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TURKEY, ELECTION AND MATURITY

It is difficult for any election to please everybody, but on Sunday the Turkish people came close to accomplishing this feat:

Andrea Bertolini / Planet Next

The AKP (Justice and Development Party) was given its third consecutive–and best ever–electoral victory, rewarding Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for 9 years of stability, growth  and foreign policy successes. At the same time, in their collective wisdom, the Turks withheld from Erdoğan that 2/3 majority which would have allowed him to go it alone in reforming the constitution, arguably the country’s most important political task in the early 21st century.

Voters’ turnout was at 84%, robust by any standard. The AKP won 50%  of the vote (46.5% in 2007) which, constitutional reform aside, will give it a solid majority and basically a free hand in Parliament. Three other groups also made into Parliament: the secular, social-democratic CHP (Republican People’s party; circa 26% and 135 seats, 23 more than last time), the nationalists of the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party; 13% and 54 seats, 17 down) and the Kurdish independents of the south-east, supported by the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party), 5.8% (35 seats).

While several commentators emphasize that the AKP’s victory is “bitter-sweet,” in the sense that it does not give Erdoğan the 2/3 majority he had sought, it can be argued that such commentators lose sight of a far more important conclusion: i.e., that the real winners of this election are the Turkish people, who, displaying mature prudence, have apportioned the votes in such a way as to guarantee political and economic stability but, at the same time, closing the door to the “Putinisation” of the country; sending a message that the current constitution, written right after the military coup in 1980, must indeed be changed but only through dialogue and consensus; and warning the government that the perennial Kurdish problem must be tackled and peace and prosperity brought also to the south-east.

Erdoğan was quick to recognize these signals. In his victory speech on Sunday night he underlined that he understood voters’ concerns: “we will write a new constitution with all other political forces, even those not represented in Parliament. We will consult with the media and academics to find a consensus.” Whether he is sincere remains to be seen, but the political reality gives him little choice.

Photo by Mehmet Emir – The heart of many demonstrations: Taksim Square in Istanbul. Kurdish slogan: “Dialogue instead of bullets!”

(Planet Next)