Geopolitics

Two Very Different Winners In Turkey’s Election

Analysis: Voters in Sunday’s national election in Turkey rewarded the governing AKP party, in power for the past eight years, for a job well done. But the success of the leading Kurdish party shows the country's "seminal question&quo

Campaign poster for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an of the AKP
Campaign poster for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an of the AKP
Ismet Berkan

ISTANBUL - First off, we need to acknowledge the extraordinary success of the center-right Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Sunday's elections.

Impressively, the AKP managed to raise its vote total to the 50% threshold, improving on the significant gains it had already made in the 2007 election, when it drew 46.6% of the vote (up from 34% in 2002). The party's strong finish is all the more noteworthy because of the dip it suffered in 2009 local elections, when it won just 38.17% of the vote.

I have been trying to remind our readers of a basic truth that too many refuse to acknowledge: the ruling AKP government has performed very well over the past eight years. The investments it made in areas such as health care, road works and transportation are factors that had a direct impact on the outcome of this 2011 national election. Added to this is Turkey's growing wealth and bulging middle class, a relative decrease in poverty, an increase in the relocation of the rural poor to cities, and improvements to the rural economy that allow people who remain in the countryside an opportunity to live off agriculture and even save capital in some cases. These facts need to be accepted: it is no longer possible to create a new political discourse without recognizing these improvements.

During the campaign leading up to the election, the two leading parties – the AKP and the Republican People's Party (CHP) – widely discussed their platforms. The vote shows that the voting public preferred the aggressive AKP plans over the dreamier projects put forward by the opposition CHP.

There is another lesson here for the opposition. People are not just interested in plans to alleviate existing problems. They also like forward-looking ideas that point the way to toward future development. It is crucial for a party to present positive new ideas and dreams for the future.

But while it is important we recognize the AKP's massive victory, we must also draw attention to the other victor of these elections; the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). The BDP will have 36 members in the new parliament. Many of these new BDP members are entering the parliament as ‘independent" party members. If the Turkish constitution did not require that parties must cross a nationwide 10% vote threshold to post deputies, then the BDP might have had upwards of 60 members in parliament.

With these 36 new members, the Turkish government may have a new opportunity to address the Kurdish issue. The only area in which the AKP lost ground was in that part of Turkey which has the highest number of Kurds, the southeast. These election results, in other words, show that we are face-to-face with a brand new set of parameters when it comes to the seminal ‘Kurdish Question," which is the starting point from which all other problems and issues arise in Turkey.

I save my final sentence for the opposition CHP party. Even though their vote haul increased from 20% to 26%, party leaders should be sure not to consider these election results a success .

Photo - Adam Jones Ph.D.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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