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Turkey's political gap

Mark Mardell | 17:22 UK time, Sunday, 22 July 2007

Will Turkey give a vote of confidence to the new men from Kayseri, welcome the unlikely pitch-invaders? Or will whoever wins do so by default, for the lack of a third way?

It’s a broiling hot election day in Ankara. The sale and consumption of alcohol is banned during polling day, which may not be such a bad thing as you wouldn’t want your brains scrambled any more than they are by the heat. Constant draughts of water are what you need and I start my day with Duysun Beyhan, one of the men who delivers it. He used to be a taxi driver, but now has his own van and delivers water to the newly-built pink and peach houses on the outskirts of Ankara where he lives with his wife and three daughters.

poster_afp.jpgHe says business is going well and that is why he is voting for the government party, the AKP, and not because they have Islamic roots. He says they’ve delivered low interest rates, kept fuel prices stable and helped with access to health care.

But what about the accusation that, while the party may look pretty meek and mild, it’ll end up with a fundamentalist state and sharia law? After voting with his wife, who wears a headscarf, his finger is stained black, a precaution to make sure people don’t vote twice. He tells me: “I think peope are pretty smart and this has nothing to do with imposing Islamic law – it’s not going to happen. People aren't voting for them because of religion but because they are doing a good job.”

Women's rights

More water. Then on to meet Murat Tezcan and some of his friends, whiling their time away playing cards. He’s 25 and has just finished law school, about to embark on another professional qualification. He says the AKP is frightening, because it is undermining the republic’s most basic value, that of secularism. His argument is less black and white than many who are worried about the AKP’s rise, and more persuasive.

He says: “Maybe they're not fundamentalists but even their moderate Islamic model would take Turkish society backwards. It’s deeply conservative and opposed to our Western way of life.”

His friend Aycegul Koruyycu, who works in her dad’s insurance firm, is wavering. She has thought about voting for the AKP because they are dong the right things to get Turkey into the European Union, which she wants, but now she’s not so sure. She’s wearing a baseball cap and shades, and I can’t see her going near a headscarf, so I ask her if she feels her rights as a woman are under threat from an Islamic political party.

"In the last four-and-a-half years they haven't made any legal changes that worry me. But as a woman every day I see more people wearing the headscarf. That bothers me," she says.

"I used to be liberal about it and think they should be allowed to wear it, but the numbers are increasing every day and that's worrying. Of course undermining women’s rights is a big thing... I hope it never happens."

But how much is this a clash about religion, and how much is faith a badge, a symbol, for other social forces?

gul2_ap_203.jpgMy BBC colleagues were filming the other day in Kayseri, in Turkey’s heartland. Every morning the great and good of this newly booming town get together for a healthy brisk walk up the hill before prayers. It’s a hard-working, clean-living place, evidently. There’s been an explosion of industry with a big new factory estate and a newly prosperous middle class to go with it. It’s the home town of Abdullah Gul, Turkey’s foreign minister, and in one sense the cause of these elections. Although he was the candidate of the ruling party to become president, the parliament didn’t endorse him, and the army put down its red lines because they see him as too Islamic (the symbol of that being that his wife wears a headscarf).

The mayor of Kayseri also invented the term “Islamic Calvinism” as a direct and deliberate lift from the sociologist Weber, who argued that capitalism was in a sense the product of “the protestant work ethic”. But see the post by Gul Berna Ozcan: I haven’t had a chance to read his articles yet, but certainly will do so.

Snobbish elite

Some Western diplomats argue this is what is at the heart of the bitter clash in these elections. They say the secularists’ objection to the ruling parties’ religious roots is just a mask, a symbol, for a snobbish elite frightened of losing power and money. What Turks wonderfully call “the deep state” means this unchanging ruling class. The army, the judges, the bureaucracy supported by an urban elite. So, the theory of these diplomats goes, what they really dislike is brash new money with vulgar cars and conservative values coming into Istanbul and Ankara from the midlands, as much as their headscarved wives.

I think there’s a good deal to this, although the secularists’ fear and dislike of political Islam is very real and not feigned. But this is a battle of different classes, as well as of religion and ideas. Anyone think of any other countries with an urban and coastal liberal elite that feels under threat from the religious politics of the rural hinterland?

tanks_oct_ap_203b.jpgThe big difference is that the Pentagon wouldn’t even dream of putting tanks on the White House lawn if George W held a prayer meeting. What my colleagues in Kayseri saw wasn’t such an intervention, more comic opera than civil strife, but perhaps telling. The vast factory complex has a works league, a series of fiercely contested football matches. In the match my colleagues were observing, in the last minute a penalty was awarded by the ref: it was a dubious call, to say the least. But the team that probably committed the foul in the first place went one up just before, as I believe they say, the final whistle. Players surrounded the ref and started arguing. About eight soldiers with rifles slung over their shoulders took to the pitch.

They didn’t actually do anything. But they were there. The ultimate authority. It’s unlikely, but possible that if someone cries foul after this election, there’ll be a pitch invasion. The phrase that keeps coming up in my mind when I write about the Turkish army is Gerry Adams’ chilling warning about the IRA (some years ago): “They haven’t gone away, you know.”

Alienated youth

Thanks once again for all your comments (and earlier here, too), nearly all of them really enlightening. A couple more insightful posts from Ronald Kramer. But Ali and Deniz (in his first paragraph) raise an interesting point which echoes what a lot of people are telling me. As so often in elections all over the world they would like to vote for “none of the above”. But this is a specific, not general weariness. A few have joined the ruling party and rightly point to this interesting article in the New York Times.

The Western diplomats I was talking to think this is the next stage: the AK party will continue to reach across to the centre and build upon its strength. But there are some parts I can’t see them reaching. Many of the youngish urban middle class, pro-Western sons and daughters of loyal supporters of the republicans, could never bring themselves to vote for a conservative, religious party. But they can’t stomach the republicans. They despise its leadership as bereft of ideas and find its links with the army old-fashioned and worrying. They want a modern social democratic party, but there isn’t one. There is a gap in the market. Will it be filled by the time of the next elections?

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 06:57 PM on 22 Jul 2007,
  • Serpil wrote:

AKP is definitely not an islamic foundamentalist party. They defend the liberty in Turkey.

Even though they are supported by the militarist shadow-powers in Turkey, CHP and MHP couldnt make it.

This shows how Turkish people want liberty and denounce Dictatorship..

  • 2.
  • At 07:02 PM on 22 Jul 2007,
  • Vaughan Jones wrote:

With the vote for the AKP hovering around the predicted 40% mark it seems clear that they will fall short of the 2/3 majority required to elect a President and makes changes to the constitution.

What is interesting is that there is such concern over the secularism issue. If it was the biggest concern in terms of destroying Kemal's legacy then surely the Republican People's Party would be getting more that the 20% mooted? Civil strife could be brewing of Ottoman proportions!

  • 3.
  • At 07:05 PM on 22 Jul 2007,
  • Naveed Khan wrote:

Turkey should look towards Asia to find its rightful place in the world. It is true that Turks once ruled many parts of the Europe, however, now Turks are despised in Europe treated as third class citizens. Turks have a major role in the Muslim World and it is to the East and not to the west. Turkish liberals are opposed to AKP because they desire status quo. These liberals and secularist represent 10% of the population but control 80% of economic resources. Secularism in Turkey has exploited the poor and lower middle class. Turkey must break its relationship with best to become the leaders as they originally are.

  • 4.
  • At 07:19 PM on 22 Jul 2007,
  • TOLGA KARAMAN wrote:

- AKP party is liberal democrat party, and it is not an islamic party as bbc keeps misinforming people !

- people of Turkey voted for AKP again because ;

great ecocnomic success of AKP party in the last 5 years as Turkish economy growing faster than many EU countries.

people voted for AKP, because AKP is the strongest defender of European Union and liberal economy in Turkey

people voted for AKP, because in the last 5 years , liberites, democratic rights and freedoms better than ever in Turkey and Turkish people wanted to continue with AKP reforms and more freedoms and rights.

- AKP managed to get votes from socialists, liberals, moderate conservatives, atheists, alevis, muslims, christians, Kurds etc.
and this is the first time in Turkish republic history, people from different political background supported ONE party !

- AKP has more women MEP candidate than any other party, and because of that women in Turkey also wanted to support AKP to make sure there is more women MEP in the parliment.

- it is a good result for democratic secular Turkish republic and all the European Union and Turkey's neighbours

  • 5.
  • At 08:05 PM on 22 Jul 2007,
  • Michael West wrote:

As a foreign national living in Turkey for 5 years, it seems crazy to call the AK Party, an Islamic party. I think they uphold alot of what Mustafa kemel stood for. However, the Turks (I include my wife in this)seemed to be brainwashed into not accepting change. Mustafa Kemel, died in 1938, and it still seems that alot of the Turkish political mindset is still stuck in this time. Turkey without doubt over the last 5 years, has grown economically and the infra-structure has seen great improvements. Erdoğan is a very clever man, but most importantly an honest man, which was definately not the case with political leadership in the past. Turkey, like UK under first Thatcher and then Blair, needs stability the re-appointment of the AK party will hopefully give it that. However, will the real leaders of Turkey allow it?

  • 6.
  • At 08:08 PM on 22 Jul 2007,
  • Ozkan Sarikaya wrote:

First of all you should definately reconsider the title of your message. "This is a battle of different classes , as well as of religion and ideas". There isn't any different classes in Turkey some people vote for AKP the others can vote for CHP in the same family. Turkish people love their freedom they would never let anyone to rule them so they will just vote for themselves not for some some social classes as you mentioned neither for an ideological groups.
Turkey is a big and very important country with the GREAT history. It's the time for Turkish people to vote for their future and show a democracy lesson to those who put so many obstacles in this democracy run of Turkiye.

AKP is not a Islamist or unsecular, or anti-modern party, it's the party that brought more democracy into Turkey for the past five years. As a Turkish citizen who loves his country so much I would vote any party that would do the better job for the people Turkiye no matter what root they come from. It is very obvious that Turkiye is doing much much better in terms of it's economy, democracy, human rights, freedom...etc Turkish people are now aware of this fact and they wouldn't put the rulling party down in this election.
We don't need any EU membership what we need is just a strong and stable economy with the right and trustable government, then which will definately bring a brighter future for Turkiye and for it's people.

  • 7.
  • At 08:25 PM on 22 Jul 2007,
  • Ugur wrote:

Very nice review. AKP has shown with these elections that it has become the only centre party in Turkey. Votes more than 40% show that, they have support from all classes in the society. This includes liberals, as well as conservatives and most importantly the poor. Even AKP is more of a socialist party than CHP is! One of the other reasons they got so many votes is that they were the only party which did not oppose EU. I think AKP will remain in power as long as they try to find a place for Turkey in the EU. Otherwise, they will just remain as conservatives and it will start getting worse for them.

  • 8.
  • At 08:33 PM on 22 Jul 2007,
  • Hande KANDEMİR wrote:

Nobody feels under threat from the religious politics. AKP is NOT Islamic!

  • 9.
  • At 08:44 PM on 22 Jul 2007,
  • Barış Ergün wrote:

In the article, you're pretty much spot on about one class in fear of losing power to newcomers, hence they need a mass fear campaign of epic proportions. This is what's going on over the last five years in the country.

AKP has morphed into a more centrist role after the seperation of RP into SP and AKP. There were doubts on my side and I never ever intended to vote for them, being someone of liberal thought with a resentment towards fundamentalists. That's why I also opposed RP back then, even if the concealed coup was wrong. However over the last years, AKP has clearly proven that their roots have nothing to do with their current ideology. By far, they have been the best overall government that I can remember during my lifetime.

That's why I felt the need to vote for them and also partially because I don't want to accept what military dictates to me. I have a respect for them as long as they don't meddle in governing affairs. This shared respect of our people has been wrongfully used as a weapon against AKP to protect certain elite classes' self-interests.

One can only hope that this landslide victory of AKP will urge the military to stay away from politics hence every one person out of two in the country disagreed with what they advocated.

  • 10.
  • At 08:58 PM on 22 Jul 2007,
  • Kubilay Tarkan wrote:

This is clearly a victory for Turkish people and very good news for European union and Turkey's western allies.

akp victory shows us that , Turkish people wanted to continue with EU membership application, liberties and social reforms

  • 11.
  • At 09:03 PM on 22 Jul 2007,
  • Justin Rogers wrote:

You neglect one little problem in your comparison to the United States in your comment on how the Pentagon would never dream of placing tanks on the White House lawn. The majority of the American Military originates from the provincial backwater areas of the Interior states and the Bible Belt. They are part of the problem, not the solution in the growth of religious fundamentalism in America. I can only hope that the General Staff will prevent future growth of a similar threat in Turkey.

  • 12.
  • At 10:22 PM on 22 Jul 2007,
  • Max Tank wrote:

A country watched by the military is effectively a police state and not a democratic one. Turkey must let the people choose it's path - whatever that is.

  • 13.
  • At 10:57 PM on 22 Jul 2007,
  • Brian Riley wrote:

The turkish economy may be growing but not,apparently as fast as the population. births exceed deaths by over one million a year, an annual increase far larger than any experianced by an E.U. country at any time and similiar to that of Egypt. and why does the male population outnumber the female by almost a million when the opposite is the case in nearly all non-moslem countries? these demographic facts hardly indicate that turkish women enjoy the same opportunities or benefits as their european sisters.

  • 14.
  • At 11:14 PM on 22 Jul 2007,
  • Mert Arslanalp wrote:

PM Erdogan said that he is ready for duty and he told us (to the ones who didn't vote his party) that we should be confident for future.
I don't really believe in him but I hope he will do well. On the other hand, to be honest, his comment about the destination that M. Kemal ATATURK showed us should be respected. He declared that Turkey will reach the "contemporary civilisation" level in the 100th anniversary of the foundation of The Turkish Republic in 2023.
AKP is the only political institution that has plans for the far future. That's why they took %47 of the total votes. I hope they won't use it for different purposes. As a secularist, I just want him to clear the general staff from his party who has different targets about the regime in Turkey. PM Erdogan isn't a danger for the secularist system but he should accept that there are some in his party.
I hope Turkish people will have an active role on the globe again. We have a history of 2000 years in this world. Once upon a time we ruled her for 500 years. Some said that we are barbarians but we aren't. We changed the maps but ruled with mercy, opened and closed ages, defeated the ones that had never been defeated. When we lost the advantage of technology we lost everything. Because Sharia regime banned the use of technology. But Ataturk brought us secular system. We have this potential and as Ataturk tells us the force we need is hidden in the gentle blood that flows in our vains. To see blue days in our sky again. More power to your elbow Mr. Erdogan!

  • 15.
  • At 11:17 PM on 22 Jul 2007,
  • caner wrote:

It is very good to see again Ak party as a leader party in front of Turkey.

This party makes closer the EU membership.

Freedom and demokratic rights are guaranteed with its government.
It is also the best for our secularism because secularism is not being afraid of religion
-islam, christianity or whatever-.

I am very happy because we will continue to modernize.
Hello to world..

  • 16.
  • At 11:17 PM on 22 Jul 2007,
  • Beylerbeyi wrote:

What Turks wonderfully call “the deep state” means this unchanging ruling class. The army, the judges, the bureaucracy supported by an urban elite.

This is somewhat misleading, I am afraid. Because, like Suleyman Demirel (former President, Prime Minister) said: 'deep state is the military itself'.

It influences and even controls, but does not include, the judges or most of the civilian bureaucracy. It has little to do with the urban elite who are not part of the military or civilian bureaucracy.

Surely the only thing which matters is that everybody -and everywhere and not just in Turkey- holds free and fair democratic elections and that everybody, including the EU and the US who pretend to promote those values, ACCEPT the results and deals in a normal and civilised way with the resulting government, whether the AK in Turkey, the FIS in 1991/2 in Algeria or Hamas in occupied Palestine? Majority rule with minority rights being the best compromise, it should be implemented everywhere. If a majority of Turks wants to make adultery a criminal offense, fine, that is their right!
As for Turkey joining the EU, I personally used to be for it but would now, if I were a Turk, vote against - associate membership is the right compromise.
As for the most sacred principle of Turkey being secularism - again, if a majority of Turks disagree, then it is clearly no longer the most sacred principle, and should therefore be changed. Turkey's dilemma was caused by a constitution imposed by the secular elite on a 99% Muslim population - a concept guaranteed to generate enormous friction within society and, after about 85 years of "sacred secularism", the real Turkey is gaining in confidence, as Islam is gaining in confidence everywhere else. Political Islam, whether mild, moderate or strict, has exactly the same right to exist, express itself and prosper, as any other political persuasion. May the army, the tool of the secular elite, stay out of politics!!! My best wishes to the wonderful warm and friendly Turkish people - I love your country and the Sultan Ahmet quarter of Istanbul is simply magic! PS - if you like poems about political Islam, visit my website

  • 18.
  • At 11:58 PM on 22 Jul 2007,
  • Ronald Kramer, Istanbul wrote:

It has been a great night for democracy in Turkey. And, therefore, for the notion that a moderate Islam and democracy can be reconciled.

The AK Party, a Muslim-democrat party, has won a landslide victory with almost 47% of the popular vote, up from 34% in 2002. This result means that almost 1 in every 2 Turks has voted for this party and has rejected the claim by the opposition that a vote for the AK Party would mean a vote for sharia. The opposition has been punished for their slanderous campaign, devoid of any fresh ideas other than scaremongering: even though the CHP has absorbed two smaller leftist parties, and in spite of the support by high court judges, bureaucrats, university rectors, a large swath of the media and of course the military, their share of the popular vote has increased only by 1%. If this election was a referendum on the "fundamentalist danger" posed by the AKP, as claimed by the CHP, than the people's verdict is clear: there is no such danger, don't be silly, let's stop antagonizing and focus on the real issues.

The AKP victory means, among other things, strong popular support for continuation of the integration process with the EU, more democracy, economic liberalization and a reduced role for the military.

In Turkey there is always talk of the elected vs. the appointed. The former are members of parliament, government ministers and mayors, for example. They are chosen in democratic elections. The latter are judges, bureaucrats, military brass, university rectors and members of the Higher Education Board (whose primary reason to exist is to prevent headscarves from entering the campuses). The president, who has always been elected by parliament until now, is the one who does most of the appointing.

That is exactly the reason why the appointed class and their favored party, the CHP, panicked when they understood that the next president would probably not be "one of us". The CHP provoked a political crisis, by filing a claim against the procedure for the presidential election in Parliament. The same night the army posted their midnight ultimatum, containing an overt coup threat.

Not surprisingly, the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of the CHP, perhaps understandably because the alternative would have been an actual coup. But their verdict was downright hilarious, because it means, in effect, that the president can be elected by parliament with a simple majority in the 3rd voting round, as is stated clearly in the Constitution, but only after there has been a 2/3 majority of members present in the 1st and 2nd voting rounds. So, if 1/3 of the MPs boycott the first meeting (rather than attending and casting a vote against the candidate), they can effectively block the election of a president.

As a result Abdullah Gül, a soft-spoken AKP moderate who has more democratic integrity and respect for other opinions than any other prominent politician in Turkey and who enjoyed 70% public support according to opinion polls after his candidacy was announced, could not be elected president, even though he received 357 votes out of 550 in the first voting round. None of the 3 presidents who have been elected according to this Constitution, including the incumbent Sezer (elected with 330 votes), have mastered 357 votes in any round. But at the time of their elections, no one had the brilliant idea to come up with this 2/3 majority quorum "principle", so in the end Özal, Demirel and Sezer were elected with a simple majority.

The blatant injustice that was perpetrated by the Constitutional Court provided a rewarding campaign subject for the AKP, who claimed that the rules of the game had been changed in the middle of the match.

Now the people have given their verdict in favor of the elected, slapping the appointed in the face and reminding them that in a democracy, it's the elected who decide what happens, and the appointed who execute their decisions.

There currently is an atmosphere of relief in Turkey, almost festive, since the AKP victory is widely seen as a victory for democracy against authoritarianism. Prime minister and AKP leader Erdoğan has held his victory speech earlier tonight, in which he again pledged adherence to the secular state. He also reached out to those 53% of the people who didn't vote for his party, saying that their voices were also heard and understood and that they didn't have to worry about their future.

It reminds me of the 2 days after Erdoğan announced that not he himself, but the popular and moderate Gül was the AKP's candidate for the presidency. Everyone was relieved, the stock market went up and we all thought that the crisis surrounding the presidential election was as good as over. But then the CHP decided to go to court and file their ludicrous claim, supported by the e-coup in that same night.

Let's hope the not-so-democratic powers that be don't pull any rabbits out of their hat this time.

  • 19.
  • At 12:17 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Galip baskaya wrote:

I beleive that the reason why AKP is ones again succesful is all its members come from among the ordinary Turkish families, they are not members of elite groupes who lives in the western part of Turkey and turns their back to eastern part of turkey and humiliate the people from these places just for the reason where they grow up. Even Recep Tayyip Erdogan grew up in the suburbs of Istanbul and succesfully advocated the people who lived at these parts of Turkey in front of these elites of Turkey who uses all resources of urban life and do not care other people. As you said above, this is clash of social groupes and the ones who loses power has begun to cry by putting forward the secularism as an excuse for their argument but it is not reasonable one which is also shown by the result of elections.

  • 20.
  • At 12:26 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • mehmet wrote:

leader of republic party Deniz Baykal it is time to go home for you. i did not vote for chp because of you.

  • 21.
  • At 12:37 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Alper Iceli wrote:

throughout the article, the most outstanding issue is covertly given in these words: snobbish urban elite. when turkish electorate happen to find out what ethnic root this `urban elite` `mostly` consists of, the multi-party democracy swindle will be over in Turkey. As an instructor of mine during my graduate education put it: ` nobody wants to lose their market`. Unfortunately `the market` is owned by the alleged hero(s) and their ideological and profit-wise conspirators since the early 19th century. Defectors have always been silenced either by indoctrination of `the history that the victors wrote` or by jackboot. Perhaps the most enlightening explanation as to who this urban elite are comes from a 1995 issue of Forward Magazine. you readers take the pains to find out what the most subtle conspirator had to say in that magazine...

  • 22.
  • At 01:03 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Zeki DUGAN wrote:

AKP may be "islamist", and "secular elite" may be afraid of AKP (and islam) but what is happening in Turkey today is that "the hand serving the honey" (Bal tutan el) is changing hence the one who will lick those fingers afterwards.
This is the main reason behind all that "secular" vs "islamist" struggle! Good bye to those who licked their fingers -big city capitalists- so far and welcome to small, anatolian town dwellers.

  • 23.
  • At 01:05 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Cagri Tanyol wrote:

The failure of the opposition shows a few other important things. First of all, the people did not vote in fear. MHP and CHP tried to scare people that the country is about to disintegrate, Cyprus is gone etc... While these may be issues, these are not the main concerns of millions of people.

Secondly, AKP will now have the chance to go on shaping Turkey into a full blown dependent country where all foreign policy will be in line with the USA. More impirtantly, we will go on being a low-educated low-wage hub for foreign companies. This is the main trend in Turkish politics that began with Turgut Ozal and this is the reason why we need a real social-democratic party.

  • 24.
  • At 01:33 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Mark Gene wrote:

As an external observer (with no connection to Turkey whatsoever), it seems to me that democracy in Turkey is strong and exemplary.
Issues behind described here are issues which could have been discussed in many other democratic countries.
Some people (in Europe) are afraid of the Turks, but all we see year in year out is a successful democracy and economy where the dominant religion happens to be Islam.

There are, of course, a couple of issues (namely the denial of Armenian massacres and treatment of Kurds) which have to be addressed and that the world should be watchful for, but what country, including any in the western world, hasn't got such dark secrets that they're trying to bury? During colonial times, most western european powers did horrible things (to Aborigine in Australia, to Africans in Belgium, French and British colonies, to Indians in India and Pakistan), as well as the US (to American Indians), Russia (to eatern european countries), and Japan (to South East Asians during Japan's occupation in the 30s and 40s). We've all got bad history.

Overall, Turkey is a credit to the world and I hope that people worldwide will feel that Turkey is a welcome member of democratic countries. Inviting them to the EU is probably a different debate, but weather they are accepted or not, I hope that most countries will gladly exchange trade and cultural ties with this great country.

  • 25.
  • At 01:39 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Ahmet Ferikoğlu wrote:

They try to show AKP as an Islamic Party so that army can has a right to take the control of the republic. There actually is not such a thing at all. This is the classic play of CHP ,main opponent party, and the army. NOTE: Do you know that in Turkey, with 99%Muslim Population, female students and teachers ,even visitors, cant wear their headscarfs in schools that is an Islamic necessity. Also if a man is religious and doesnt take alchol, that Islam prohibits to, and if his wife wears headscarf, that man is never promoted in turkish army. this is a shame for us, grandchildren of Ottoman..

  • 26.
  • At 02:03 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • cem demirel wrote:

What a great paradox? Isn't it: democracy, human (women) rights and an islamic party - AKP(Isn't it an Islamic party? because some friends claim it not so - Clearly it is, as the wifes of all the leading figures in the party wear headscarfs). But it is also true that they have been working real hard as compared to other parties of other ideologies. As a citizen in Turkey I can see the step by step transformation of a secular country to an Islamic society. Thıs transformation is so well hidden and so smoothly progressing that my naive people have not even realizing this slow transformation. They are happy that the economy seems stable and that Turkey has negotiations to enter EU. (thanks to Sarkozy to be honest with Turkey) But religion as it had happened always will take over all the other beauties (richness, freedom and democracy). And this has been already declared by PM Erdoğan: wait and have patience until every corner has been taken under our control. It was the same story in Iran. People even socialists and intellectuals have supported the governors of today's Iran against the Shah. Same in Turkey right now: everybody (liberals, socialists, democrats etc) are supporting AKP for reforms, economical stability etc). I am not from military, I am not an urban elite, I am not somebody trying not to loose the control of economic resources.I am just an ordinary citizen who witnesses the step by step backward progression of the social life of this society . So as I told in the beginning sentences: Turkey is passing through a paradoxical period which I believe will not be a bright one as it seemingly is.
With regards,

  • 27.
  • At 02:06 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Ali Civril wrote:

I would like to stress that there's a serious misconception about AK Party, that it's a fundamentalist religious party. Western community has this tendency to stereotype things and view the world from a specific narrow angle. In the past 5 years, AK Party did pretty well in terms of economy and improving human rights, democracy and so on. With this taken into account, it can at best be classified as a "conservative democrat" party which might be reminiscent of Christian democrats in Europe. I am not strongly religious at all, but they had my full support as I think that there was no other party serious about improving the country. How on earth one can explain 47 percent of the votes? Just think about it.

  • 28.
  • At 02:10 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Deniz Can Kurt wrote:

To Naveed Khan
Firstly, I don't know how did you manage to connect those two, but i think there is no any connection between the Turkey's secular system and its lower class citizens. If you made any reseach about Turkey's history before secularism (the last times of Ottomans), you would saw, how Turkey was unable to produce any kind of industrial good and how it was dependent on other countries. You can not blame secularism as a result of the high number of those lower class citizens but the politicians.
Secondly, you can not say that liberals and secularists represent only 10 per cent of the population, as you can see from the latest figures from the election CHP got around 20 per cent of the votes which could get 2 times higher under the leadership of anyone else apart from Baykal. Everybody knows that many people don't vote for CHP just because of Baykal and his stubborn and selfish attitude. So, the number of people who are committed to secularism is much higher than you know in this country.
And thirdly, the reason Turkey today is the most European and developed country in the Muslim world, the reason Turkey is negotiating with the EU today is its secular system.
Now you telling me to go back to 100 years before. Thanks mate but i don't want it. I don't want a leader Turkey in the third world but i want a respectable Turkey in the west. That is why secularism and EU project is so important for us. And of course that is what the founder of this country wanted.

  • 29.
  • At 02:26 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Munir wrote:

Its hard to understand why a Muslim nation with a powerful history rooted in Islam is now so averse to even women wearing a simple headscarf. Especially as a head covering is embedded in European Christian culture. Anyone ready to criticise depictions of the Virgin Mary wearing a headcovering?

  • 30.
  • At 02:37 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Achmad Abimanyu wrote:

I agree 100% with TOLGA KARAMAN (22 Jul 2007) that BBC keeps misinforming its audience by telling mostly from the side of 10% of the population. That is really unbalanced information, and could misguided people from what is really happening in Turkey.

  • 31.
  • At 02:51 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • ivo koitchev wrote:

I know a lot about turkish history, but to say it is "GREAT history" it is a bit too much. I want to ask Ozkan Sarikaya what do you mean by "GREAT history". All the killings the turks did in Europe and Armenia ?
I will appreiate an answer. Thank you

  • 32.
  • At 02:57 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Serkan Aslan wrote:

i just don't understand why some western journalists and bbc always want to call us "muslim party" or "islamic party" etc.

no matter how many times we declare ourselves as "centre right liberal party" bbc and some euoepean journalists keep continue calling us "islamic party"

strage and weird !

  • 33.
  • At 03:18 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • alp wrote:

Naveed Khan wrote:
Turkey should look towards Asia to find its rightful place in the world. It is true that Turks once ruled many parts of the Europe, however, now Turks are despised in Europe treated as third class citizens. Turks have a major role in the Muslim World and it is to the East and not to the west. Turkish liberals are opposed to AKP because they desire status quo. These liberals and secularist represent 10% of the population but control 80% of economic resources. Secularism in Turkey has exploited the poor and lower middle class. Turkey must break its relationship with best to become the leaders as they originally are.

i pry for that, develeoping to the east..As all nationalists in Turkiye.We want to be part of Asia, not europas.

i have been living and studying in london for more than three years. i have never seen a british general talking on tv about politics.i believe that my country will be the same in the future.soldiers will be only soldiers and politicans will not expect them to get involved for a military coup as chp has been doing for last four months. if i was in turkey, i would vote for independent candidates. if there were no independent candidates, i would vote for akp. i do not believe that akp is an islamic party.however,i am a leftist/socialist, i do believe that they did a lot for the country.obviously,there are many things they ignored or could not change such as cyprus,armenian genocide,silly laws such as 301(assaulting turkishness) but no opposition parties mentioned about them. they always screamed about secularity which akp does not have any business with it.chp was only opposition party in the parliament for 5 years and they could not make even a shadow cabinet.whenever i watched the turkish tv,he(deniz baykal)or his deputy minister was there talking about agriculture,minorities,sport,law and anything you can imagine.did they any alternative plans or projects?no!!!therefore, i will never vote for military-backed politicians who can only scream about paranoias and blackmail the society...

  • 35.
  • At 03:45 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Attila wrote:

Turkey is 99 % muslim officially. However, atheists are counted as muslim on official ID cards.

1-)AKP is the only party who said this kind of informations should be lifted on ID cards.

2-)Secularist CHP ignores atheists, but AKP leader Erdogan calls us to vote for them also, he keeps on saying in his meetings : "everyone together, believers and non-beleivers".

3-) Armenian Patrichatre of Istanbul said that armenians will vote for AKP.

4-)AKP - EU relations are well known even by ordinary people.

Under this circumstances, its not only crazy but also ignorance to call AKP islamic.

  • 36.
  • At 04:09 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Luka wrote:

The Republic of Turkey was founded upon secular principles. Religion and State must be separate. It doesn't matter if this is in the U.S., in France or in Turkey. After the French Revolution and during the years of englightenement that followed, it became clear that in order for a society to be democratically and justly ruled, and to uphold the principles of life, liberty, justice and equality; it must be free of all influences such as religion, aristocracy and military. It is easy for Western diplomats or anyone looking into Turkey through a pseudo-intellectual pink glasses and state that these elections were fair and this is the choice of the nation. It certainly is not. There were all sorts of "tricks" of the trade, and the elections are a devastating result of mass propaganda. Let us not kid ourselves by thinking that AK Party is not Islamist. Let us not kid ourselves by thinking that Turkey is not in any danger of becoming a second Iran. A country that is surrounded by forces that wants to destroy its borders since its founding, a country that struggles between East and West, liked by neither, a country with a growing population of ignorant masses; such a country is doomed to go through yet another cycle of violence, pain and loss. The European Union will never accept Turkey, neither will the Arab nations or the East; as the old saying goes, "there is no friend of a Turk than a Turk." Geopolitically speaking, Turkey is always precious as gold, and the "powers" that be have always wanted a piece of it. This has not changed, and will not change in the near future. The Turkish people have much to learn and much to appreciate about their history. They should approach it with humility and acceptance. Only then, can they truly make peace with other nations. Only then, there can be peace within. As the great visionary and leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk said "peace in the nation, peace in the world." We have neither at the moment.

  • 37.
  • At 04:26 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • thelonelycowboy wrote:

I would love to see many of those who posted in here jubilant about AKP's victory bite their lips in a few years, when the party they voted for will be restricting the very democratic values they seem to have cherished... by then, it will be too late. then again, in a country where the political mentality is akin to shopping mentality i.e. 'why not give those guys (AKP) a chance too? The others have so far been pretty bad' along the lines of 'why not try this brand of margarine, the others have not been as tasty as we thought' surely seems to be fitting the results and the consequences Turkey will suffer from in a few years.

Mark my words: The ones derided for being suspicious of AKP's motives will soon be called clairvoyants.

Modern Turkey

  • 38.
  • At 04:34 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Ahmet Dervish wrote:

Great day for Turkey and it's democracy. People showed that they have no fear of AKP. AKP is the only party that has done something good for Turkey. Five more years of improvement in democratization, human rights will make Turkey closer to EU. I hope and pray that Military will respect people's vote. I agree with the previous commend that Kemal Ataturk was a great leader of his time. Turkey has to move on, time is changing, just like Ottoman's not accepting technology. Congradulations to Turkish People.

  • 39.
  • At 04:35 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Ahmet Caliskan wrote:

AKP was a reaction to poverty, and dis-success of governing three political parties, and Akp was the winner of 2002 elections.

AKP is winner ine july 2007 again. Militarist opposition for women's clothing right in public areas according to their beliefs and their opposition for president becoming from Akp was the main reason for the success of Akp. Whenever there is action, there should be a reaction. The other reasons are political and economic stability wish of the general public and the excellent organization structure of AKP which did not exist in other political parties.

So basicly reaction to military, economic and political stability wish of public and excellent organization structure are the three most important reasons which brought such victory to Akp.

  • 40.
  • At 04:38 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Alban G - Canada wrote:

There is no doubt that the victory of AK Party is what it was expected. The people of Turkey have woke up. By now they already know who is the black sheep in the middle of the crowd.I used to live sometime in Ankara and I remember the hard work of these guys when they used to rule as a city mayors particularly in Istanbul and Ankara. The people of Turkey are not afraid from hard working people. The leftist should vanish in order for this country to flourish. That includes the army generals, the prosecutors, the judges, and the president. These are the people that are holding up the democracy in Turkey and not AKP. The world has to understand that these people need a chance to proof them self therefore there should be given more support to Erdogan's Government from International Community, espacially EU. As per comment number 17 posted by Ronald Kramer I totally agree. I don't know what his job is but he totally has done his homework.

  • 41.
  • At 05:12 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Emre wrote:

When I look at the numbers I see the Turkish economy growing, that's reality. But for whom is it growing? A ten percent minority in Turkey is controlling most of the economy and capital accumulation.

AKP is supporting a liberal economical plan and the outcomes of it has always been same all around the world: the rich gets richer and the poor gets poorer.

Leaving the economical perspective, AKP can claim that it is not a Islamic rooted or fundamentalist party trying to integrate an Islamic lifestyle in Turkey. The way I see it in schools and government owned institutions is that there is a great distinction made by the government in the process of appointing the people for those jobs. More and more imam school graduates have been appointed to those jobs while thousands of university graduates are kept unemployed. Unemployment is still a problem in Turkey what ever it is said about the growth of the economy.

Another goal of AKP was the privatization of government owned institutions while transforming the economy into a liberal one. The outcomes showed great income to the state in the short run but as I see Turkey lacks production greatly and has started become an import dependent economy as 70 percent of the market is owned by foreigners. In the long run, Turkey may suffer great shortages as it is in a very unstable geopolitical place.

As I believe that AKP is not radical Islamic party, I also believe that they are not a pro secular party. They have been using religion in their Party propagandas, as ten year old girls wearing head scarves handed out brochures in Ankara and Istanbul.
In the last 4.5 years we saw the basement of schools turning into small mosques, Mr. Erdogan degrading and humiliating farmers and most important of all disrespecting the memories and ideals of our martyrs.

What made AKP successful was, the failed conjunction of DYP and ANAP, two center-right parties, CHP's militarist approach to some issues and the most important of all, the lacking left presence in Turkey.

I hope everybody learns a lesson for this and AKP follows a more agreeing and compromising approach rather than a stern, authoritarian one as they did in the failed president elections.

  • 42.
  • At 05:18 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Hakan E. wrote:

Today, I talked with my mother in Istanbul, and, lo and behold, she said she voted for the AKP.

While I find it asinine to judge someone's core social and political values based on a simple sartorial choice, I will dare say that my mother's never covered her flowing, blond (!) hair with a headscarf her whole life. To top it off, she is an relatively independent type, divorced fifteen years ago, runs her own business, takes vacations on her own, and so on. I can't really fit her into the stereotypes apparently floating around.

And yes, she does identify herself as a muslim, more in a Balkan style, as in "it's my identity," rather than the individuality-erasing, so-called-fundamentalist type, mongered by some.

I would not vote for the AKP as much as I would not vote for the CDU in Germany or the Republicans in the US. I would not vote for the supposedly social-democratic party either because of their severely limited agenda and mildly repugnant stance.

I would have probably not voted.

I do find it slightly disconcerting how some folks diligently refuse to accept muslimness, along the lines of catholic or protestant identity in other parts of Europe, as a conservative, tad lower-middle-class social identity and continue to perpetrate this notion of Bin Laden look-alikes taking over civil, civilized society with their blind, disruptive zeal.

Get over it.

  • 43.
  • At 05:33 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Thanks to AKP party, last year alone more than 80.000 foreigners (mostly europeans) bought homes in Turkey and decided to live in Turkey.

this is not just because Turkey is a beautiful country, it is because economy is good and getting better and better, people are very open mindend and the rulling AKP party is the most liberal and reformist party in the Turkish history.

as a foreigner, i never felt that secularism or democracy is under threat in Turkey.

well, i think i will continue enjoying my Turkish Raki and Beer under the Great Turkish sun.

Good luck to Turkey.


  • 44.
  • At 05:51 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • chris wrote:

believe it or not whether you want to call erdogan's party islamists or fundamendalists, they have traditionally been a lot more milder than the kemalists/secularists, i am greek and i feel the tensions according to who's in power in turkey, as christian the sight of the scarf kind of frightens me however deep down i know their intentions are a lot less aggressive and possibly the only ones to lead turkey into the eu.


nicosia, cyprus

  • 45.
  • At 06:19 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • muradiye mongeon wrote:

Tolga Karaman, What are you talking about.go wash your face and wake up !!! AKP is the fake islamic party which is using islam to get elected.

  • 46.
  • At 06:25 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • NIZAR.PK wrote:


  • 47.
  • At 06:56 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Michael wrote:

Dear BBC editors,

You should by now recognize, from the wide-reaction displayed in the posts, that it is WRONG TO refer to AKP as an Islamist party.

It would be much more accurate to label them as Liberal Democratic.

The referral to AKP as Islamist, is a scare slogan used by the opposition party, which miserably failed in the polls.

  • 48.
  • At 07:08 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Mehmet Ozatamer wrote:

First of all, although I've voted for another party I would like to congragulate AKP and its supporters for their massive success.

It is true that I still have my fears AKP silently and secretly will promote and Islamic stated that is going to be stripped naked from its laicist past. This is the main reason why I voted for CHP.

But I despise CHP because when you only make politics over peoples fears and do not offer them anything about the future, do not give them a vision then you are doomed to lose. That is what AKP gave people. CHP should be thankful for our votes because it was our deepest concern for our nation that made us vote for them not what they offered economically and/or structurally.

The party that seems to be lacking our secular ideas has more vision than the party that shares (-ONLY-)our secular ideas. How ironic!

I hope that those who have posted here that AKP is not an Islamist party are right...I would hate to see myself being correct thinking they are secretly promoting an unsecular state!

  • 49.
  • At 07:31 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • John Kantor wrote:

It's too bad the military doesn't stand up for secularism here. The conservative Christian control of our society is increasing. It's sad that we have to choose between a strong foreign policy and individual freedoms.

  • 50.
  • At 07:35 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Nagihan wrote:

In response to the fears of the lady whom you've quoted in the article:

the fear about number of women wearing headscarves increasing (despite the discourse against the headscarf both in Turkey and Europe at large)is hardly comparable to the hard fact of not being allowed to work or study because you wear one. One of them is paranoia, the other one is real experience. And yet the voice of this paranoia gets more heard than the hard facts on the ground.
Naturally. Paranoia is a medical condition and needs more attention.

  • 51.
  • At 07:51 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Baris wrote:

Turkish people have betrayed what Mustafa Kemal ATATÜRK and his loyal friends wanted to establish voting for AKP which is definitely an Islamic party whose leader once was kneelling down in front of a mullah. AKP has made a good economical progress? By selling Mersin Harbour to foreiners? They have made a good progress on liberty and human rights? By supporting article 301 of penal code? Shame on you those who have voted for AKP... You betrayed your unique leader, Mustafa Kemal ATATÜRK, veteran of Independence War and the founder of modern and secular Turkish republic.

  • 52.
  • At 07:51 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Kadir wrote:

I think what we see in the results of the election is that leftist tendencies are at an all time low in Turkey, in line with much of Europe and USA. I can't remember a single left wing ( or even slightly suggestive of left wing) election win in any developed economy since 9/11. Nationalism, Fascism and religious fundementalism have never been as high globally since WW I-II. It is worrying, not just for Turkey but for the entire mankind.

In my opinion, those who think AKP's economic performance is successful need to think more carefully. They forget that:

1) much of the fiscal and regulatory reforms in economic areas have been set in place by the late Mr.Ecevit's government. They had truely bitten the bullet and took some very unpleasant but equally required steps to put the economy on firm tracks following the 2001 depression.

2) The current upward trend in the economy is financed by a huge deficit in the current account. National debt has never been as high on absolute terms or as percentage of GDP. Domestic production is stalling. This is certainly not sustainable in the longer run. As soon as the global winds stop blowing from directly behind, economic problems of collosal size will surface.

  • 53.
  • At 07:53 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Ceren wrote:

AK is not an islamic foundamentalist party?? Do you remember the times when he was arrested bacause of his sharp islamic statements aganist our laik country? Have you seen his wife?? Don't you remember that 5 years ago everyword he spoke was aganist what we all believed? People dont change, they just become better politicians, better liars..

BBC has made one of the best articles I've ever read on an international platform. Every word is true. And It is objective. I've expected much worse to tell you the truth. Thank You BBC.

  • 54.
  • At 08:13 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Abraham wrote:

I think "Some Western diplomats" had the better argument. Although secularists’ fear and dislike may be real and not feigned, it is unreasonable and manipulated as well. AK Party's efforts to take Turkey to EU (which is a safety net for anykind of belief and life-style) is as real and not feigned as secularists’ fear and dislike. There is no way you can talk about taking the country backwards or forcing women wear headscarves when someone is stuck with the ideal to make the country be part of a union such as EU. It is all about unchanging ruling class' fear of loosing power and unlike ordinary secularist people, they do not give a damn about secularism or any other principles of Mustafa Kemal.

  • 55.
  • At 08:18 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • mohd zani wrote:

AK Party is not a threat to secular, if you look at it in positive manner. Islam is moderate,i.e. in Malaysia we live together with other people from different races and religions but we never asked them to follow our sharia law. If you believe in democratic system then you have to respect the voice of majority.Even in Europe, they still allow women to wear what is the big deal.....

Mark Mardell asks: "Anyone think of any other countries with an urban and coastal liberal elite that feels under threat from the religious politics of the rural hinterland?"

Well, perhaps the Netherlands is an interesting case in this context. I'm sure that many of their recent problems came from the fact that a vociferous group of "liberals" had, despite strong conservative Christian resistance, managed to push through a whole raft of "progressive" ideas -such as abortion, euthanasia, social acceptance of homosexuality and living together as a social norm. Then just when the social revolution seem to have been won, the whole fight started again as a result of the influx of "guest workers" who had probably been a corners-stone in the post-war reconstruction.

When I left, just after the van Gogh murder, the Dutch too were going down the "it's the uneducated Imams that cause the trouble" route -but they too had to face up to the fact that this wasn't true. In my personal experience -the more "integrated" a foreigner was the less likely they were to appreciate the Dutch. There are real conflicts of values and belief systems involved. These can be accepted and mediated -or they can be ignored and allowed to explode -as they did on 9/11 in America or with the Death of van Gogh in Amsterdam.

Incidentally, it were the Christian groups who had previously encouraged Muslim schools -as part of their fight against state run secular schools. The most reliable representation of Holland that I've ever seen in the (British) media was Jeremy Clarkson's "Meet the Neighbours" -where he managed to capture all the complex (anarchist/conservative) contradictions of Dutch society.

Indeed, it is nice to finally see the media seriously looking at the underlying causes (and perhaps discovering both the universal and the local aspects of international politics). Instead of reporting politics as if it was simply a football match between two neutral parties. Presumably, the same basic struggle is going on in Turkey, in Britain, in Holland and around the world. In my view, secular capitalism is no less a dangerous fanatism than any other. If "democracy" is to have any real meaning -then it is the underlying power struggle that really needs to be revealed -so people can decide if the game is worth the candle, or perhaps not.

So it is presumably a great logical error to equate "modernism" with western life-style and "internationalism" as being positively opposed to negative provincial nationalism. This is simply propaganda which supports the status quo globally. Not so long ago,the Communists were pushing "internationalism" but then it wasn't so respectable. Earlier, the British ruling classes were terrified of "Chaos" but now this is a fundamental principle of our free market economic system. I also remember seeing a BBC programme on how the British Conservative Party moved "down market" with Heath and Thatcher -because they realized that in a democratic system there was no place for a rich elite and so middle class values must be promoted. The result, as they say "is History".

  • 57.
  • At 08:31 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Berk wrote:

2007 Turkish election and its result was absolutely an indicator of a changing class struggle in Turkey.

The former ruling elite of turkey (mainly ardent defenders of secularism) is in decline. New rising middle class ( former peasants, rural and religious communities) is now taking the control off.

May be this is the most positive outcome of the elections. Because in long term, these rural religious people and their children will be more educated and westernized due to the support from the government.

The result will be clear. westernisation will spread through larger masses. former ruling elite is already westernised.

now its new rising middle class' turn.

in long term wider masses will be more educated due to the facilitated access to economic resources by the AKP government..

politics is who gets what, when ,how.

its just a matter of time.

  • 58.
  • At 08:48 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • özgür wrote:

fredom win
it was great emotion for turks Who support freedom,justice,devoplment,big and powerfull Turkey.altough some grups propagandize unjustice against values of turkish nation and goverment but turks have decided improving and freedom of turkey.We believe most of turks are satisfied with resultes. İf any undemocratic situation doesn't occur in next decade I believe our country will be the same level as most advaced countries in the world.
our best wishes with turkey's future

  • 59.
  • At 08:48 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Orhan wrote:

It is evident that with 70,5 million people Turkey has missed the industrialization process for decades. This meant unemployment with governments practically having no solution.
Now AKP with the support from abroad claims to generate an atmosphere of stability "at least better than the others"
They used these prevailing winds...

  • 60.
  • At 08:51 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • erkan wrote:

i think as a result of elections, democracy won. Bye bye to "deep state" which are not from us, even most of them are not Turkish. What I want is whoever they are, AKP or CHP or any of them, real Turkish people, real Turkey lovers should manage the country. And every people should be free to wear miniskirt or use headscarf. Giving up radicalism in any ideology, having tolerance to all ideology should be our way. I think Turks can easily do that with the help of their culture and their religion Islam. Peace in everywhere.

  • 61.
  • At 09:05 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • alam wrote:

Its my pleasure AKP win in the election.This is the best chance for Turkish people to revive their own identity.Its the right time to come closer Turkish and Kurdish.Its not the way to solve the problem by using Arms,solve it in the parliament.Unless they are waiting to give you arms and finance to fight each other.
Whats wrong if Mr Erdogan is religious.Most of the western leaders are religious they take oath with touching religious book.I hope Mr erdogan will standup with New leadership,stop begging and crying for Eu membership.

  • 62.
  • At 10:00 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Murat wrote:

Turkish people are fed up with so-called secularism concerns of elite-bureaucrats supported by Chp.Besides,they have demonstrated their believe in democracy rather than undemocratic intervention which was demanded in meetings held in April and may.I think this government will continue its endeavors to pursue target of founding father of modern Turkey Kemal Ataturk which is namely, reaching the level developed countries.

  • 63.
  • At 10:54 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Tahsin Ozalan wrote:

Many comments above suggest that there is a soaring economy and stability in the last five years in Turkey. Unfortunately, I have to disagree with these proclaims. In June, I was in Turkey and despite our economic miracles people were complaining at all the time. People say that agriculture sector is dead thanks to the government’s policy which is backed and financed by the World Bank. Many recent graduates couldn’t find a decent job. There are some figures like GDP per person, which suggests that Turkey is developing well. However, I am not too sure about whether these figures reflect a plain reality.

I think since (our great leader!) Turgut Ozal, there is a trend in Turkey. Basic explanation of these trend is that; selling public institutions, borrowing money from local and international markets. With the borrowed money we changed the surface of our lives. We had new TV sets, we had new imported cars etc. But what Turgut Ozal and his successors did not do was to develop our own high industry which could compete with other developed countries. In fact, this was the only way to change our lives and our destiny, form a poor and underdeveloped country to a proper developed country with high living standards. And it was not impossible task for Turkey as many countries in Asia including Japan succeeded this during the 20th century. But we have chosen the easy way; instead of increasing people’s lives standards we tried to make some rich peoples around us, or at least one in one neighbourhood.

Unfortunately, AKP is pursing the same type of economy policy. There is a figure of 80 billion US dollars invested in Turkish stocks and bonds at the moment. This is we called hot money. AKP has supported by the entrance of the hot money, however we all know what happens when the hot money starts to leave the country. The expected result would be another painful economic crisis. This is not my observation, there many respectful economist in Turkey who believe that the real development should origin from a competitive industry.

A development which is based on the borrowed money and purchasing foreign goods is not good for our country. That’s why Turkey has a huge problem to provide jobs for 800,000 young people who enter to the Turkish labour market every year. If you guys suggesting that AKP created an economic miracle, I really do not understand how your judgement is functioning. To me this is an obvious failure and I hope AKP would notice that they are on the wrong track.

  • 64.
  • At 11:24 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • BOZ wrote:

Come on guys! AKP is an Islamic party. Maybe, not fundamentalist .. But, it is definitely an Islamic party and noone can make me believe the opposite when all of its leaders' wives are wearing headscarves.

I understand the stability of the economy. Good make-believe... But, how about the foreign debt?? How about all of the money that we take from IMF and other foreign countries?? The economic stability mostly owes to that... In return, we are becoming more dependent on other countries 'cause we owe them a lot.. I believe, the economic stability is achieved with debt. And believe me, even I could have spent/allocate the money better!!!

  • 65.
  • At 02:07 PM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • celik wrote:

If AKP keeps on the track with reforms and economic development and others with non existing prorams and policies next election will be the same.
Shame on the left who called themselves DEMOCRATS, for trying to gain grounds by coopareting with the Army. It is the same Army who destroyed any form of coherent civil society. Same army supported religious groups against Democrats.
Army? I do not believe their secularism cry are real. Not secular state but army's suffocating grip on the politics are in real danger. Incompotent army is very efficient when making money for themselves (generals). In which democratic country army owns a bank, a petrol company, travel agent, car plant, financial services company.
Good luck Democracy!...
love to all

  • 66.
  • At 02:54 PM on 23 Jul 2007,

AKP's unexpected empowered winning is the first step of battle between them and patriotic people who actually not still involved directly to the political activities. AKP is professionally organised, performs all political activities using militant partisans, using huge money to reach the non-declared but well defined programme to carry the country to the dark age. Western countries are declaring happines about the situation because AKP's strategy and political approach is develeoped together with them. However, All the world must remember Turkish revolution against western occupants even there was no any hope to recover the future. We all of democrats are here to prevent this nightmare and to save our country. We are ready to die for this to save our children too. We will not permit to devide the country. This circumstances is not the first time for us. We know how the people is made blind and ignorant using almost all TV channels, newspapers and other media tools. Of course it is not easy, but, we will overcome this ignorance, re-organise ourself gathering all of things that we have. We are the followers of great Ataturk and we know his vision declared for the dark days. We are very much aware about the situation and we know that milestone is not a simple political step. This is a counter-revolution planned and managed by the imperialist forces. Now, We are going to prepare ourselves and put all our presence for the last battle. This will be last few years of the darkness.

In all of my posts so far in Mark's blog here, I've cheered for Turks and their awareness of the issues at hand – the perceived threat of fundamentalism in a region so ripe with it. After this vote, my opinion stays the same -- the vote of the Turkish people signals the people's satisfaction with the changes that have taken place in the country under a government that some are afraid is based in backward values; however, it was not made in ignorance (like is often the case in the West if it is even made). The fear -- even if it is a bit much – was raised and justified for two major reasons:

Abdullah Gul once insinuated, publicly, that returning to a more Islamic traditional government would ensure that more people have food/basic necessities. This echoes idealist and even communist sentiments that allowed leaders to pervert their societies in the past.

Headscarves used to be a fashion statement in places that were not fundamentally Islamic, like Afghanistan during pre-Taliban times. This country is neighbors with Turkey and when the Taliban came (in what seemed to be a blink of an eye) and headscarves became mandatory, women's rights to education and employment went out the window under such a dreadful symbol of the scarf. My friend here in New York came here as an Afghan refugee 25 years ago and lost her father and other family members to all of the violence there. She came here by herself with her four kids, through India, again, as a refugee. She said that headscarves were a fashion statement and worn strictly by choice before the Taliban. Now, headscarves are a scary business in the Middle East, and to see them worn on a regular basis by the wife of a political leader has to give some people goose bumps.

But alas, AKP is not as extreme as other ruthless fundamentalists in the region or the past ... and so far the changes under its mast have been good for the people.

To address anyone's doubt about Turks' political aptitude: the point of this early election was to make sure that Turks are, themselves, awake to the issues and involved in the appointment of a president. There was a period of reaction, of protest even. But this is vital for healthy change, and Turks are awake and that's more than I can say for many nations in the West who are lulled to sleep by religion, consumerism, trope, propaganda and selfish politics of greedy leaders. I know first hand, I am a citizen of the US and my vote against Bush joined all the others in 2000 when he won unfairly and stood on a religious platform. Now my tax dollars fund a war that I am bitterly against and was from the very beginning.

The West would do right to get a more rounded perspective about Turkey. Turks are not in the medieval ages like some people on 'Have Your Say' suggest. Thinking like this suggests that you trust Oliver Stone movies more than you trust a comprehensive dose of Turkish daily news.

Turks are wide awake and very deliberate. I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that the EU will regret making Turks feel second class in the long run.

The election results are not as black and white as the BBC would report them to be either -- women constitute a solid percentage of MP seats now and several parties make up the entire parliament -- two parties in today's world seems like backwards politics to me (and I have to live with it until we advance)!

For over a hundred years, the West has reported half-heartedly about Turkey just because Turks won their own land and Turks do not belong to the Christian club. Isn't it time to report in more detail-- with statistics and everything and not just hearsay and quick jots-- about this country?

Otherwise news services like the BBC just perpetuate the fog around the level of sophistication in Turkey's politic and coming generation. And this is going to come back to haunt the West. The Ottoman Empire itself fell because they became too self-satisfied but I doubt that Turks would do that again. They are fiercely and integrally rebuilding from the ashes.

If anyone could read the Turkish language and compare the news in Turkish papers to what is in mainstream US and UK pubs, I think they would be shocked right now at the lack of information. It’s striking and shameful.

  • 68.
  • At 07:36 PM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • loislane wrote:

the reference to the 'pitch invasion' is for me a classic example of people only seeing what they know and only knowing what they see in Turkey and also speaks volumes about a Brit's perception of events in Turkey-who were the soldiers, were they Army or Jandarma? What were they doing around the pitch? The comparison to the IRA is not helpful & unnecessarily alarmist here. In Britain at the first sign of trouble, people scatter and turn away, in Turkey they do the opposite - pitch in to see if they can help -in Turkey the army are of the people by the people and for the people. This cannot be emphasised enough.

  • 69.
  • At 08:25 PM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Mert Arslanalp wrote:

"ivo koitchev wrote:

I know a lot about turkish history, but to say it is "GREAT history" it is a bit too much. I want to ask Ozkan Sarikaya what do you mean by "GREAT history". All the killings the turks did in Europe and Armenia ?
I will appreiate an answer. Thank you"

Please be serious. We didn't kill anybody. All of the deaths were in the war time. We ruled everywhere with mercy. Nobody can say that Turks killed us AFTER the wars. Look at our previous lands now. Nobody is speaking Turkish. We tolarated them to speak their language. We allowed them to live their own religion. We didn't destroy their historic buildings. Turkey is a living museum of 3000 years. Today you can visit Efes, Hagia Sofia with great pleasure. All the buildings of Byzantine Empire lives today. We gave them chance to rule the empire. Most of the Ottoman pashas after the sultan were minorities. Today in Taksim square there are both churches and mosques. Moreover, these buildings are very old. We didn't build them after Ottoman Empire.
You are always afraid of us. You don't know anything about our history and customs. Mercy is the only principle in Turkish political affairs.
Once upon a time all of your scholars, artists, ecclesiastics escaped from Europe to our lands to live in peace. We ruled Middle-East for 300 years and there was no blood. As soon as we went away from there blood has started to flow. Look at Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon etc. I think everybody can see who kills who. Everyday 50 people die in Iraq. Approximately 100.000 people died after 2003. What is their crime? To be Muslims? No. Their crime is to live on Mesopotamia. Please stop making funny comments to show Turks as barbarians. These smear campaigns are very old you know. Please accept that Turks are one of the rulers of the globe. Even in the past or not.
My words are for the one who knows himself. Thanks for the rest for their comments on our democratic development. We know our friends and enemies very well.

  • 70.
  • At 11:22 PM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Bilge wrote:

AKP is not trying to strengthen ties with the EU - they are just pretending to be! They, like most sensible Turks, know that Turkey will not be accepted to the EU by the snobbish continental European states and they're just trying to use this to their benefit to get sympathy from the Turkish public. With the army being OTT getting involved with politics, Baykal (leader of CHP) being just unbearable and the lack of other alternatives unfortunately Turkey will have to suffer the consequences. It will not turn into Iran in 10 years no, but will become a softer version of Pakistan which is already hard to accept for any secular used to the western life style.

  • 71.
  • At 12:25 AM on 24 Jul 2007,
  • Mukthar wrote:

I'm really saddened to see how the descendends of the great muslim Ottomans have been reduced to denying their muslim identity, restricting muslim man/woman from performing their basic Islamic obligation, feeling suspicious of any religous muslim.

  • 72.
  • At 03:28 PM on 24 Jul 2007,
  • ekin seker wrote:

I wouldn’t necessarily say I am surprised, but I am really upset to see the results of the last election in Turkey. I agree the Turkish economy improved in the last few years, yes, the lines in the waiting rooms of hospitals shortened, and yes, AKP pushed for EU more than anyone else. Is that really the case though?

If we scratch the surface just a little, then we’ll see how problems only look like they are being solved rather than actually being solved. We'll see all the money barrowed from IMF which eventually must be paid back, how Tayyip Erdogan gives the impression that he is part of the public not the elite or the wealthy while he, himself uses the government money for his personal needs, how his son enjoys the big ships and factories that were bought to him by his father, while his peers die in Eastern Turkey fighting PKK, how his party spends money like water such as covering Istanbul with thousands of Tulips, which don’t usually last more than a few weeks, but not doing anything about the traffic, shortage of water etc., how they make the wait lines move much faster in hospitals because they have asked doctors to give generic medication to each patient rather than really diagnosing their illness and treating them accordingly. These are only a few that come to my mind right away. Of course there are the increasing Kuran schools as well as woman with headscarves or cadors, AKP's effort of trying to close down anything related to west such as Opera, Bale, Photography.

I find it quite embarrassing to see how they use class difference or religion to deceive people just to have their own agenda to work.

  • 73.
  • At 07:57 AM on 25 Jul 2007,


  • 74.
  • At 03:26 PM on 25 Jul 2007,
  • Fazly wrote:

It's pathetic that many Turkish girls are studying here (in Jordan) just because they are not allowed to study in their own beloved country for one reason - they are wearing headscarves. I don't see how a country which calls itself modern and westernised is depriving her citizens from their basic right - education - just for this silly reason. even in the western countries, denying someone to enter the universities just because she wear a veil will be deemed as discrimination.

For a side note, i dont see these girls as threat to the secular principles just because they are veiled. They talked to guys, go to malls, and basically do almost any other things a girl with a miniskirts do.

  • 75.
  • At 05:03 PM on 25 Jul 2007,
  • Burhan wrote:

I find all these discussions whether Turkey should look to West or East, are we Turks completely Asian, a little bit European or any combination with varying ratios, completely absurd. In every country, citizens want the same things, maybe in different ways, but the same basic rights. Good economy, job creation, democracy, access to education and health care, and so on. Politicians should strive to achieve those. Citizens and politicians would get less side-tracked from these issues as higher education levels increase. When I have these in my country who cares if I am labelled European or Asian. To reach that goal, everybody in Turkey should contribute. That starts by more education, reading, thinking, discussing, observing and living other viewpoints. Europe should understand that we do not want to merely join the club but we want to have better lives. And not everything in Europe is better.

Elections in Turkey are over and this is a time of transitions in politics and policy in Turkey. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a major victory. The reasons for this victory can be analysed in tens of pages. Let us focus on one single question: ‘What is next in Turkish politics?’. Good question. What is the answer?

For the most western observers the Turkey’s election was about a clash between secular elites and moderate Islamism in Turkey (see TIME, Turkey's Dilemma, where Turkey is described as an divided country between secularists and moderate islamists). Of course this ideological perspective was the easiest way to understand and to show what is going on in Turkey. However, they missed the point that the key question for the most of the Turkish electorates is the Turkish economy and prosperity in the country. The situation of the Turkish economy has been a powerful driver in election campaigns and AKP’s victory. The opposition parties was not able to deliver substantial issues and proposals, as the AKP successfully dominated debates on economy and social issues. Turkish people wanted to have continuity instead of a new adventure.

The agenda in Turkey is changing, however, in three important ways. There is now growing expectations towards the AKP concerning economic policies. Although Turkey has greatly improved its economical fundamentals, the Turkish economy is vulnerable to domestic and international shocks. Foreign investors hold around 70% of floating shares on the Istanbul Stock Exchange. The current account deficit is partly financed by foreign liquidity. Further economic reforms are needed to improve competitiveness and external balances. Although Turkey is a EU candidate county, the Human Development Index for Turkey is 0.757, which gives Turkey a rank of 92nd out off 177 countries. According to UNDP, 4 % of Turkish population has no access to an improved water resource.

Security issues are rising up the agenda. This problem is disturbing the Turkish public. There are recent terrorist attacks on the Turkish security forces in Southeast Turkey. Public pressure on the government is growing and the opposition is blaming the AKP for ineffective counter terrorism policies. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which wants a stronger counter terrorism policy, could double its votes compared to 2002.

Much else is changing too. Turkey is now more integrated in the global economy. Evidence for this is that in 2006 Turkey attracted USD 17 bn foreign direct investment inflow. Urbanisation is spreading fast and unemployment rate of 11% is too much. Supply chains in Turkey are being reconfigured as Europeanisation and integration in the global economy proceeds. And, interestingly, social policy debates are being re-cast. For example, we can expect that inequality will become a more prominent issue in the future.

We miss all this at our peril. An analogy we can drawn is with a visit to a game park. All eyes and lenses are focused on the lioness and her cubs on the side of the car. Meanwhile, on the other, unnoticed, a large elephant advances…

  • 77.
  • At 10:51 PM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • George wrote:

Mohd zani: Hello! Malaysia a moderate islamic state? Where people live together freely? A muslim woman and a Hindu man, married, were forced to seperate because their faiths were not compatible with Malaysia sharia laws!! I can only pray that the same laws that govern Malaysia will never govern Turkey!

The AKP is a wolf in sheeps clothing. The Turkish people the sheep, who's flocks freely elected the wolf, and the Military the sheep dog.
Its not until the wolf rears its ugly head that the sheep will turn to the ever watchful sheep dog and beg for help!

Have the Turkish people forgotten the dream of the republics founding father Kemal Ataturk, that of a secular state, free from the corruption of any religious laws?!

Ataturk once stated "that there would be men that would challenge the republic" and that time is now, and its called the AKP.

The AKP is on just such a path! Having visited Turkey this summer I have seen more religiuos attire on women than I have in the 20 years of visiting the country. The TV is chock full of Islamic TV shows. They AKP is possitioning itself in every asspect of Turkish society. They are replacing secularist in the universities, on the federal and state levels, and even trying to infiltrate the military. There is a conspiracy at the heart of the AKP and only the protector of the secular state, the Turkish Military, will be able to confront it.

No one in west can truly understand what is at stake in Turkey. The west expects everyone to think like them, secular, democratic. But radical islam has its own agenda. To give in to the demands of human rights activist in the west, and to those individuals that want the right to wear a head scarf to school in Turkey, will only hand the AKP another victory in its crusade towards an Turkish islamic republic.

Eupore has no desire to allow Turkey into its union. The cold war states have been allowed in and yet Turkey a NATO member for many years, still sits on the sidelines. The Kudish problem will remain, as will Cyprus, and all the promisies of the AKP to continue its efforets to join the EU will fail. But the AKP knows this! They have used the EU in part (and the poor leadership of the CHP) to allow the Turkish people to thumb their noses at the Military, the very protector of their Turkish secularizim. The EU demands that the AKP reighn in the military and the people do the same, all the while the AKP continues its path towards an islamic state.
Kemal Ataturk must be rolling in his grave!!
I can only hope that when all is said and done, when all the AKP smoke clears, that the sheep will realize the folly of their ways and remove the wolf before all is to late!

  • 78.
  • At 04:23 AM on 28 Jul 2007,
  • ozan wrote:

Dear Mark,

When writing about Gül Berna Özcan'a article, you wrote that you couldn't read "his" articles. Gül and Berna are female names in Turkish. :)

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