Special Reports

Turkish General Elections: Results and Implications

New Delhi: The Institute of Objective Studies hosted a lecture on the “Turkish General Elections: Results and Implications” on November 10, 2015 at its conference. Delivering the lecture Prof. Arshi Khan of Department of Political Science, AMU, Aligarh held that the stunning victory of the Justice and Development (AK) party of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, in the snap poll called on November 1 would turn a new leaf in the country. The election was necessitated because no party enjoyed a clear majority in Parliament. The religious-nationalist party’s campaign strategy involved cracking down on Kurdish militants. Dr Arshi said that AK would use its political capital to restart the reconciliation process with the Kurds. He said that AK leaders were optimistic that they could use their pro-religious credentials to split conservative Kurdish parties. He observed that AK leaders had begun discussing plans for Erdogan’s long-standing ambition: Changing the constitution to create an executive presidency. Erdogan would allow Ahmet Devutoglu, the prime minister, to wield official power, while pulling the strings in the background. Prof. Khan said European leaders were desperate to secure Turkish help to stem the flow of immigrants into Europe. In mid-October, the European Union and Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, agreed to reopen negotiations on several aspects of accession of Turkey to EU in exchange for a deal on refugees.

Prof. Arshi Khan delivering his lecture

Prof. Khan remarked that the AK Party defied pollsters and even expectations of its own strategists, and managed to claw back a parliamentary majority that would bolster Erodogan’s grip on power. The result handed the AK Party 317 of the 550 seats in parliament, only 13 short of the number Erdogan would need for a national referendum on constitutional changes. He said that the vote came at a critical time for Turkey on the global stage, with the United States dependent on Turkish air bases in the fight against the so-called “Islamic State” in Syria and the European Union desperate for Turkish help with its growing refugee crisis. He noted that Erdogan’s victory, two weeks ahead of a G-20 summit in the Mediterranean city of Antalya, left Western allies dealing with an emboldened leader they might already know, but whose cooperation had not always been easy to secure. He observed that financial markets rallied on the poll results with the lira on track for its biggest one-day jump in seven years and stocks up by 5 per cent, relieved that the uncertainty from an election cycle stretching back almost two years, had finally ended. He said that Turkey was not an ordinary country; it had a rich cultural legacy from the Ottoman Empire.

Underlining the importance of Turkey as a strong country, Prof. Khan said that it was Asia’s door to Europe. Turkey was developing the world’s largest airport in Istanbul which could receive 1260 flights daily. Besides, Turkish Airlines won the world’s best airlines award. In order to supplement its energy needs, Turkey had set up two nuclear reactors. The Turkish military, he said, played a pivotal role in the empowerment of the people by democratising the polity. This could be understood in terms of the revival of Islamic spirit in the country. While 40 percent of the country’s economy was controlled by the military, the AK Party had given a new identity to the people.

Decent roads, school buildings and other infrastructure bore testimony to the socio-economic development of the country. He said that Erdogan might not be an Ataturk, but certainly he was a charismatic figure who established a connect with the people with his speeches that were patiently listened to. Referring to the Syrian problem, Dr Arshi Khan said that Russia and Iran had complicated the crisis. The Syrian conflict was a world problem and needed to be tackled with the participation of all the stakeholders. He explained that Turkey wanted to be the energy hub of Europe. He said that IT was the latest addition to the achievements made by Turkey. The country could boast of setting up 35 thousand Information Technology labs and a number of database halls where training was being imparted to Turkish youth. He remarked that after the elections, Turkey had become the most important Muslim country to be watched.

Prof. SAM Pasha of the Political Science Department, JMI said that Turkey was a country where one could move freely. People were sophisticated, polished and excellent in terms of hospitality. He opined that Turkey would not heed the advice of the European Union in matters that were vital to the country. Turkey was divided between the nationalist and Islamic groups and despite a clear verdict, stability was still a distant possibility, he added.

The Chairman of the IOS, Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam presented some facts about Turkey which reflected the progress the country has made. He said that Turkey’s national GDP had gone up to about 1.1 trillion dollars in 2013. Erdogan’s efforts made the country become 10th economy of the world from 111th position, qualifying it to enter G-20. During the last 10 years, 125 new universities, 189 schools and 510 hospitals were built. Per capita annual income during the period rose from 3,500 dollars to 11,000 dollars. He said that Erdogan was the only leader who along with his wife undertook a visit to Myanmar for sharing the grief of Rohangya Muslims. He was also promoting the Usmani script (the language written in Arabic letters). He held that at the instance of Erdogan about 10 thousand Muslim children of seven years took out a march on the streets of Istanbul declaring that they had now attained the age of seven years and were proud that hence they would offer prayers five times a day and commence memorising the holy Qur’an.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 December 2015 on page no. 13

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