July 22, 2007

Turkey Faces The Polls

Turkey faces a critical test today in its national elections, and the results could have wide implications for the entire region. The government has remained unsettled since the attempt to elect Abdullah Gul president and the threatened military coup that scotched Gul's rise. Now the Turks will recast its parliament, and the West waits to see whether Islamists can grab enough power to change the relentlessly secular government (via Michelle Malkin):

Turks voted for a new Parliament on Sunday in a contest viewed as pivotal in determining the balance between Islam and secularism in this nation of more than 70 million.

Many people cut short vacations to head home to cast their ballots, and lines at some polling stations were long as people voted early to avoid the summer midday heat. In Istanbul, Turkey's biggest city, traffic jammed some main roads and police officers stood guard outside the gates of schools serving as polling stations. ...

The new Parliament will face a host of challenges, including a presidential election, violence by Kurdish rebels and a growing divide over the role of Islam in society.

The election was called early to defuse a political crisis over the Islamic-oriented ruling party's choice of presidential candidate, and the three-month campaign was peaceful. Turkey has made big strides after the economic and political chaos of past decades, but some feared the vote could deepen divisions in the mostly Muslim nation.

The current government has provided a rather stable economic and political environment, although the latter began to erode after the attempt to put Gul in the presidency. Gul is a committed Islamist, who was seen as a threat to push religious dictates into law. His party also espouses Islamist values, but until Gul's candidacy, had been careful to make those more or less guiding principles rather than legislative goals.

Turkey has been a singular success in the region as a Muslim democracy. (In the South Pacific, Indonesia would be the other.) That success comes from the constant threat of a military coup; the army has taken control of the government on several occasions when it felt that the secular nature of modern Turkey was threatened. That threat keeps Islamists like Tayyip Erdogan from attempting to create an Iran-like state at the juncture of Europe and Asia.

Erdogan's party will likely win the elections today. The question will be how large their share of Parliament will be, and therefore how emboldened they may feel to push for deeper changes. The nomination of Gul suggests that they may feel strong enough to push the military, and these elections could provide some substantiation for their confidence.

The outcome could have tremendous repercussions for the region, especially Iraq. The PKK has created a lot of tension near the Iraqi border, and the Erdogan government has threatened to send the military into Iraq to target the PKK bases from which the Turks claim the attacks originate. That kind of military incursion could pit the US against Turkey and certainly would enrage the Kurds on both sides of the border, leading to an eruption of fighting in the region. We can't afford to have Turkey turn against us, not when we have our hands full with Iraq, Iran, and Syria. We can hardly afford to lose our best success in the Kurdish north, either.

The count should be completed shortly. We shall see what direction Turkey has chosen.

UPDATE: Erdogan has won an impressive victory today:

Turkey's Islamic-rooted ruling party won parliamentary elections Sunday, taking at least 331 of 550 seats despite warnings from the secular opposition that the government was a threat to secular traditions.

The state-run Anatolia news agency said the ruling Justice and Development Party had won with 85 percent of the votes counted. Two secular parties, the Republican People's Party and the Nationalist Action Party, won 124 seats and 76 seats respectively, Anatolia said. Independents won 19 seats.

The Justice and Development Party now can form a single-party government, with a clear mandate for continuing its current policies. That may not be very good news for the US, Iraq, or Europe, but it isn't all that bad, either. At least so far, Erdogan and his party has resisted the urge to impose Islamist policies on Turkey, out of fear of the military response. These elections, while a clear victory, do not eliminate that boundary.


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Comments (7)

Posted by viking01 | July 22, 2007 10:04 AM

From the headline I thought this was about Harry Reid.

Posted by MarkJ | July 22, 2007 10:40 AM

I think it's very safe to say that if Erdogan's boys win, then Turkey's pending application for EU membership will be as dead as Kemal Ataturk.

Nicholas Sarkoszy will see to that.

Posted by bulbasaur | July 22, 2007 10:59 AM

until [radical islamist] Gul's candidacy, [his party] had been careful to make [his agenda] more or less guiding principles rather than legislative goals.

Isn't this often the case? The most dangerous party is the one that runs away from labels, & eschews a clear statement of its plans because they know full well that the people will recognize the agenda as a direct threat to the nation's prosperity and way of life.

Which party is this in America? I think we know.

Posted by Carol Herman | July 22, 2007 12:37 PM

Turkey's luck. Iran is not.

In Turkey, the soldiers can be counted on to do the "right thing" for their country. They won't fall into the hands of the mullahs.

Iran? Can't get out of that grasp. So "falling into the Ayatollah's" is a costly business. Though selling religion to the locals, this way, has its drawbacks.

While people don't go secular. They do "leave the mosques" to find other things to do on holidays, and sunday mornings. You don't think so? Then you've never shopped a Wal-mart.

But attendance is both "off" and "down."

And, if it could happen, here. As it has happened in Europe. It's only a matter of time for the radial hate exported by the Saud's to come back and bite them ALL on their collective asses.

We won't know much.

Other countries don't even have media the way we do, here. Where you could get to the truth; some of the time. Instead? They're propaganda organs. And, they don't influence anyone.

During WW2, for instance, news of the war fronts was hard to come by. So people used short-wave radios. Then, they hid these things. Since listening was COVERT.

Even in our Enlightened West. It grew out of secrecy; when Papal authorities tried to kill the Nights Templar. 1307.

That's when you had the growth of the Mason's. You had the Brits benefitting from the fleeing knights in France; where Richard II then conquered the Scots.

It's not as if things stand still; even in the slowest of times.

And, if secrecy is in order, you really won't get too much information. As what thrives to counter religious lunatics has legs to stand on. With secrets.

Then, one day, you wake up and you see the cathedrals are all standing empty.

People substitute for the wacky and crazy religious messages they get.

And, in Turkey, the leg up goes to the Turks who've preferred SECULAR governments.

The only reason the mullahs are "reaching out" is to grab the pot of gold. They're not interested in anything but the money and the power.

And, some day? These bigs mosques will not be used for religious devotion. But it takes time for trends to take off.

What I do believe, however, is that America will have more mosques than you'll find where the military goes after the Wahabbi imams where they live.

The Red Mosque was first. Won't be the last. And, that's not something that's called "war." No numbers.

Posted by Carol Herman | July 22, 2007 12:42 PM

The change that impressed me the most; happened in Italy. Doesn't get more Catholic than that.

Now, in WW2, Mussolini gave awards to women breeders. A woman with 17 kids? Or more? He pinned medals on them.

Today? Italy has the lowest birth rate in Europe. (Muzzies don't count. We had a similar "happening" here, in the USA, with welfare. Ronald Reagan said he'd put a stop to the welfare queens. And, he did.)

But if you try to get your mind around this one, you'll see that people, today, can be Catholic. AND, they can family plan. And, not just by counting off days, either. No. The Pope doesn't approve.

But that's what happens when religious beliefs meet reality. People cope. WHile they don't go join your army. And, there are now no Italian medals given to breeders.

Posted by Steven Taylor | July 22, 2007 4:40 PM


Well, that is actually less seats than the AKP had going into this election (although they won more of the vote this go 'round). As such, I think that perhaps you are over-emphasizing the radical nature of the win. Further, I would argue that you are over-emphasizing the AKP's "Islamism."

For example, the AKP is more economically liberal than the secularists. It is the AKP, for example, that is the pro-Turkey to the EU party.

The AKP has controlled the Turkish parliament with more than a absolute majority for about four years and Turkey has not become Iran or Afghanistan under the Taliban. As such, I think that there is a great deal of over-reaction going on here.

Posted by Bob Smith | July 22, 2007 6:00 PM

"Democratic" Indonesia? The same Indonesia that beheads Christian schoolgirls, is forcing the closing of non-Muslim churches, supports jihadists in the Philippines, and whose government does its best to obfuscate and ignore Islamic terrorism? That "democratic" Indonesia?