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The e-coup election

Mark Mardell | 18:24 UK time, Tuesday, 17 July 2007

ISTANBUL: It's one of those travel days. So was the day before. Yesterday morning saw me dismantling a tent in a field in Dorset, now I'm waiting in Istanbul airport for a flight to the Iraq-Turkey border.

Turkish border with IraqThere's still something thrilling about exotic names like Gaziantep, Erzurum, Trebizond (Son Gagri seems very popular... oh, no, that means "final call") coming up on the destination board. Well, more thrilling than hearing that emergency engineering meant all South West services would be going through Basingstoke, anyway.

I'm here to cover the weekend's elections.

They are perhaps the first popular vote prompted by the world's first e-coup, when the army hinted on its internet site that it would intervene if the government pressed ahead with putting one of its own people up for the presidency. It is an interesting test for the governing party.

There are are many ways of describing this party... "Mildly Islamic", "has its roots in an Islamic party outlawed five years ago", or "Islamic in the same way that Germany's Christian Democrats are Christian" might do. Of course, the party's opponents say it has a hidden fundamentalist agenda, but it is pretty well hidden. As one EU diplomat put it to me dryly: "Putting the entire body of EU law into Turkish law is hardly the best way of establishing a Sharia state." So some in the West see it as a model: Islamic, pro-Western, democratic.

Abdullah Gul and wifeBut Turkish nationalists and the military believe that secularism is under attack. The reason for the army's anger and anguish is that the foreign minister, whose wife wears a headscarf, was nominated as president. The government has retaliated by suggesting the president should be directly elected, which would hand its candidate victory. Lots of other issues of course, but this is perhaps a test between the will of the people and the webolutionaries.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 07:34 PM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • Mehmet Kara wrote:

My grandmother, who is 86, is suffering from becoming senile. She has trouble remembering recent things and needs constant attention.

Sitting down on an afternoon of tea, I recently explained to her that there were elections this Sunday, and the reason was that they tried to appoint a president with a wife who has a tight headscarf.

She was furious. She said "We have made it to the 21st century, we have become so modern, and they try to pull a stunt like that now?"

My 86 year-old grandmother sees it, millions of Turks marching in the streets see it, why can't everyone else see it?

A woman in a constraining tight headscarf is not a "reformer" or a "person living her religion". She is the epiphany of religious extremism, and she and her husband cannot be allowed to occupy the presidential palace of a secular country, and definitely not of Turkey.

  • 2.
  • At 07:36 PM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • erdem gunes wrote:

webolutinaries ha? may be itsnot that easy to call ak party "mildly" islamic cause if you know the sayings of current prime minister leader of ak party erdogans 'democracy is a bus takes us to sharia state' you easily understand this kind of domestic paranoias... by the way as you call weboltinaries turkish army is not that innocent you must look deeply especially the eastern parts of turkey where kurdish minority has majority. you ll see bombings which make suspicious the army forces... and than you criticize all of these different its something that we used in turkey to army warns govenment to be more 'democratic' isnt that ironic ? :)

  • 3.
  • At 08:18 PM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • Ronald Kramer wrote:

Dear Mark,

I will be following your blog with much interest from Istanbul, where I live. Just a note about "Turkish nationalists and the military believe that secularism is under attack". I beg to differ.

The nationalist elite and the military are not really afraid that secularism is under attack. They are, however, afraid that their own privileges are in danger, now that a hugely successful party is likely to be re-elected with an ever larger share of the popular vote. This is a party that for the first time has been introducing serious democratic reforms and is questioning the undemocratic power that the military and the unelected elite in the judiciary still wield.

The whole secular/nonsecular issue has in the meantime completely vanished from the political agenda. It served its purpose (blocking a popular presidential candidate, who would not be vetoing half of the legislation to prevent the government from being successful, like his "secular" predecessor Sezer did). Now, the secular nationalists have moved on to criticizing the "sale" of the country (i.e. encouraging foreign investment and privatizing the money-wasting public sector where the cousins and nieces of the elite find their lifelong employment), as well as the governments "weak" stance against terrorism, which (conveniently) spiked in recent weeks. (Some of the explosives that were used, are from a type that only the military secret services possess.)

The secular state is in no danger whatsoever. Since this government has been in power, the percentage of women wearing the headscarf is going down, many pious Muslims in the Anatolian heartland have found work, are building careers and suddenly lost all interest in radicalism. The number of people supporting sharia law has dropped from 12% to 8%. The secular state is not in danger.

But democracy might be. And the men, women and children in the big cities might be. Nobody will be surprised when rightwing elements with ties to the military stage a large terror attack days before the elections, blaming the PKK and the government. As the Turkish saying goes: They are not interested in eating the grapes, they just want to beat up the winegrower.

  • 4.
  • At 08:40 PM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • Ayşe Sarıcı wrote:

I read quite often your articles, about Europe, generally like them all. Fun to read, have a sense of humor and also informative, may be I am biased with your sweet picture as well, giving an honest impression.

Although positive impression in general, need to stay that non-Turkish people do not understand that what you call e-coup has nothing to the with this election. It is all the result of the law, that when 2/3 of the parliament cannot agree on the president, it automatically brings the early election. Please consider all the time that Turkey is ruled under the Turkish law, not any other external element. We have still lots of room to improve , but still where we are, as a democratic country, has to be acknolwdged very well. Looking forward to your objective comments. By the way don't let your name to be called as 'Son Çağrı' at any aiport.

  • 5.
  • At 08:56 PM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • cagatay ertan wrote:

dear sir
I have read your article with great interest. The great interest of the western world on this election in Turkiye(probably the most populer of turkish elections in the western world)continues to surprise me. The fundamentalism is not as hidden as you think if you know where to look at. The only reason you don't know about it, is the current president Ahmet Necdet Sezer who blocked many of their fundamentalist interventions. If you look at it this way you can easily understand why the secularists and the army cares so much about the presidential elections. The Turkiye you want to see (western world) "mildly islamic" is the first step on the way leading to "Islamic Republic of Turkıye". There is Iran there as an example. Turkiye is pushed to that route. It may be too late for Turkiye until you see what you call "well hidden". Wish you observed things more thoroughly before writing about such an important issue.

  • 6.
  • At 09:10 PM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • Gul Berna Ozan wrote:

The AK Party has no political agenda in order to bring Islamic order to Turkey. However, it is a party formed and controlled by a core Islamist circle and their affiliated groups of businesses. The party itself remains mainly as an opportunistic project benefiting from the structural weaknesses in Turkish political party system. However, the poor state of the secularist and nationalist rhetoric in the opposition doesn’t make AKP a better party and the next AKP government will have to make tough choices.

AKP has no philosophy to address many challenging issues Turkey faces at home and in its neighbourhood. Although the AKP government followed the IMF prescriptions and speeded up EU reforms, its leadership and party cadres have poor capacity to go beyond the legislative phase to implementation of these reforms. They have demonstrated poor strategic thinking in many foreign policy issues as well. It is in their benefit that the current political debate circles around symbolic issues of personal rights like wearing headscarves. Otherwise Turkey has more Imams than doctors and more Koran courses than apprenticeship training schools.

Finally, what Turkey needs is not an authentic modernity blended with Islam. This might look attractive to Western political circles but would not mean much for the development of Turkish economy and society. Turkish people find it hard to understand why they should be the show case of democracy and Islam to the rest of the world and live in a parallel modernity. Islam can surely live with modernity, democracy and capitalism as much as Christianity. This is a matter of social and political change. Is there such thing as Christian capitalism? Surely, there is no Islamic capitalism that we know of.

  • 7.
  • At 11:16 PM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • Melih CALIKOGLU wrote:

I don't want to engage into a cross talk here with Mrs. Ozan. The words claiming the ruling party not to have any kind of philosophical background seems proper at first hand. But if we look deeper to the political spectrum in Turkey, the picture changes a little bit.
First as Mrs. Ozan says, opportunism is the main dynamics in this new political movement which is quite good for Turkey. Considering the political system have been jammed between the bureaucracy, which itself is stuck in a time period of 1930-1946 and gives little space for the real politics to flourish displaying an undercover steering, and the political parties which are mostly aged enough to carry the ideologies of cold war period. At those times politics meant to capture the state and impose its pure ideology to "save the state".
These two sides have created a surrealistic perception of politics in time turning into a shallow and primal instict of just "protecting" something from the interior and exterior "enemies".
The main gain of the Islamic rooted party of AKP is the unique experience they have lived since the last soft-coupe of 1998. A group of politicians leaded by Erdogan and Gul, have managed to gain some kind of realistic and pragmatist approach. And it was solely based on "freedoms". Because they saw that without those "freedoms" they would never express their thoughts or live the life they used to demand.
It is this process which ironically made the extreme right wing politicians leave their aged ideologies derived from the times of US-Soviet struggle. And again ironically it is this process which made the left wing turn something which it should not meant to be invented for, an opponent for individual rights and a partizan of state rights.
Now Turkey is observing a fast change in political spectrum. The two sharp sides can not be called as the right and the left no more. Instead from now on we will be following the birth of sides rather to be called the partizans of individual freedoms and the partizans of the state control and social engineering.
As I've told AKP first seems to have no philosophical background but actually it is the first stage of a pro-freedom and pro-individualism movement. The opposite side of the story is also in a change where we see the birth of a "Nationalist Socialist" pact. This can be quickly observed by the change in the Nationalist MHP and the so called socialist CHP, the aged enemies of the cold war era.
Interestingly the undercover ruling bureoucracy is also fostering the engagement of these two parties to form a unity against the ruling AKP.
As time passes by these two poles will form new political entities and also the secret importancy of the bureocracy will diminish. The process of accession to the EU is the main catalyst in this process.

  • 8.
  • At 01:26 AM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • Lilly Evans wrote:

I am very grateful to the people from Turkey who have commented on this blog so far. Their views and explanations have helped me to get a much more informed picture of what seems to be going on in Turkey around as the elections loom.

And, reading about the assassination of an independent candidate for MP in Istanbul today, I appreciate deeper undercurrents at work.

Thank you to Mark for his post and more to all who take time to help the rest of us get better informed and gain deeper understanding of the worlds we only glimpse on our screens.

  • 9.
  • At 01:34 AM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • Ben wrote:

Mr. Mardell,

Living in the US, I met some of the founding staff of AK who are now heading the government. AK was born under the direct orders of its hidden head Mr. Fethullah Gulen who remains to be an iconic figure among his followers throughout the world and has been residing in the US for decades. He and his followers, including all the top brass of AK are true belivers of Koran, naturally. What Koran dictates is what they like to make sure comes true, naturally. This includes establishment of Islamic order where Islamic rules over sees civil laws. This is no secret. Most in the West may do wishful thinking. However, goal of AK remains clear; Islamisation of Turkish State and its citizens, as Koran dictates...You still doubt what I say, read the Book.

  • 10.
  • At 01:43 AM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • Teyfik Chiller wrote:

Our country is a pseudo democracy living under the constant fear that the Turkish Army will inerfere in our daily affairs. Turkey is not a democracy and wil not become one for another 30 years. We are trying desperately to convince the west that we are a progressive Islamic nation but we can not convince the EU
or the US. The Islamists are a a threat to our primitive democracy and the secularists are out of sync with the west. We are pretending that we make progress until the next military junta.

  • 11.
  • At 01:58 AM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • DENIZ ATAKAN wrote:

First of all , AKP is not a "islamic" party ! and AKP has no political agenda in order to bring islamic order !

AKP is a Liberal democrat party.

i am Turkish but i do not believe any religion at all but i will be voting and supporting AKP again.

people do support AKP, just because in the last 5 years Turkish economy growing faster than ever and first time in last 50 years the inflation is below %10...!

and also today's Turkey is more democratic, freedoms and rights better than many years ago.

and despite double standards of EU, majority of Turkish people still want to be part of Europe and Europen union.

sometimes right wing and left wing political parties use the "secular issue" to gain votes from either conservatives or from ultra left wingers..! that is all !

Turkish people accepted secularism since 1923 and i can say that %98 of Turkish population wants to stay secular.

AKP is no threat to secularism as they are the strongest supporters of Eurpean union and democratic reforms !


  • 12.
  • At 03:29 AM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • Basat Tayfun wrote:

Dear Ronald Kramer;

I imagine you yourself did not collect the statistics on the percentage of women wearing headscarfs or people supporting the seriat. Anyway, it is clear that somethings (and some people) are off kilter when people *actually* research the number of scarves people wear and *report* it so matter-of-factly. Despite the "scientific" methodology I am *sure* that produced these very meaningful statistics, have not people learned anything about statistics that are anything but "scientific" or "statistical"?!

The problem with a headscarf wearing person is not the scarf, it is the head that "thinks" that wearing a piece of clothing is the path to virtue and God's approval. If so, as an ancient creation and a near-universal symbol of women's secondary/subservient role, the scarf should not be anywhere near worldly power, reaches and influence; should it? For someone so eager to achieve spritual or other-worldly goals (obviously not worldly fashion!), is it not a self-contradiction to seek high office and expansive power or prefer the company of those that do? Can such a person have any credibility in face of real-world and modern challenges?

There are very "worldly" problems with the AK party as well that are questionably pious and Islam-compatible:

1) Disregard for justice: Many cases of confiscation of private property, esp, of organizations and persons with relations to opposition parties; even AFTER the Constitutional Court deemed them years ago to be ILLEGAL!! What example in the EU is there of a party defying a court order?? There are also a few well-know cases of secularist professors being jailed without charges and court hearing! Again, after the High Court ordered release. The AK party -- humbly -- continues to defy law.

2) Questionable economic "happenings": The Black Market has grow WAY faster than the legitimate market; all sorts of money from unknown sources are appearing in Turkish banks and markets. The flow of money is probably not EU countries and legitimate trade; venture any guesses in this time of rising oil prices, extremist Islam, and civil war? There is also the living-on-credit that has been keeping the artificially over-valued Turkish Lira, despite record deficits; debt has soared along with record trade deficits. The "strong" economy may prove to be a bubble.

3) So called reforms and EU process: Reading some of the comments about AK Party's great achievements, one would have to conclude we are counting the days to EU membership. With France and Germany making it national policies to keep Turkey out, I like to see that happen (oh, maybe in the next millenium). On the reforms side: One of the very first legislative acts of reform the AK Party took was to reduce transparency by deeming the financial happenings of elected officials' close relatives/relations to be out of reach of audits and disclosure. So, instead of robbing tax-payers' money themselves, elected officials enrich their sons, daughters, wives, etc. and we cannot even ask a 20-year old where he got his millions of dollars???

So much for humility before God and His children....

  • 13.
  • At 07:22 AM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • Ozgur Ethem wrote:

I guess this page shows what is wrong with the debate on Turkey. Foreign journalists like Mr Mardell shut their eyes to things in Turkey they would prefer not to know. The AKP is a Islamist party--look at its members and what they have done and said in the past--which has adopted gradualism because it had no other choice and Mr Erdogan is a superb tactician. No Muslim, Mr Mardell, can say that they do not want the Sheriat. It is obligatory. Ataturk changed this situation and created secularised Muslims who have forgotten this. But I doubt that the leading parliamentarians have. But pork has disappeared from Turkish shops in the big cities (once it was easily available, now only in a few places.) Alcohol is squeezed out of many provincial towns and wide areas of big cities are silently designated alcohol free zones, where drink is available but only if you play a "tourist license surcharge"--which may be squeezed too some day. And Islamic banks are growing. Give us ten years Mr Mardell, then come back. If anyone remembers your words then, I think you will look a bit foolish.
As will our friend with his ideological claims about the AKP promoting individualism and fighting bureaucracy. So he can foretell the future eh? If he is so libertarian, he should read Popper on historicism. The AKP is a neo-traditional social formation which grows out of the old Turkish Islamic right and rests on very conservative social forces (it wanted to make adultery a crime, remember?), but has learnt a few new tactics. So many formerly-leftist Istanbul intellectuals seem to be out of touch with reality and their own country. They will go on enjoying their privileges while Turkey's hinterland moves deeper into conformity with Islam.

  • 14.
  • At 08:38 AM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • David Shearman wrote:

As I have only limited knowledge of Turkish politics, mainly based around the issues involving the island of Cyprus, I will refrain from comment on the elections.
I do have a question which I hope may be answered. Should it be a concern that in a democracy, one to be brought into Europe, that the military of Turkey is considered a political force? I apologise if it is an over simplification and please feel free to explain the role of the Turkish military in that nation's politics.

Thank you for this excellent piece. I completely agree with Ronald. As you mention in your article only few crazy people are demanding sharia law. The argument is nothing to do with "hidden Islamic agendas, sharia...whatsoever". The secularist oligarcy is losing their priviligies. Actually this fight origins roots back to the Ataturk times. You should read this Mustafa Akyol article that helping to understand the reasons of this never-ending-fighting:

  • 16.
  • At 12:29 PM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • AB wrote:

The very fact that you find all these Turkish names thrillingly exotic bodes ill for the inclusion of Turkey into the EU...

Perhaps you should dig deeper, and provide a clear understanding of Turkey, as you showed you could do of Poland following the European summit behaviour of the Polish twins.

It is not clear whether the AKP is "just like the german Christian democrats". One cannot comprehend the situation in one country by making some superficial comparison with a past situation in another country.

Taken on its own, it seems a dynamic "moderately Islamic" party backed by opportunistic classes is battling the entrenched establishment clinging on to the authoritarian "secular" state established by Ataturk. It is not clear at all whether, if the AKP wins, it will stay "moderate". After all, it is not clear whether even "moderate" Islam will allow the full separation of mosque and state - witness recent debates about the Turkish penal code -, whereas in ancient (non-exotic) christian lands the separation between church and state is (sometimes grudgingly) accepted.

Hence a skeptic like me, who does not like women wearing headscarfs, nor military men posturing in places such as Cyprus, can only hope that a deeper understanding of Turkish society will illuminate the action of people like your EU diplomat, who blissfully thinks the 'acquis communautaire' can be imposed on the Turks at no cost at all. Most likely that same person thought that the EU constitution should have been swallowed whole by the French and Dutch electorate.

Your 'Polish spirit' piece convinced me that it will take about 10 years before the Poles get the hang of the EU, just as it took 10 years for the Spanish and the Portugese. The latter are even in Schengen and Euroland, i.e. fully European, so unlike the British. Let's give the Turks the time to sort themselves out. It will be important for all of us, and fascinating to watch.

  • 17.
  • At 01:52 PM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • TALHA wrote:

it is very good comment about turkey that how turkey is observed by frigners.Altough some narrow sided people say that turkey is a democratic country i think turkey is not democratic country.Every 10 years military intervenes politics how can we call such a nation democratic.İs there any europen democracy intervened by coup?person can show an example i won't talk again.Turkey has oligarchic democracy.Some people are mora equal than others as George Orwell quoted.when public tries to take some privilaged people's status they use military to gain them back.İt is a fact most turks now can see because education level is higher but secular elit(privilaged people)are angry about that.But this time it will change after this election i hope turkey will have mre democracy ,restricted military.
an answer to Ayse Sarici why this time military annonunced a declarartion during presidency election? Why parliament DID NOT agree? i say because parliament members are threatened by deep powers how can't you see... because you are single minded and wryying about losing your adventages.

  • 18.
  • At 02:41 PM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • Nick wrote:

It is not a democracy nor a liberal free society because of the underlying military involvement as well as the Islamic undercurrent within society. They worship the founder of modern Turkey who today would probably be a candidate for the Hague war crimes and they will never enter Europe for those particular reasons; it is too nationalistic and militaristic and not willing to give up the independence of its institutions to Brussels. We have not even mentioned its Kurdish problem nor the Cypriot problem. Too bad because the Turkish people deserve better.

  • 19.
  • At 06:24 PM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • Filiz Erdem wrote:

You make this whole conflict between secularism and Islamists look extremely simple. We do not just imagine or fantasize these so called ex-islamists / AK Party has still the same pro Sharia agenda, their actions speak for themselves.
They follow the path they did years ago- now- this under the umbrella of democracy; they use and abuse every aspect of so democracy and freedom to achieve their goal. The examples are manifold; therefore I will not get into any details.
The west supports this moderate Islamic government AK Party, because she feels that they share the same interests, which are to weaken the secularists and our army. They prefer a weak moderate Islamic Turkey to a strong secular Turkey. That however is a matter for the West, who appears to prefer the AK Party more than the Turkish people. Therefore, it is us who will make sure that they do not get re- elected.

  • 20.
  • At 09:22 PM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • john s wrote:

I was a bit curious a bout this mention of "Fetullah Gülen" so I did a google search and found an artdicle about him in wikipedia. Worth reading to understad some of the charatderistics of the AKP.
Also worth googling the "nurcu movement"

  • 21.
  • At 10:37 PM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • Sehnaz wrote:

If this election is to prove the steadfastness of popular support for the AKP and the reforms it has introduced since 2002; particularly with reference to the broadening of individual liberties and the retreat of the state in favour of civil society, why has the AKP removed from its electoral programme its earlier pledges to do away with parliamentary immunity (surely necessary for transparency in public life)and to let society decide on the proper limits of headscarves in public places?

If the Islamist/Secularist posturing is false, why not let the country decide its future course with all cards on the table? Are the rights of women to cover their heads to be sacrificed to popular fears on grounds of it being a vote loser? And will the party still insist on being referred to as 'AK' Parti, whilst rescinding on its promise to end immunity?

  • 22.
  • At 07:00 AM on 19 Jul 2007,
  • roger moore wrote:

the problem is that turkey has become desolusioned with europe and this is driving it towards radical islam and this is the fault of the french and germans who have no intention of allowing the turks to join europe even though turkey has made great strides towards incorperating european law into it's own laws and has got rid of the death sentance etc...

  • 23.
  • At 07:38 AM on 19 Jul 2007,
  • Robert Otis wrote:

It is not a pretty picture for modern Turkish secularists who act like, eat like, dress like, and live much like Europeans, to need the military to prevent the seating of a democratically elected leader, even if he may be disingenuous about his party's true intentions about how to govern Turkey. However unseemly this fight might be to foreigners, especially for Europeans who really dislike Turkey or Muslims, and who want to use this episode as evidence "proving" why Turkey should not be in the EU, it is important to see these wars of words and people power as ultimately being at the larger service of democracy in Turkey.

No country in the world is a democracy the way that one might want it to be. The only city in the UK that can elect its mayor is London. Scotland and Wales remain conquered countries, and the northern counties of Ireland exist in some sort of demographic waiting room for the day when Catholics will outnumber Protestants and presumably vote to rejoin the Irish Republic. France, the philosophical center of European liberty, equality and fraternity, does everything that it can to extinguish regional languages, and despite a large African and Muslim population, somehow it has nearly no representatives of these communities in its parliament. A billionaire rises to power in Italy and is allowed to effectively own or control all broadcasting media. Canadian provincial premiers are able to gather in a room and make secret deals that affect the governance of the whole country without any referendum. Japan, whose democracy contends with fascistic sound trucks and yakuza thuggery at the service of the powerful, has lived under virtual one party rule since 1945, despite the fact that in typical surveys, maybe 20-25% of Japanese voters say that they favor the LDP. The US has an "Electoral College" that can "elect" a candidate to the presidency even if s/he receives a smaller popular vote than another candidate. Shall we also discuss the challenges that democracy faces in Putin's Russia, or Chavez' Venezuela? Democracy in the early 21st Century is having a tough time all over.

Content to not improve their own flawed systems, developed countries seem just as content to sit back and watch democracies in developing countries implode. Why? Do we feel better about ourselves if our brothers and sisters in other countries are in worse shape?

The EU's leaders, in their apparent desire to create some kind of "empire," as Mr. Barroso called it, are routinely spitting in the eye of democracy by their direct avoidance of their people's will to keep their nation states sovereign. The events in Turkey are not happy, but isn't it heroic and stirring to see tens of thousands of people rallying in town plazas for the causes of women's equality and the preservation of secular, western-style law? Isn’t this what Europe claims to be cherished? Why is Europe so dispassionate about this? Why does Europe remain on the sidelines, content just to watch and cluck about their own superior systems, as it did during Milosevic's wars against his own people? What is wrong with Europe???

The islamicist party has made inroads in the electorate mostly because the established secular politicians in Turkey for generations ran a corrupt political machine that people got tired of and, with few organized political alternatives, the AK Party seemed to many to be the answer to cleaner politics and, ultimately, the chance for economic advances for ordinary families, especially outside of cosmopolitan and industrialized Istanbul.

In the USA, many ordinary and decent people turn to fundamentalist Christianity because the secular world can often seem pretty ugly, unfair, and immoral, while good jobs can seem too distant. There is no coincidence that American Christian fundamentalism is rooted in those rural areas distant from job opportunities and traditional centers of power. There is something sad and fatalistic about turning to God to run your country, but it happens when the voter feels that s/he has no one in the mortal world to bring relief, and that only the justice of God could set things right. I tend to think that in rural Turkey, a similar phenomenon occurs, where people who cannot find good jobs or a good future for their families, turn to a party that promises some kind of decent life. If religious fundamentalism were an option, I bet that a lot of downtrodden and unemployed Brits in Glasgow, Leeds, London, or other UK cities might similarly look to that option. Maybe some already have, according to the headlines.

In case a European reader feels, "Ha! Yeah, the Yanks and the Muslims are both ignorant and Europeans are above such backward conceptions," let's remember that modern European history is filled with crazed Catholic parties (Spain, France, etc.), and that virtually every fascist party and communist party has tried to create its own religion to cynically rally the masses to their often vague agendas. The sins of cynical and evil political actors trying to stir hatred to provide manpower for their "causes," is quite European, so what Turkey is undergoing should be very familiar to European political thinkers, and they might, if they try, have some advice for Turkey.

Mussolini's Europe was to be the Roman Empire reborn, with all its pagan imagery. Hitler's dopey hijacking of the benign Buddhist swastika was to be an image to inspire both mysticism and terror, and his German cinematographers created film myths of blond Teutonic gods, in an attempt to create an alternative religion that the Nazi Party controlled. The communists often recruited into their ranks people who were eagerly rushing to escape the domination of religions, but in power, the communists of Europe and elsewhere equally demanded the "masses" to BELIEVE: believe in the lie of "dictatorship of the proletariat," believe in the lie that sacrifice and obedience to the bishops of the Politburo will lead to the paradise of "pure communism," which, like most messianic religions, conveniently never seems to ever be achievable within one's lifetime. Images like the hammer and sickle, the red flag, or stories of saint-like worker-heroes were all churned out to confuse, disarm, and train the masses to the communistic religion. This isn't just the Europe of the 1920's or 1930's. This is Eastern Europe of the 1980's, of Belarus today, and in pockets of western Europe, religious "parties" deifying ethnic gods or national racist quasi-religious ideologies can be found in Scandinavia, the UK, France, the Netherlands and in every "civilized" European member state.

In my opinion, the principal issue in Turkey today is neither islamicism nor military interventionism, but rather a need for a more directed and fairer economic and political distribution, with Istanbul elites having to share political power and industrial development with vast Anatolian areas.
If democracy can be preserved, even if it doesn't look too pretty, that is good for Turkey and for us all. Maybe the chess game that the Turkish military is playing now is in the service of democracy. Maybe it is only to preserve the military’s own power - I do not know. But if ever there were a need for Europe to do the right thing, it would be to help both the AK Party and the military to strike some kind of peaceful balance. The EU must create EU-like development programs for Turkey similar to those that helped develop the infrastructures of Spain, Portugal, and the Eastern countries. What Turkey needs is cleaner, more rational political parties in a thriving economy. The AK Party, phony or not, will still have to deal with a hostile military, and this weird cohabitation might allow Turkey time to develop alternative parties to AK. That will take time, and it could only develop if Europe does not cynically stand back and wait for Turkish politics to collapse into chaos, just to "prove" that Turkey never should be part of the EU because it doesn't "act European."

What would Germany be like if after WWII there had been no Marshall Plan? What kind of Germany would have emerged if the Americans and other allies sat back and enjoyed watching Germans fight it out, just to “prove” that the Germans weren't civilized enough to join Europe? Fortunately for us all, there were some leaders then with the right combination of foresight, decency, self-interest, and forgiveness. Where is Europe's heart or memory watching these events? Europe just wants to "stick it" to Turkey, just to justify their desire to keep Turkey out of the EU.

I am not saying here that Turkey is a European country or that it is not. I have strong memories of French people, referring to Spain, telling me with a straight face that “Africa begins at the Pyrenees,” and that Roussillon (French occupied Catalonia) is “not France.” So I don’t think that it is productive for one to try to decipher European pronouncements about the Europeanness of this or that country. "Il faut cultiver son jardin." I don’t think that Turks should worry about whether they are European or not. Be happy to be Turks.

If the EU's leaders are serious about promoting "European values," such as democracy, military non-interventionism, and religious tolerance, they need to stop gawking and get to work helping countries like Turkey. Otherwise, not only will European pretensions of political or ethical superiority be shown to be clearly fake, Europeans who don't like Turks today will find millions of Turks making their way into Europe tomorrow if Turkey falls into chaos.

I do not know if Turkey should be in the EU or even if Turkey should want to be in the EU. I think that Turkey could potentially bring great benefits to the EU, as could Georgia, Armenia, and the Turkic Central Asian republics right up to the border with Uighurstan. For now, I think that Turkey first needs time to figure out what Turkey really is, what being a Turk really means, and for whose interests the Turkish state is to serve.

Thanks for this piece Mark. We should all have our eyes very closely on the elections this weekend and I look forward to your reports from Turkey.

Turkey is engaged in an important reform process, so far largely successful. The process has to continue. Neither the Turkish military nor President Sarkozy with his threats to stop negotiations over EU membership should be allowed to halt the reform process. I have been talking to representatives from a number of Turkish NGOs recently. One of them told me: "Neither Islam nor the principle of Kemalism in their pure forms is a basis for building the future of a country." I agree. We have to respect Islam and the principles of Kemal - the separation of religion and state - in order to build a modern Turkey. It seems to me that there are three things that the newly elected Turkish government should do - scrap Article 301 and guarantee free expression; find a presidential candidate who can bridge gulfs and be a voice for the future (Hikmet Cetin for example) and open dialogue with the Kurdish authorities inside Iraq. Dialogue with the Kurdish authorities should be on the firm understanding that Turkey will not invade Iraq and that terrorist activities from Iraq will stop. I have been keeping a Turkish election diary on the Socialist Group's website at where there are some very interesting comments from people withing and without Turkey.

  • 25.
  • At 11:49 AM on 19 Jul 2007,
  • cuneyt gurcan wrote:

Many say the same thing, I will tell you something that is not written here.

After all, all Turks have obligatory military service. It has always been so. My grandfather completed 4 years and he told me that the period (15 months) now is nothing. Men should join the army for a longer time. For many centuries, Turks are told to obey rules at any cost. If you are ordered to shoot anyone, you should do it. That main belief can be found everywhere. So when army calls for support nowadays, even the islamists will join. That, I am sure of it.
Now army undertakes a transformation, porfessional units will be added. This fact may weaken the relation between the army and people. Because it means that Kurdish recruits from south will not battle against terrrorists. My many friends had different opinions before having their military service. After military service they hate PKK. If Kurds do not face PKK on mountains under military service, it will be hard to convince them about PKK's terrorist actions. Already many think that they are independent fighters. Army experience was good for them. Turkish state will lose ground after the establishment of professional army.
Turkish army did not make use of Kurds systematically until the world war 1. After recruitment of Kurds, they gained much experience, learnt how to be soldiers. Gerilla battles are nothing against a solid army. Now fear might be that, Kurds from Turkey might be more dangerous than Barzani's forces in a war.

As a Kurd myself, I can freely say that, PKK is a terrorist organization, and if the time comes and if we need to make a decision, I will support the call of Turkish army as my grandfathers did for centuries.

  • 26.
  • At 01:33 PM on 19 Jul 2007,
  • Karim wrote:

Dear Mark Hi

As an Iranian !!I should say

Turkey fear !!for few hundred of
thousands Turkmen in north of Iraq

while Iran han no right to fear
about 12 millinos shiites!? and
yet Iran never want to invade Iraq

PKK are just non-sence reason for
invading north of Iraq ,as you said

Turkey can punish them by raiding
air attack or other ways...but
Oil and Turkmens living in that
area make Turkey hungry...

Generals have Veto power in ultimate
point ,so Mushrraf in Pakistan How
could you cathegorize these two
countries as Democracy !?
at least in History of Iran never
Militaries generals ruled the
country. thanks

* 6.
* At 09:10 PM on 17 Jul 2007,
* Gul Berna Ozan wrote:

"Islam can surely live with modernity, democracy and capitalism as much as Christianity. This is a matter of social and political change. Is there such thing as Christian capitalism? Surely, there is no Islamic capitalism that we know of."

* 23.
* At 07:38 AM on 19 Jul 2007,
* Robert Otis wrote:

"In the USA, many ordinary and decent people turn to fundamentalist Christianity because the secular world can often seem pretty ugly, unfair, and immoral, while good jobs can seem too distant."

In my view, the above two quotes touch upon really important issues which mainstream discussions, with their love of scapegoats and witchhunts, generally manage to avoid. How often do we need to be reminded that extremism isn't just a Muslim "problem": Belief systems in general are closely related (in many ways) to practical realities -and secularism is not truly an "objective", "rational" and therefore "neutral" belief system.

As a result of the inquisition, western scientists did their best to remove all traces of "animism" (internal dynamics) from science in order to avoid being accused of witchcraft. The results seem pretty impressive -but there has never been a serious evaluation by the west into the possible intellectual and emotional cost of this. The implications of a shift from a (mechanical) Newtonian to an (organic) Einsteinian view of gravity has never seriously bothered us. Despite being opposed to church dogmatism, several important Renaissance inspired thinkers (including Newton and Einstein) maintained a belief in humanism, rationalism and God. The many contradictions between these "European values" were apparently overlooked.

The German economist and sociologist Max Weber wrote "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" which suggests a link between the protestant belief system and the capitalist belief system. Both of which are closely related to a belief in the rational logic of the individual (presumably opposed to the more "faith" and "social" based approach of the Catholic church). Unfortunately for Protestantism and Capitalism -"objective" rationalism is itself somewhat suspect: A long history of western logic has never been able to conclusively prove the existence of "objective truth", even though this is a fundamental paradigm of the entire western belief system. As far as I know, the work of Goedel (brought to fame in Hofstadter's charming book "Escher Goedel Bach") has never been disproved. This suggests that any complex formal system (including mathematics and logic) will be inconsistent or incomplete under certain circumstances (which may well include the implementation of a theoretical system in practice). It also seems that the lessons of non-Euclidean geometry have never really been passed on to our general education system. So while western logic has often disproved itself -it remains in self-denial on this point and continues to be the dominant dogma in all global socio-political affairs.

Ursary is perhaps another key issue. Apparently forbidden by all three "religions of the book" -it seems to have forced different (historical) solutions to avoid the taboo which would otherwise limit the growth of trade. The Jews (and presumably some Christians too) seem to have decided that the taboo only applied to believers of their own faith -and so Jews financed in Christian Europe the high risk business which yielded high interest rates. Christians seem to have decided that low interest rates did not imply ursary and so were OK -but this was also seen as reason to vilify the Jews who did charge the higher rates in order to cover their risks. Indeed, the Muslims seem to have taken the taboo seriously -and specialist banks (which share losses as well as profits) now seem to be developing as a result (search "Islamic Banking" for details). So there does seem to be an "Islamic Capitalism"

"Modernity" and "Democracy" are both meaningless buzzwords -which are used to reinforce the imposition of the idea that western beliefs are indisputably "objective": America invaded Iraq in order to enforce both "modernity" and "democracy". At the time, a majority of (ill informed) Americans appeared to support Bush (although the electronic polls may have been rigged). However, in hindsight, it seems that the minority were probably more sensible in opposing the war -but they were "democratically" overruled. In the meantime, thousands have died in the name of democracy and modernity.

Presumably, "modernity" implies "consumerism" -which is probably a major cause of poverty (fundamentalism and terrorism) around the world. Plato was probably correct in opposing Democracy in his Republic -because it permitted politicians to exploit the basest instincts of the population. Again, this is something that western lovers of "Greek" philosophy apparently prefer to forget in their enthusiasm for themselves and their irrational desire to impose their belief in "objectivity" on others.

  • 28.
  • At 02:41 PM on 19 Jul 2007,
  • Paolo Manconi wrote:

In response to Deniz Atakan.
Contrary to what many Turkish people seem to believe, the EU has not displayed double standards in it's dealings with Turkey.

The simple fact is that Turkey is responsible for extremely serious breaches in human rights, which I, and many of my colleagues have witnessed personally. Until a Government is put in place in Turkey that eradicates this practice then the EU will block Turkish entry.

There is also the issue of Turkey occupying the parts of Cyprus, which is a territory of Greece. How could the EU possibly welcome Turkey when it is effectively at war with an existing member. If Turkey was admitted to the EU, would the Turks allow the EU to subsequently admit a hypothetical Kurdish state? I think not. Any right-thinking Turk can see these obvious roadblocks to entry.

Best regards,

  • 29.
  • At 04:09 PM on 19 Jul 2007,
  • Nuri Bulut wrote:

Dear Mr. Mardell,
I am Turkish. I am Muslim. I love democracy and rule of law and freedom of speech. I love Kurds. I love conservetive and none conservative Turks. Turks have been living with Kurds over a thousand year. As long as democracy in Turkey grows and mutures, I see a better country for all Turkish citizens. In Turkey most of the Kurds are very happy where they are but a small percentage of them who are nationalist/fascist/racist have problem with Turkey. They can't stand anything Turkish. They are constantly crying and complaining to the world about their suffering (I am not sure if there is any) and the world is listening their voice but not the 90%. It is also true for the nationalist/racist/fascist Turks. They can't stand anything Kurdish. In both sides these extremist won't pass 10% of total population. It is sad that we are not hearing the vices of the people who are loving, tolerant, respecting and just being good world citizens, but we always listen to the voices of extremists.

Should Turkey attack Iraq to chase PKK militants? I say yes and no. I say yes because this group is a dangerous group killing our people daily. This group needs to be eliminated. This group is equal to Al Qaida when it comes to democracy. It is very sad to see some European countries are supporting this group. European intelligent agencies and CIA are very active in cooperating with this group. I say no because the situation in Iraq is not very pleasant. War bring war. Killing brings back killing. In the war there are no winners but loosers. Iraqi Kurdish political leadership needs to be more responsive to Turkish governments demands with dealing with PKK, that will create a win win situation. Kurds in Turkey has the all the rights that I have however, Turkish governments needs to be more proactive in making decisions on minority rights. Turkish conservatives are not dangerous to Turkish state. If Turkish government pressures them and takes away their god given basic religious right such as using scarf, that will create unhapiness among people who wold like to adhere to their religious belief.

Thank You

Nuri Bulut

  • 30.
  • At 06:43 PM on 19 Jul 2007,
  • Mehmet wrote:

I have been reading the posts on this site with great interest and have seen very challenging, powerful and posts such as Robert Otis's, Trevor Batten’s, Ozan's and many more but the one from Paolo Manconi (28) forced me to respond to him especially where he says
(i) “Contrary to what many Turkish people seem to believe, the EU has not displayed double standards in it's dealings with Turkey”
(ii) "There is also the issue of Turkey occupying the parts of Cyprus, which is a territory of Greece. How could the EU possibly welcome Turkey when it is effectively at war with an existing member?”

First, the best you can come up with was Turkey breaching Human Rights as though you people in the EU are all innocent and not breaching Human Rights. I suggest you take another look at what’s going on in the EU today. At least Turkey is addressing these issues. The process may be slower than to the liking of others but then again they are doing something about it. However, since “you” in the EU are all innocent and democratic, don’t even lift a finger when people are massacred under your very own eyes and in your back yard i.e. Kosovo

As a Cypriot, note what I am writing here "a Cypriot", island of Cyprus was NEVER a territory of Greece. Obviously you are one of those people who has fallen victim to fascist Greek propaganda. May be you should reference this site before making such comments to enlighten yourself about history of our island.

“How could EU possibly welcome Turkey while it is at war with an existing member?” Well another cliché comment that I am seeing here.
Let’s look at some of the facts and see whether the EU has double standards or not, shall we?

1. 1974 - Greek junta started a "WAR" in Cyprus to overthrow the Government of Cyprus that was mainly formed by Greek Cypriots thus Greek against Greek fighting on the island of Cyprus and in the process massacring Turkish Cypriots. Check it out In effect, the EU is actually harboring WAR Criminals from EU member states ;-) May be you can do something about it!!

2. As a Guarantor country like Great Britain, Turkey had every right to intervene and protect the "Turkish" Cypriots. Not sure why Great Britain sat on the sidelines and watched the whole event unfold under their eyes. I guess they were concerned about their own interests.
“At the end NATO, United Nations and European Council decided to discuss the issue. Then Turkish and Greek representatives met in Zurich on 5 January 1959 and signed a treaty of guarantee. This treaty was discussed by Turkey, Greece, Britain, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots and approved. According to this treaty in January the 19th Cyprus Republic is an independent state. Turkish and Greek Cypriots would administrate their internal affairs with their own community councils”
3. Before 1974, we had problems in 1959, 1960, 1963 but since 1974, there have been no WARS on this island. Is this a good thing or bad? I let your brilliant mind to be the judge of that.
4. EU accepts half of the island and makes it part of the EU empire so that the Greeks can use the EU for their own political games and say to the North of the island you can't be part of EU as you are the “occupied territories”. Let’s not get into the details here but as far as I am concerned, these are the FREE territories, free from aggression and free from the EU nonsense. As an individual I hope we never enter the EU. So who do you think has got double standards my man ;-)?

  • 31.
  • At 07:17 AM on 20 Jul 2007,
  • AB wrote:

In reaction to comment #30 by Mehmet

Initially, the EEC of the 6 had as goal peace and reconciliation of peoples, by means of economic integration. This succeeded. In 1973 they were joined by 3 free-trade countries, which strengthened the economic approach, perhaps at the expense of a more political one. 3 former dictatorships joined in the 80s, 3 countries neutral in the cold war in the 90s, 10 countries in 2004, and 2 more in 2007. The integration has brought the euro (13 member countries sofar), and the Schengen agreement (15 countries sofar), amongst other reinforced collaborations.

If Turkey is to join the EU, the least it can do is to reconcile itself with peoples in the EU. This includes the Armenian diaspora living in the EU, and the Greek world, both Greece and Cyprus.

Cyprus is, like Crete, Greek since antiquity, despite having had various rulers. The Turks came in 1571, so they are 'just visiting'. The 1960 'independence' was only a constrained one. While Turkey invokes the treaty of guarantee for the 1974 July events (attempted coup, which failed because Makarios survived, fall of the Greek junta backing this coup, Turkish army establishing a beachhead on Cyprus), it did NOT restore the status quo ante, but instead proceeded in August 1974 to occupy 37% of the island. This has been condemned by several UN security council resolutions (357 - 361). After this, it settled the occupied part with people from Anatolia, in conflict with the 4th Geneva convention prohibiting the alteration of demographics by an occupying power (this is the argument against Israeli settlements in the West Bank as well).

At the time, I failed to see why the settlers were allowed to vote on the Annan Plan in april 2004.
Yet more people at the Greek side voted yes to the Annan plan than at the Turkish side (99 976 vs. 77 646). This is not emphasized much, so as to obscure the evidence that there are many more Greeks than Turks on the island. In a one man one vote system for the whole island, the Greek side is simply numerically stronger
(about 3.5 - 4.5 to 1, depending on how to count the settlers).

The Turkish Cypriot request for 'political equality' is more extreme than the claim of the Kaczynski brothers that Poland needs comparatively more votes than Germany in the EU Council. Such an attitude hinders, rather than helps reconciliation between peoples. The British could help here too, by the way, and reconcile themselves better with the Cypriots concerning the colonial past, rather than continue to patronize. This might help the Greek Cypriots to atone for the EOKA-B excesses.

As for Turkey itself, Mark's travel reports show the huge diversity. It is a world on its own, whether inside or outside the EU.
If the people are indeed as friendly as some claim, perhaps they can vote for politicians promoting friendship with all the neighbouring countries, including those with which the past was difficult. After all, reconciliation makes the EU a pleasant place to live, despite the bitterness caused by World War 2 and its aftermath. The same ought to be possible in the eastern Mediterranean.

  • 32.
  • At 11:47 AM on 20 Jul 2007,
  • Vehbi Bilimer wrote:

Mr Mardell,

I will vote for DP (Democrat Party). What are your impressions of this party so far in the South East. Would you say we could count it as the 3rd party after AKP and Kurdish Independents in the region? Please let us know...preferable before sunday though. Thank you.

  • 33.
  • At 02:18 PM on 20 Jul 2007,
  • Ronald Kramer, Istanbul wrote:

Filiz Erdem writes: "They use and abuse every aspect of democracy and freedom to achieve their goal. The examples are manifold; therefore I will not get into any details."

Brilliant example of elitist thinking. No facts, just insinuations. The CHP's campaign in a nutshell (but they added a pack of lies to the mix).

Also, you remind me of the wonderful give-away by secularist extraordinaire, Erdoğan Teziç, chairman of the Higher Education Board and professor of constitutional law (accusing the AKP): "They are using the ballot-box to get control over the state".

Just think about the mentality behind this reasoning... Using democratic elections to obtain power - what a terrible thing to do! Horrific! There are so much more decent ways, such as controlling the judiciary, the army and the universities, staging a military coup now and then... Using the ballot-box is certainly an inferior method. Before you know it, those common people from Anatolia will have a say in ruling the country, just because they make up 2/3 of the population... What's next? A popular president?? Someone who actually loves all his subjects equally, and who doesn't look down upon 70% of the nation with contempt?? Who doesn't enjoy ballet? The horror! What will become of our fine elite? Our opera?

This "democracy" thing will surely be the end of our European lifestyle!!

All the signs are, that the Turkish people will give the AKP an even larger majority this Sunday. The elite has asked for it.

  • 34.
  • At 05:08 PM on 20 Jul 2007,
  • Burhan wrote:

It is interesting to read how complicated issues are oversimplified and interrelated problems are isolated from each other in most of the comments. First, I want to comment on those who say there is no democracy in Turkey. Where is the democracy in a system where popular vote is overwritten and an entire state is given to one of the two parties if one party receives even one more vote than the other one? Yes, you guessed right; in US. One of the parties can receive exactly one more vote than the other party in every one of the states. That party will have appear to have 100% of all votes based on the electoral college system. I know Turkey does not have a near perfect election system. Can it be improved? A very big YES. But there are political parties, rules, laws, systems, elections, candidates, parliament, and so on.

Second, I am not a fan of military coups. But did military ever come and refused to give up power like it happened so many times in many African and Latin American countries? Did they want to rule the country for an extended period of time? Did they come up with excuses against transiting back to democracy and political elections? The answer is NO. Was there a lot of unrest and killing before each coup? Did the coup stop killing and reinstated democracy in the shortest possible time? The answer this time is YES. I hope we never have one ever again. But if you read the detailed history of the independence war you will realize that every Turkish citizen is a soldier to defend the nation, republic, flag, and every little piece of the land. The people won the independence not the army because there was no army left at the time. Does it sound too nationalistic? Well if your people had fought against many countries, armies, and people at the same time who wanted to destroy you in every way you would have felt the same. This is why thousands of Turkish people demonstrated in ceveral cities earlier this year. We do not want any regime or party to take us back to those dark days. This is why the modern Turkish people are behind their armed forces but are clever enough and do not want military intervention.

Kurdish problem? Cypriot problem? First of all, Turkish government should not negotiate with terrorists. Why is the entire world against Turks defending themselves against Kurdish terrorists who kill every day Turkish citizens? US can go to Afghanistan to hunt the terrorists who killed US citizens. I support that. Why do we get a slap at the hand when we want to do the same thing? I am sure US would not oppose Pakistan to cross into Afghanistan to hunt terrorists. Does PKK have to hurt innocent US citizens before we can be understood. And there is another big question mark there: These terrorists are trained in Northern Iraq, filtrate to Turkey from Iraq, kill Turkish citizens and flee back to Iraq. Why is US in Iraq? Well first it was to destroy the weapons of mass destruction. None to date. Now, the war has a new definition and objective: Not to make Iraq a breeding ground for terrorist organizations in a vacuum of powerful central Iraqi government. Does US recognize PKK as a terrorist organization? YES. Well you put the pieces of the puzzle together. If US wants to rid Iraq from terrorists it should be all terrorists not just terrorists who hurt US citizens. If they do not want to do the job they advertise as the reason to be there then let the country who gets hurt by it do it.

Cyprus: Mostly one-sided views as well. Go to the archives dating back to 1974 and before. Then you will understand why Turkish army went there. You want to call it occupation? Fine, name it as you wish. But that army would never be there if certain Greek cypriots did not have a deadly agenda. I wish the problem can be solved. Whether as a state with two cultures or two different states. But the Greek side has to stop mentioning the Turkish army there as an obstacle to piece talks. They are the reason why that army stepped on the island. And now their side has joined EU what motivation do they have for any talks for possible solution to the situation?

Now back to elections, AKP and headscarfs. I believe if a woman wants to wear it she should be able to. If she is imposed or mandated to wear it then I am against it. I am completely against the marketing and/or polticization of religion. Not just Islam but all religions. Let me give you one example: Turks are very friendly people. When foreigners come to Turkey they want to interact with them. Do they ask their religion? NO, hardly ever. Do they invite them to their mosque to TRY OUT the Islam religion? NO. I live in US. Do you want to know how many times people knock on my door to try out their church? Do you want to know what percentage of people I met ask me within the first conversation whether I am Muslim or not and if I would like to visit their church. I did not keep the statistics but very high numbers if you trust my word. Most modern Turkish people believe religion is private matter. They do not ask, they do not want to be asked. Similarly they do not want religion to be political matter. That is why AKP is protested. They have the gradual agenda of first Soft Islam, Moderate Islam, Modern Islam, whatever you want to call it. Then comes the rest. Strong nonsecular comments made by AKP officials in the past and their smooth actions while in the parliament indicates this to even the blindest of us all.

I think some of us, Turkish and foreign, should wake up. What reforms? Where is the better economy? One should stop relying only on popular press and wrongfully represented numbers and make a better analysis before agreeing with a certain standpoint.

Finally, I believe that what Turks want is a modern life and democracy, not necessarily the mere label of EU membership. And please do not believe the fake poll results about the elections this weekend. Big cities in Turkey are always empty during the summer. Once she schools are out everybody goes to the summer houses, vacation towns. Not this time. Everybody is waiting to cast their vote. They know the votes they did not cast emerged AKP. And AKP does not represent Turkey. They did not achieve anything while they were in the government. The voters will not do the same mistake again. AKP’s plan to have the elections in the middle of the summer when a lot of voters are always out of their voting district will not work.

  • 35.
  • At 04:14 PM on 21 Jul 2007,
  • Erkan wrote:

In Turkish we have a saying when people are taking very different views about an issue, but views far from accurate. "It is like, blind people describing an elephant" we say. Since they are blind, they can only describe the part they are touching. They have limited experience with what is going on in Turkey, so their comments could only described as naive or fanatical, whichever way you look at it.
Reading these comments, made me think that because they cannot all be true at the same time. As a translator, I have to admit that language barrier is an important problem for the western people to really understand what is really going on in Turkey. If they don't speak Turkish very well, then, they have to rely on translations which could be subjective. Or, they would have to rely on the comments of the people they meet. Which, again could be subjective and could not represent the average or general view.
That's why I find views of many western people here surprisingly one-sided and fanatical. They talk like they are living here, in Turkey and they know everything. I clearly see, they don't.
Turkey is a democracy. Better than let's say EU members Bulgaria and Romania and some other countries in Europe.
Nevertheless, it needs improvements for sure.
AKP is not democratic. They seemed to be embracing EU so that they could "Islamicize" the country under the disguise of democratization. When the European Court of Human Rights upheld the decision of the Turkish Courts that people wearing headscarf cannot attend the university, they were very disappointed. And, since then, they have not done much for EU. They thought "European" freedom would allow them to push for their Islamic way of life.
Ronald Kramer should be a member of AKP. He is as fanatical. He posted from Istanbul, I wish we could sit down and talk for a few hours about the reality. But, when I think, there are so many people like him. Totally misinformed about the situation in Turkey. They have "opinions" without having "information", to quote late journalist Ugur Mumcu.
Most of the people in Turkey are secularist. Of course, all secularists are not the same. Retired soldiers (all soldiers actually) are not as liberal as the civilian secularists. Their views should not be taken as representative of the whole secularists.
The "1 million people" demonstrations in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir were not organized by soldiers but Turkish NGO's. I have been there so see myself and everyone was going there like attending a festival. It cannot get more civilian than this.
Western people prefer to talk to NGO's either directly or indirectly related to the west but they do not count the Turkish NGO's or talk to them to get the objective views. Because they don't like those views.

AKP had 34 percent of the votes but tried to impose its views to all the rest. Even, if it had 90 percent of the votes, it doesn't have the right to do that. They are not respectful to democracy.
Mark Mardell should try to avoid generalizations.
First, AKP is not will of the people, not the majority. And, not all the rest are supporting webolutionaries.
There is more to Turkish people that these two sides.
And, Mark, this view (Will of the people) that you have is the same as of AKP. Did you read their propaganda speeches or what?

  • 36.
  • At 04:01 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Alexander Mitchell wrote:

Now that elections seem to be over that the Party of choice voted in; I'm beginning to wonder the next step the Turkish Republic is going to take.

Frankly, upon my review of the many successes of Kemal Ataturk; I wonder how he would feel about the entire
present political situation?

As we all know, he felt that a Secular State was the best way to go. He felt that One's Spiritual Beliefs have a way of clouding national reason. In any event, Ataturk got rid of the Fez and other identifying head coverings which were influences from the corrupt backward Ottoman Empire.

The Turkish Arabic language was discarded and both numerals and latin letterings put in place Code Napoleon
Laws replaced the Muslim Shuriat Laws.

Well, I guess we'll see....

  • 37.
  • At 05:49 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Zefer Sezer wrote:

For all the people who feared the AK, you seem to be out of touch. Doesn't anyone get what is right in front of them? The fact of that matter is that they won twice. This should tell us all what the people of Turkiye want from Turkiye, as if that really matters.

  • 38.
  • At 04:29 PM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Aydin wrote:

Excellent blog with excellent observations.
I live in US and visited Turkey before the elections. I had chance to talk to many people (mostly farmers and workers around Marmara region) and heard what they were saying regarding to recent developments and elections in Turkey. The first thing I noticed that most were furious about the injustice and manipulations against AK Party's president candidate, Abdullah Gul, by CHP, military and Supreme Court during unsuccessful attempt to elect a President a few months ago. The problem is that Mrs. Gul wears a headscarf. Roughly 70-80% of the Turkish women wear headscarf in their daily lives, however this becomes an issue if a president wife wears one. That is just ridiculous in any point. In my opinion, people just reacted to injustice and double-standard in the election. Also, there is unfortunately no real alternatives. CHP, originally found by Ataturk, has really disconnected itself from people; CHP became a minority party that has not progressed at all since 1930s as the world has been constantly changing. We need new ideas brave reforms that would take Turkey to the next level in economy, technology and intellectual culture. Although some paronoidly claim AKP is a backward, Islamism rooted party, in reality AKP may be the most progressive and reformist party when looked its record.. I hope the new election would bring new momentum to the reforms and consensus in Turkey.

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