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The future of Turkish democracy: assessing local election outcomes 1 avril 2009

Posted by Acturca in Turkey / Turquie, USA / Etats-Unis.
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The Brookings Institution (USA)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009, Washington

Turkey experienced a turbulent 2008 that included a constitutional crisis, strained civil-military relations, an economic slowdown and an activist foreign policy. As the country prepares for local elections later in March, the tension between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the rest of the Turkish body politic is once again rising. Moreover, growing questions about Turkey’s pro-Western orientation make the upcoming elections all the more critical. The future of Turkish democracy and its near-term geopolitical orientation could be significantly affected by the lessons the Erdogan government draws from the election.

On April 1, the Center on the United States and Europe (CUSE) hosted a discussion of the election results and the future of Turkey’s policies at home and abroad featuring two experts on Turkish politics, Soli Ozel and Murat Yetkin. Ozel is one of Turkey’s most respected analysts, and his post-election analyses have consistently been the gold standard in helping the Washington policy community understand electoral results. Yetkin is a prominent commentator on Turkish domestic politics and foreign policies whose years of reporting on Ankara enable him to provide a unique “inside the Ankara beltway” perspective.

Brookings nonresident Fellow Omer Taspinar, director of CUSE’s Turkey Project, provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion. After the program, the featured speakers took audience questions.


Ömer Taspinar : Given the economic crisis, given the corruption level in Turkey, given all the crises, given the fact that the Constitutional Court just last year tried to ban this political party, it’s not a bad result. The problem is that the Prime Minister, as Murat mentioned, set the bar too high and we should ask ourselves why he did set the bar so high?

This is a party that feels very insecure if you ask me. They believe that they to win 50 to 60 percent of the vote to be immune from a military intervention or from a judicial coup. That’s the desperation they’re in with the belief that only if they have such a huge majority they will be immune and it only exacerbates the already very bad populist tendencies of the government of the AK Party. It is increasingly becoming a populist party, an increasingly insecure party, and unfortunately what we’re seeing today, the negative side of these elections if you ask me, is the rise of identity politics in Turkey. Murat is absolutely right that people have voted for their lifestyles.

There is also a problem of nationalism in Turkey now. If you ask who is the victor of these elections, I would say Kurdish nationalism and Turkish nationalism. There is a growing polarization in the country despite some progress on the Kurdish question, democratic progress, despite better relations between Ankara and Erbil in Northern Iraq, there is a problem of Kurdish nationalism in Turkey and there is a problem of rising Turkish nationalism and the Islamic secular polarization if anything appears to be growing worse. So in that sense the only silver lining from this is I hope that the military will realize that judicial coups or military coups against this government will not pay off and it will be counterproductive. If you let democracy run its course in Turkey, the AK Party will probably diminish its votes just like all parties that stay in power for a long time.

View Full Transcript


Introduction and Moderator

Ömer Taşpınar
Nonresident Fellow, Foreign Policy


Murat Yetkin
Columnist and Ankara Bureau Chief, Radikal (Turkey)

Soli Ozel
Bilgi University, Istanbul


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