Turkey: Erdoğan’s Summer, Kurdish Dawn

July 23, 2007 at 7:34 am (AK Party, chp, dtp, elections, Free Speech, Human rights, kurdistan, national liberation, pkk, politics, turkey, voltairespriest)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe people have spoken. Yesterday’s general elections in Turkey were nothing if not decisive. Not only did Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s mildly Islamist Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi increase its vote by almost 13% on the previous general election, taking more than 46% – a margin unheard of since the days of iconic 1980s Turkish leader Turgut Ozal. More significant than that, the new parliament will contain over 20 representatives from the Demokratik Toplum Partisi, the left-nationalist Kurdish grouping that dominates politics in the south-east of the country. The former leader of the leftist Özgürlük ve Dayanısma Partisi, Ufuk Uras, was also elected on the DTP slate. The ability of Ahmet Türk’s party to beat off its previous excluded status (due to Turkey’s electoral system, which requires all parties to gain 10% of the vote to enter parliament even if they dominate a particular region, as the DTP does) came from its tactical decision to run all of its candidates as independents, and have them coalesce under a partisan banner only when they physically enter parliament. What is remarkable about the thawing of Turkish politics under the AKP, is that this appears at this stage to have been more or less universally accepted in political circles.

The fascist Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi re-entered parliament on the back of a coalescing of the hard nationalist vote, but was held to third place and in reality saw its vote increase by less than 9%. After running a campaign overly focussed on Erdogan’s (and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul’s) wife’s choice of headwear, the main opposition Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi took slightly below 20% of the vote, and will enter parliament in second place. Its useless, burned out and right-wing leader, Deniz Baykal, seems safe for now.

These elections marked a rejection of the ultra-nationalist surge which has recently enveloped the country, manifesting in its most extreme forms as the arrest of liberals such as Orhan Pamuk and the politically-motivated murder of figures such as Hrant Dink. Whilst the MHP did re-enter parliament, there was no tidal wave for the “Grey Wolves”, who could not even surpass the lacklustre CHP to become the main opposition. The new parliament will contain more leftish voices than any in decades, and will be dominated by the force that has liberalised relations within the Kurdish regions.

The result also also marks a rejection of the army as a force in politics, particularly given the bellicose noises made in recent months by Chief of General Staff Yaşar Büyükanıt. This can only be a good thing from the perspective of any democrat.

It is to be hoped that this will be a wake-up call to progressives and people on the left outside of Turkey, who now have in the DTP a genuinely liberationist force in national politics to which they can relate, as well as one which has a significant left wing of its own. In Turkey the usual choice posed by so many western “anti-imperialists”, whether to side with “pro-Western” governments or reactionary oppositions, does not apply. There is a political choice to be made here, and I hope for once that the left steps up to the plate.

18 Comments

  1. nicktarlton said,

    I’m pleased someone else has noticed that there was at least some good news from these elections, do you know anything about whether Ufuk Uras has left the ODP or just resigned as chairman?

  2. splinteredsunrise said,

    Volty, for once I agree entirely. The SWs of course are talking in predictably boneheaded terms about Muslim workers versus secularist generals, but I’ve noticed that a lot of the hardline secularists have been very very quiet on Turkey.

    Not a bad result all round. Traditional Kemalism down, the Kurds getting a voice and some potential for the left.

  3. johng said,

    well i’m rather amazed that you don’t recognise that the position i argued originally, much lampooned, has turned out to be wholly correct. not even mentioning the discussion here about the significance of the demos around the veil, not even mentioning that these were closely connected to the ultranationalism being discussed, all this is highly dishonest given the discussion which occured here previously.

  4. modernityblog said,

    JohnG, you’re right, you’re always right, even when you’re wrong, we know that, you’re a sage, a political mystic, your knowledge is boundless and the certitude of your views is irrefutable

    but leaving all that aside, perhaps you would like to point out your previous arguments (using web links and cut’n’paste) then contrast them against Volty’s comments

    alternatively, you can pat yourself on the back and tell us how your right and nearly everyone else is wrong, your choice.

  5. voltaires_priest said,

    John;

    Your original stance was nonsense, and it still is. Ergo, what Modernity said. Please tell us all why you think you’re right. With cut’n’pastes of what you and I said, non-decontextualised please. Clue: the debate we had about the demonstrations was not the same as the election. Hence what you would see as a disparity between the turnout on the demos and the election results. Because you think the demos were driven by the ultra-nationalist phenomenon, and the reality is that they weren’t.

    Mr Sunrise;

    Glad to be in agreement with ya! ;)

  6. voltaires_priest said,

    Nick;

    I dunno – I always assumed he’d just resigned as chairman, but I don’t have chapter and verse. Maybe ask my canny chum Mizgin – I reckon he’ll give you the details.

  7. Mizgin said,

    She’ll be quite happy to give you the details, Voltaire. I believe that Uras would have had to resign as chairman but he would not have to cut himself out of the party. Ahmet Türk and Aysel Tuğluk had to resign as co-chairs for DTP, but they are still within the party.

    Now the DTP independents will work as DTP in the TBMM. They had also reached out to others, especially on the Left, and that’s how Uras got involved with them. From what I have heard Uras will continue to work with them in the TBMM.

    Thanks for the great post on the elections. I don’t find too many that look at it in a more equitable way. Most on the extreme Right/Fascist end of the spectrum in the US are hand-wringing over the Islamist thing. They trotted out Soner Cagaptay (of the neocon WINEP and ME Forum) today, on NPR, and he was trying to explain that there was a split in Turkey between Islamists vs Secularists. But it’s more than a split–it’s a crevasse of epic proportions.

    There was a good summary of the elections on a map at Turkish NTV/MSNBC (and you don’t have to know Turkish to figure it out), which you can view here. Pass your mouse over the map and you’ll be able to see the names of the provinces and the dominant party as per the vote.

    I would point out that the ability of DTP to “beat off its previous excluded status” is incredible and is a measure of the determination of everyone involved with campaigning. AKP has not communicated with DTP since the Amed Serhildan in March 2006. DTP politicians have suffered death threats, constant “legal” harassment, have been subjected to the state’s black operations–as has the entire Kurdish population–and finally, has had to function under conditions of “State of Emergency” or OHAL.

    If you recall the dirty war of the 1990s, you will know that OHAL, Turkey’s special version of martial law for the Kurdish people, was the period in which the most brutal human rights abuses took place. OHAL was finally lifted in 2002, but now it’s back in three Kurdish provinces.

    As far as I’m concerned, DTP’s achievement in this election was nothing less than heroic.

  8. voltaires_priest said,

    Ahem – I meant “she” of course… err…

    I totally agree with you about the DTP – for political acivists who’ve been so brutally oppressed to make such a turnaround is magnificent, and it should be an inspiration for progressive left activists worldwide. Good to hear that Uras/the ODP now have representation alongside the DTP as well. Hopefully the elections will also give the Kurdish/left parties some leverage as regards getting OHAL repealed again as well.

  9. modernityblog said,

    Whilist reading a piece by Amir Taheri I thought how easy for us to forget probably one of the major reasons for the AKP’s win: the economy.

    “Though the country is divided, the AKP in the four years since it gained power has governed much more ably than most Turkish governments since the Second World War. The economy has grown on average each year by 7 per cent, foreign investment is at a record high and inflation, the bane of Turkish life for generations, is under control. Even the job market has improved to the point that, for the first time since the 1950s, Turkey has stopped exporting large numbers of workers to Europe and the Middle East”

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article2127654.ece

  10. tim said,

    It is the economy stupid.
    However.Muchas it unsettles me to admit it JohnG had some valid points.

  11. modernityblog said,

    Tim,

    Don’t worry, he doesn’t do that too often, so nothing to worry about!

  12. tim said,

    Its like the 1947 flood

  13. Mizgin said,

    The economy is not all that propagandist Amir Taheri would have us to believe. It’s a creature of the IMF and has not benefited the working classes, much less the Kurdish region. In the last few years, when this so-called economic miracle was taking place, cities like Amed (Diyarbakır) have seen unemployment rates ranging from 50% to 70%.

    I’m waiting for Turkey to go the way of Argentina, or maybe Asia circa 1997.

    There was a fairly decent article about the economic policies of AKP, and the IMF, here.

  14. Michael Pugliese said,

    http://dissentmagazine.org/article/?article=878

    Mosque and State: Seyla Benhabib on Turkey’s recent election, the AK Party, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali
    By Daniele Castellani Perelli
    Fall 2007

  15. limewire said,

    Hi boys!cbf3d9

  16. capacitor said,

    ooo — get him.

    Saucy.

  17. http://homepage.mac.com/fmp3musicdownloads/index.htm said,

    Yhanks youbdd8595523ae46e97cc99f2ece1f8d5b

  18. Ekrem said,

    As it seems, judges of Turkey are prepareing to close the DTP

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