initial question had lost its color as the EU became a , in Cengiz Aktar's words, non-issue in Turkey. However, it seems that this question might become relevant again. General orientation of these parties imply a polarization in relation to approaches to the EU. However, local factors create a dual structure in the pole of anti-EUism. So comes left and right nationalism. Oh what to do with the Kurdish opposition (DTP) which has now a parliamentary role with around 20 MEPs? Most argue that they will ally with AKP in many issues. But then this will be exploited by the Turkish nationalist parties and here AKP's internal structure will lead the way. And of course DTP in the mean time seems to be just another nationalist bloc that is in a mutually exclusive relation with the bigger nationalist blocs in the parliament…
Of course, i am speculating at this point. But i do believe there is some substance in what i say.
I, for one, believe that Erkan has substance as well. So what will be the political future of Turkey? Good question. Feel free to leave your comments here. Will Turkey progress? Is the pro-Islamic party AKP getting a bad rep or is it deserved? Is the voting will of the people in line with Ataturk's principles? I leave those answers up to you.