Article added on June 12, 2011 at 21:19 Swiss time, details added at 21:48
The 2011 election
The Turkish Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan (*1954) has been re-elected today. Opinion polls showed
before the election that
his Justice and Development Party (AKP) would win a
clear majority in the unicameral Grand National Assembly of Turkey
With 98% of the ballots of the June 12, 2011 parliamentary election counted,
the AKP won 50% of the vote, the CHP 26% and the MHP 13%. The Kurds will
probably manage to reach parliamentary party status. The AKP would win some
326 seats in the 550-seat parliament, therefore falling short of the
two-thirds majority needed to amend the country's (military-made)
constitution without the help of other members of parliament.
because of its high national threshold of 10%, only three parties were
expected to enter parliament. For independents, the 10%
threshold of the vote only applies to the constituency they stand for. Therefore,
many smaller parties present their candidates as independents, e.g. the
pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).
In the 2007 election for the Turkish Grand National Assembly with its 550
seats, the conservative-Islamic AKP won a clear absolute majority with 341 mandates. The
center-left Republican People's Party (CHP) came in second with 112 seats. The
nationalist MHP garnered 71 seats. Independents managed to win 26 seats. In 2007, the ruling AKP received 39%
of the vote, the CHP 23% and the MHP 16%.
In 2011, some 52.5 million voters - out of a total population of 74 million
- were called to the polls. This number includes some 50 million Turks
residing in Turkey as well as some 2.5 million Turks living abroad.
7,695 candidates (including independents) representing fifteen political
parties were contesting the 2011 parliamentary election.
The polls closed at 5pm Turkish time. Turkey has no exit polls as well as a
ban on reporting outcomes until 9pm local time. By midnight, the approximate
results should become clear. The official results are not expected to be
published before June 19.
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AKP achievement and failures
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been serving as Turkey's prime minister since March
2003. His party, the AKP, founded in 2001, first won a majority in the 2002
On the positive side of almost 10 years of AKP rule first stand the
political stability - the longest since the Menderes government in the 1950s
- and the great economic development: Turkey's GDP per capita has tripled in
a decade! The country has joined the G20. The growth rate was 8.9% in 2010.
The middle class is growing. Turkey is moving closer towards
EU-compatibility. Programs in the Kurdish language are broadcast on the
state TV channel TRT. Rape inside marriage has become a criminal offence.
Erdogan has managed to create a reformist Islamic party instead of an
Islamist party feared by many. There is no Iranian-style theocratic rule in
Turkey. Erdogan's party has five million followers, a strong party base as
well as a strong electoral mandate; followers and voters think that their aspirations have
been taken seriously. The AKP has improved Turkey's infrastructure: roads,
the railway system, hospitals, schools, power plants, etc. Erdogan has ended
the military rule. The times of military
paternalism, with generals ready to intervene militarily, seems over.
Erdogan rightly attacked the
“Kemalists” of the CHP who
had nothing but a no to Europe to offer. A potential danger is that one day
Erdogan may be tempted to replace the military rule by an equally intolerant
AKP rule. That's one of the negative sides of the Erdogan grip on power.
Erdogan has the tendency to take criticism personally. The AKP regime has critics
censored or even put in jail; some 70 journalists are currently in jail,
mainly because they had been doing their job. Artists, intellectuals and
the media are under pressure from the political power. Books and the
internet still get censored. In addition, Erdogan is well-known for populist
outbursts and strong language.
Erdogan still has not acknowledged the early 20th century Armenian genocide.
Just before the 2011-election, the prime minister personally ordered to have
the giant Statue of Humanity in Kars, a monument dedicated to the
Armenian-Turkish friendship, destroyed. In 2007, Erdogan said that the
Kurdish problem was also his problem. By 2011, he seemed to have changed his
mind. That's why he did not get the Kurdish vote in today's election again;
the Kurdish population is estimated at around 14 million (overall population
in Turkey: 74 million).
Corruption and nepotism, a major concern also under previous regimes,
is still flourishing under Erdogan and the AKP. Turkey needs a more
decentralized political structure. To break down the
corrupt and inflexible
“Kemalist” military and justice system was right. However, the judiciary still
needs to become more independent.
Erdogan has established Turkey as a major regional power. He calmed
relations with Turkey's neighbors. Backlashes include Israel and Syria. In both
cases, Turkey is not the (main) culprit for the new strains. Israel started
a dubious Gaza war and then killed
“peace activists” or
“agitators” (according to the perspective of the observer) on a Turkish
boat in international waters; a clearly illegal action. Assad in Syria is
ruthlessly killing his own people in his desperate attempt to cling on to
power. In both cases, Erdogan had to condemn the activities of his regional
neighbors. Nevertheless, not only because of Turkey's economic success,
Erdogan and his country have become a major regional voice and force. But
together with Ahmet Davutoglu (*1959), Turkey's minister of foreign affairs,
Erdogan occasionally suffers from delusions of grandeur, baptized neo-Ottomanism.
However, not everything on the economic front is bright. The unemployment
rate is around 12%. In May 2011, the annualized inflation rate stood at
7.2%. The 2011-budget deficit may reach 5.4% of GDP. Luckily, the public
debt is below 50% and the financial sector is said to be robust.
Erdogan and the AKP would like to change the constitution, including the
institutions and their balance of power. Erdogan is dreaming of a
presidential regime. Therefore, his 2011 electoral goal was a two-thirds
majority, which would have allowed him to decide on the new constitution
without having to compromise with the opposition (although the Kemalists do
not seem to be keen on compromising anyway, holding on - for now - to the
military-made constitution). Erdogan has already managed to
get rid of the military's grip on power. It remains to be seen how he
envisages the new constitution in detail.
I only know the greater Istanbul area. The city offers everything from
decadence to bigotry: a 21st century Western living style, a 21st century
version of Islam, more traditional Islamic lifestyles as well as all shades
and combinations of the above, even in the same street. In 2009, a friend
showed me around a very traditional Mosque. In the street next to it, we
came across a young woman in a miniskirt. At least as long as the economy is
booming, the different world's coexist peacefully.
Turkey has already lived through phases of modernization in the past. In
1926, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk adopted for instance almost entirely the Swiss
civil code (Zivilgesetzbuch, drafted by Eugen Huber).
Erdogan and the AKP have moved Turkey closer to a fully functioning
democracy. The glass may still be half full. But unlike previous leaders
close to the military, Erdogan and the AKP have delivered a lot. Like most
other democratic leaders who have governed for too long, he overrates
himself. Caesar's madness is not far. Autocratic reflexes could be observed
too many times already. He should soon hand over power to someone new. In
addition, it is up to the opposition to come up with a credible alternative.
Erdogan and his AKP targeted the Turkish community in Germany, the largest
Turkish community abroad. Here an ad for Erdogan's appearance in Düsseldorf in