AKP winning slim majority
Reuters is reporting that Turkey’s Justice and Welfare Party (AKP) is winning 33.6 percent of the vote in Sunday’s national elections, possibly giving the Islamist party 280 seats out of 550 in Turkey’s parliament. If that percentage holds, and the returns are still early, that would give the AKP, which has projected a pro-Western, moderate image to the country, enough seats to form a government without partnering with anyone.
The Republican People’s Party (CHP) established by modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was second with 19.2 percent, and the True Path Party (DYP), headed by former prime minister Tansu Ciller, just made it over the parliamentary threshold with 10.9 percent.
The nightmare scenario is this: The AKP gains an absolute majority and doesn’t form a coalition. The United States attacks Iraq while the Islamists in Ankara drag their feet in helping war on a fellow Muslim nation. The Turkish generals force the government out of power, unwilling to endanger their security relationship with either the United States or Israel, both of which would be threatened in the event that Turkey is a reluctant ally in the region. Democracy in Turkey is set back — again.
I don’t know that this will happen, but if AKP does take power, the new leadership will have to walk a very careful line.
There is some cause for optimism, however, since in the majority of cases, a vote for AKP is a protest vote against the corruption and incompetence of the current ruling parties. There is not a deep support for Islamic law in Turkey or a turning away from secularism and the West, which is a policy that bedeviled Prime Minister Erbakan of the Welfare Party in 1997. The majority of Turks want a secular, EU-member country. But they’re disgusted with Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit’s mismanagement of the economy and the power grabs that have characterized most coalition governments in recent years.
So the real question is not what the military will do, but is the AKP as moderate as it says, has it learned the lessons of the Welfare Party? Will it see the election results as a mandate to affect sweeping change (which would be a mistake, in my opinion) or realize this is an historic opportunity to create a gradual freeing of religious expression in Turkey. Time — and final election results — will tell.