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
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.