By İsmail Duman, World Bulletin
12 June Elections were being perceived as a matter to life and death between the supporters of "new" and "old" Turkey. Interestingly, the Justice and Development Party(JDP) came out victorious from this election more powerfully. Although this picture can be interpreted as a victory of civil authority over military domination; we should focus on the other dimensions of this picture. For example; what is the meaning of this victory in terms of international system and changing global political structure or why the US and the EU are not discontent from the victory of Islamic-rooted JDP government in Turkey as it did in the past? These and the other questions deserve to be answered very carefully. So, in this Analysis, we will try to look at the comments and evaluations of results of Turkish general elections from different aspects.
Overview on the results of Turkish general elections...
Firstly, we want to look at the general comments on 12 June elections.
Here, we are summarizing Hasan Selim Ozertem & Mehmet Yegin's reviews:
"The outcomes, in favor of Justice and Development Party (AK Party), were not surprising but the level of support the party received exceeded expectations. The incumbent party succeeded in preserving and increasing the support of electorate in the general elections after 8.5 years in office. Despite the usual erosion of support for the incumbent party, the AK Party's votes peaked to 49.92 percent on June 12.
The primary reasons for the AK Party's consistent popularity were the economic and democratic developments during its rule. Another aspect was the lack of a strong opposition party in Turkish politics, though the 2011 elections gave some signals of change regarding the latter.
The Republican People's Party (CHP), under the leadership of Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, has signaled the makings of a prospective alternative to ruling AK Party. Under the banner of the "New CHP," Kılıçdaroğlu introduced a new vision that prioritizes economic and social policies instead of solely relying on secularist rhetoric. In this regard, the party started to adopt a more social democratic tone. Moreover, the new leader and the party organization conducted a studious and ambitious campaign and visited all of the cities in Turkey.
This active image of the CHP helped cultivate 3.5 million more votes. With 25.94 percent of votes, the CHP obtained the highest percentage of votes it has received in the last three decades. However, there were high expectations from the new leader to challenge the incumbent AK Party, which had caused disappointment among some of its supporters in spite of the almost 25 percent increase in the votes it received. One of the reasons the CHP did not capture 30 percent of votes, in contrast to expectations, was the fragmentation within the party in the year leading up to the elections.
Nevertheless, the significant increase in the CHP's vote gave the signal that a more consolidated party under Kılıçdaroğlu's leadership may play such role in the upcoming elections.
Another important surprise of these elections was the Nationalist Movement Party's (MHP) position. Even though there were some speculations of a huge blow to party popularity due to the sex tape scandals that arose a month before the elections, the MHP succeeded in gaining 12.99 percent of the vote and easily passed the 10 percent election threshold. This was a signal from the MHP's constituency that they will not change their choice according to suspicious allegations.
The fourth party that will have seats in Parliament will be the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). The party used the strategy of declaring independent candidates in order to bypass the election threshold. And it succeeded in increasing the number of its representatives in Parliament to 36 despite some concerns regarding its use of violence and illegal methods during the campaign and in the voting process.
Increased BDP representation in Parliament may facilitate a more democratic path to the solution of the Kurdish issue. On the other hand, their position in the referendum period and their use of violence in the electoral campaign suggest they may play exactly the opposite role as well."
Now, we will focus on Joost Lagendijk's comments very briefly:
"In the end, the results of Sunday's parliamentary elections were not that surprising. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) got slightly more votes than expected but did not manage to cross the line of 330 seats that would have allowed the party to singlehandedly adopt a new constitution in Parliament and bring it to referendum.
The Republican People's Party (CHP) won but did not get the number of votes that many supporters were hoping for, leaving open the possibility for dissatisfied Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu opponents to start an internal fight in the party against the new reformist policies. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) did better than expected and showed that dirty campaigns fortunately do not always have the intended effect. Finally, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP)-backed independent candidates did very well and profited optimally from the failure of the AKP to finalize their 2009 Kurdish initiative.
Only a record 5 percent of the vote will not be represented in Parliament because they were cast for parties that did not pass the 10 percent electoral threshold. That is, of course, a welcoming development, but I hope it does not lead to the conclusion that Turkey should stick to this undemocratic barrier. Another boost to the representativeness of Parliament is the rise in the number of female parliamentarians to almost 15 percent, which brings Parliament close to the US Congress (17 percent) and the French National Assembly (18 percent). The political diversity in the new Parliament has been enlarged because among the independent candidates one can find deputies with a socialist, an Islamist and a Syriani background.
Whatever its composition, the new Turkish Parliament will only be able to show its effectiveness if the three winners of these elections, the AKP, the CHP and the BDP, manage to work together and produce compromises, both on the new constitution and the Kurdish problem, that reflect the opinions of a broad majority of Turkish society."
"Cooperating closely with the Democratic Left Party (DSP) in the July 22, 2007 elections, the CHP was only able to walk away with 21 percent of the vote, though it was also said at the time that of this amount, really only 19 percent were for the CHP. This time around though, the CHP won 26 percent of the vote, which means the party under Kılıçdaroğlu managed to carry off at least a 7 percent difference compared to previous elections under Baykal." says Bulent Kenes:
"It is possible to view this difference in vote levels as a reflection of the people's approval of the CHP under Kılıçdaroğlu, which has moved away from the strict Kemalist, militarist and secularist dialogue, and which, in doing so, is trying to pay attention to more real problems, and to avoid giving off the impression of being a barrier to various democratic efforts.
Analysis of the MHP's success, which point to a certain number of votes that would have been cast for the CHP normally, but which were cast for the MHP so that the latter would not remain under the threshold, are not entirely unbelievable for those familiar with efforts of political engineering in Turkish politics.
After all, the fact that all of the parties outside of the main four parties on the spectrum got under 1 percent of the vote, and most substantially less, shows us that the 10 percent vote threshold is no longer meaningful."
The victory of Justice and Development Party...
"This was an unprecedented outcome in Turkish political history since no other party had ever increased its vote in three consecutive elections," says Seyfeddin Kara for this victory of the JDP. "When the AKP first gained a parliamentary majority in 2002, its popular vote was 34%. This number increased significantly in 2007 giving the AKP 47 % of votes. Finally, in 2011 the trend continued with a three-point increase, assuring AKP's unmatched success."
"The winner of the June 12 elections is our people, whether they voted for the AK Party or not. Today, Turkey won. Today, democracy and the nation have won," told Erdogan in the first speech after his party's victory. As Fatma Disli Zibak says, according to Mustafa Karaalioglu, from Star Daily Newspaper, "by giving such huge support to the AK Party, the nation has announced its support for democracy and change, and given the AK Party government the approval to weaken military and bureaucratic tutelage, push for an active and more self-confident foreign policy and a free market economy that aims to make all circles of society better off." "By giving more support to the AK Party than the support that was given in the 2007 elections -- 46.6 percent -- the nation has revealed that it wants more to be done in all of these areas," says Karaalioğlu, noting that more support for the government means more democracy and more affluence.
As an answer to some arguments against JDP's popularity, "The myth about the threat to our way of life during the AK Party government in coastal provinces of the West and South has collapsed with the strong showing of the AK Party in these provinces." says Abdullah Bozkurt, from Today's Zaman. "In provinces such as Antalya, Manisa, Aydın, Uşak, Balıkesir and Çanakkale, where the AK Party lost the local elections two years ago, the unprecedented increase in the number of votes carried the AK Party to the lead in these provinces. In İzmir, the third largest city in Turkey, the AK Party challenged the CHP's lead with a 6 percent rise over the 2009 results of the local elections in the province, while the CHP votes fell by 5 percentage points when compared to the 2009 results."
According to Kıvanc Ulusoy, "Prime Minister Erdoğan, arguing that his government had transformed the Copenhagen criteria into the Ankara criteria, underlined the government's decisiveness on democratization. The government, by an extensive reform package of constitutional amendments endorsed in a popular referendum, attempted to radically change the fundamental institutional structure of the 1980 regime." In parallel to his comments, Lale Kemal and Nicole Pope focus on the Turkish democratization process from different perspectives. While Lale Kemal says that "the AK Party's landslide victory, grabbing 49.9 percent of the vote, has displayed that citizens voted for stability and for the continuation of democratic reforms", Nicole Pope mentions the victory of Turkish democracy: "First and foremost, these successful legislative elections are a victory for Turkish democracy: Together, the four political groups that won seats in Parliament garnered more than 95 percent of the vote. This means that fewer voters were disenfranchised for favoring smaller parties."
In addition to these comments, "A fresh page has been turned in Turkey's keenly observed progress toward a full-scale democracy." says Yavuz Baydar. "It was a 'yes' to the continuity of change and an end to the ancient Kemalist guidelines that were apparently perceived as a stumbling block before full normalization." Actually, Lale Kemal's sentences are very similar to that of Yavuz Baydar: "The AK Party's third victory also signals the continuation of reforms in sending the military back to its barracks for good. Among the legal measures the AK Party, expected to form the new government, will introduce is the subordination of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to the Ministry of National Defense. Turkey is the only NATO member country where the chief of General Staff is affiliated with the prime minister but not to the Ministry of National Defense."
On the other hand, according to Yavuz Baydar, there are two goals that these elections achieved: "Some of us have -- as liberal pundits -- long argued that the main fault line in Turkish politics has been between those who want to consolidate democracy with full civilian control of the military, and those who favor continuation of military tutelage or outright military rule. The former now is much closer to their goal. Second, the elections and two referendums of the past nine years presented bitter lessons for the main opposition, which remained in denial when it came to reality, clinging to a language and approach that did not respond to it. It no longer hopes for tutelage and is now learning that "change or vanish" is the new wisdom. Better late than never."
"Situating oneself in a fairly recent decade, if one were to suggest that someday Turkey, a staunchly secularist country, could have an Islamist head of government, it would have seemed a joke. And to suggest that an Islamist leader could as well prove to be the longest-serving leader in that country, second only to Kemal Ataturk, its founder and" father figure, would have seemed a macabre joke" says M K Bhadrakumar and he adds: There are two Erdogans in evidence. In his first term, as he began the project to roll back the Turkish 'deep state' and to ease the country of its dogmatic notions regarding the essence of secularism, he knew he was taking on a formidable challenge and a vicious backlash was to be expected... During his second term in office from 2007, Erdogan turned out to be a different man. He was much more assertive and confident, borne out of the awareness that he was no longer leading the party of the underdog - AKP had become a Turkish 'establishment' party par excellence."
On the other hand, according to Huseyin Gulerce, "the nation declared that it appreciated the value of stability by its preferences; the people once more expressed their will and determination for democratization that became visible in the referendum. They preferred democratization over guardianship." He warns opposition movements saying that "they should seek a reasonable answer to the question as to why the people extend such support for Erdoğan and the AK Party despite economic crises and the turmoil in our region." and then, he answers this question:
"The conservatives have adopted the idea of integrating with the world by remaining adherent to our values. To this end, agreeing on universal humanistic values by making reference to love, dialogue and compromise was set as the ultimate goal. This is a result of properly reading this age. It is a basic requirement for properly understanding the religion. It is an obligation for Muslims to read the book of the universe. The Muslims have neglected this task for centuries. It is also an obligation for them to make advances in science and civilization."
Actually, his answer is very important to define the Justice and Development Party and its voters. As we can see, this victory is not independent from JDP's international integration process. We will look at this relationship; but, now, I want to remind you Gulerce's "two tests" for a new government. He says that "back to the current developments; the first two tests for Erdoğan in the new era of mastership are the formation of the new cabinet and the government's attitude at the Supreme Military Council meeting in August. From these we would be able to test the performance of the AK Party government in the start of the mastership era."
After almost one and a half months from Gulerce's this article, top military generals resigned en masse. From here, we can see his prediction refers to very important equation in understanding the performance of the JDP government. We'll focus on the subject of resignation of generals in the next Analysis...
As Sebnem Arzu mentions, "Our nation delivered to us a call for consensus and dialogue in making this new constitution," Mr. Erdogan said after elections. "This constitution will be established upon brotherhood, support, sharing, unity and togetherness." Sahin Alpay also says same sentences with different words:
"The people of Turkey have given a decisive "No!" to the regime of military-bureaucratic tutelage and authoritarian Kemalism,"
Factors behind the JDP's victory...
"There are several factors that enabled Erdogan to achieve such victories, especially in the most recent elections" says Seyfeddin Kara. "the AKP's election campaign themes were stability, providing services to the public, and strong leadership. Ever since the AKP's first electoral victory in Turkey, the volatile political landscape has gradually stabilized. External influence, and army and media interference in the political system have gradually been reduced and a single political party with popular mandate has implemented its policies bringing much needed stability. Keeping the AKP in power means continuation of this stability for at least another four years."
"Without doubt, the resounding victory by the ruling party AKP (Justice and Development Party) led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with a mandate of 50% of popular support is a landmark event. Victory was expected, but not on a scale exceeding the 47% mandate of the 2007 elections." says M K Bhadrakumar. "The heart of the matter is that Turkey is reaching unprecedented heights of economic prosperity and is a land at peace after several decades of strife, bloodshed and chronic political instability. The contrast couldn't be sharper with its neighborhood, which is passing through great upheaval and uncertainties... The Turkish electorate is grateful to Erdogan's government for successful economic management. However, Erdogan's renewed mandate to lead the country for a third successive four-year term demands a much broader explanation. Personal charisma was certainly a factor, as there is no one today in Turkish politics who can even come up to his shoulders in sheer stature as a statesman."
In addition to this, according to Ramzy Baroud, "economic indicators are often seen as the obvious logic behind economic stability. However, they are not enough on their own to reach such sweeping conclusions." He asks; "Did sound, self-assured policies engender a strong economy, or was economic growth responsible for the political stability (by keeping the military at bay, thus further solidifying Turkey's democratic experience)?" "It is essential that the Turkish experience is not reduced to only charts and numbers delineating economic growth. Some very wealthy countries are politically restless. The success of the Turkish model supersedes the economy to sensible political governance, democracy, the revitalization of civil society and its many institutions. Good economic indicators can be promising, but without responsible leadership to guide growth and distribute wealth, political stability is never guaranteed."
As Fatma Disli Zibak mentions, "Milliyet's Taha Akyol focuses on the reasons behind the AK Party's historic success as it is the only party in Turkey to have increased its votes for a third term. Akyol thinks there are two fundamental sociological reasons behind the AK Party's success, which he explains as: "The AK Party is carrying the masses on the peripheries of society to the center. Whether you call them Anatolian people, the Anatolian capital or suburbs, Erdoğan manages to represent these millions both emotionally and politically. The AK Party provides services to these circles. What we mean by service is actually economic development and the spread of public services, such as health care, education and transportation. The circles that used to have doubts about the AK Party's secular credentials have seen over the past nine years that secularism is under no threat and that they have begun to give importance to providing services." Akyol thinks the locomotive of the AK Party's success is the charismatic personality of Erdoğan, who he says has become the most successful leader in Turkey's history of democracy.
According to Sabah's Emre Aköz, Erdoğan's ability to read the changing Turkey correctly lies behind his election success. Aköz explains that what this means is his ability to see what the majority of the nation wants and to give it to them. In order to achieve this, Aköz thinks Erdoğan has understood the world correctly and that's why he did not only address Turkey in his balcony speech but a wider audience, which shows that he is a world leader."
Lastly, we want to quote Naci Bostanci's sentences about the factors behind the AKP's victory:
"The people properly responded to the bureaucratic guardianship symbolized in the motto "You cannot elect the president." In 2011, however, the people getting rid of the guardianship sought to clear the way for a new era to be shaped by its own will. This is one of the factors to be underlined that mobilized the masses and made the AK Party attract the support of 50 percent of the voters. Demand for a new constitution meant something greater than its literal meaning. For the first time, the voters have become aware of the power to shape order without a supreme authority to tell them what to do. The power and responsibility of being a true citizen has become meaningful in the hands of the voters.
The other factor playing a role in the AK Party's election victory was the improved lifestyle of ordinary people thanks to the proper policies pursued and implemented over its two terms in office. The rapid rise in per capita income and a more balanced distribution of income raised the standards of the middle class, ensuring that they would be hopeful about the future. Those who could not even imagine buying a house before the 2000s had more than they were expecting.
The most comprehensive political discourse, and therefore party, able to respond to meeting the lifestyle aspirations of people all around Turkey has been the AK Party. The primary reason was the ability of the AK Party to maintain ties and relations with the masses, integrate them with its party organization and shape its character as an umbrella-like formation of this country.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with his attitudes, actions, speeches, gestures, tone of voice, statements and implications, has been the primary political actor playing the greatest role in the AK Party's election victory. His eloquence, articulation, linguistic skills and ability to add excitement and enthusiasm to his sentences are well known by all.
Most probably, if we seek to determine the fundamental qualifications of an ideal leader regardless of their political engagements or ideological tendencies, we would conclude that Prime Minister Erdoğan best represents the common values of this nation. In the eyes of the masses, he is the architect of a mighty Turkey, a beacon of commitment and patriotism, who pays the utmost attention to national interests, the protector of the poor and a wise man who would make this nation's dreams come true. Despite these qualifications, he has never been a member of the elite; he is the "Tayyip" of a farmer who is engaged in farming in a small land."
The comments of foreign media and world leaders...
In this part, we will try to summarize the comments of foreign media and world leaders.
According to news of Today's Zaman, the comments of foreign media, briefly, are so:
"'An AKP victory had been widely expected, not least because the economy grew 8.9% last year in a remarkable recovery from the global downturn. Mr. Erdoğan's high international profile, expansive foreign policies and tough stance towards Israel also proved popular among voters,' The Wall Street Journal commented.
The Guardian said Erdoğan became the most successful prime minister in the history of Turkey's multiparty system after the landslide victory in the country's general elections. Stating that the election results require wider parliamentary consensus on a new constitution, the daily said, 'This comes as good news to government critics who, concerned about Erdoğan's increasingly authoritarian stance, accused him of wanting to 'Putinise' the country in an effort to remain in charge beyond 2015, when he would be barred from serving as prime minister again.'
The Financial Times reported that 'the decisive victory -- improving on a 47 per cent landslide in 2007 -- confirms Erdoğan's dominance of Turkish politics.' 'His populist rhetoric, authoritarian behavior and conservative values may worry liberals, but he is a hero in many poorer urban areas, villages and to an up-and-coming middle class,' the newspaper said.
Al Jazeera English, quoting remarks from Al Jazeera's senior political analyst Marwan Bishara, said Sunday's elections were a referendum on two main issues. One was on the performance of the AK Party, notably on the economic performance of the AK Party over the last four years. Secondly, it was a referendum over the sweeping constitutional changes that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had asked the people to enable him to make, or at least to pass through parliament in order for them to make in a referendum."
And again, according to Today's Zaman newspaper, the evaluations of world leaders, briefly, are so:
"The United States congratulated Turkey on Sunday's vote and said the US looks forward to working with the new Turkish government. 'Obviously we congratulate the Turkish people on a successful election, and we look forward to working with the new Turkish government on many of the bilateral/multilateral issues that we share in common,' State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Monday at a press briefing. 'What you are trying to get at is really internal politics within Turkey. Certainly, what we saw from our viewpoint is a good friend and partner and ally conducted free and fair elections,' he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also sent a congratulations letter to Erdoğan, saying that the election results reflect the success of modernization policies he has been undertaking with determination over the past few years.
European Union Commission Chairman Jose Manuel Barroso and EU President Herman Van Rompuy sent a joint congratulations letter to Erdoğan, inviting him to Brussels and stressing the need to draft a constitution with large-scale consultations.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also sent a message to Erdoğan, congratulating him on a stunning success and wishing the election results benefit both Turkey and the Turks.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was also among the world leaders who extended their congratulations to Erdoğan, and said the poll results show Turks see the AK Party's management of the country as the best way for development and prosperity.
In addition, following the results that showed Erdoğan winning a landslide victory, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad Bedii congratulated Erdoğan on the success of his party.
European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek sent congratulations in a letter he sent to Erdoğan and said the overwhelming success of such proportion also assigns a great responsibility to make progress in realizing reforms.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said first of all, 'we need to praise that there are elections in Turkey," referring to countries in the vicinity of Israel that either don't hold elections or rig polls. In the Middle East, Jerusalem Post reported, "it's not something to take for granted.'
Speaking about improving ties with Turkey, the Israeli Prime Minister said Israel will always try to fix what's broken, and to fix and end the deterioration in ties with Ankara. 'Israel must respect the democratic elections in Turkey just as we expect [the Turkish] to respect the democratic choices of the Israeli people,' he concluded.
British Prime Minister David Cameron called Erdoğan to congratulate him on the election results and also discussed the situation in Syria and Lebanon. Cameron said in his conversation with Erdoğan that he hopes for the close cooperation between the UK and Turkey to continue. Both leaders agreed that the situation in Syria is worrisome.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, a close friend of Erdoğan, also congratulated the Turkish prime minister on his success and expressed his wishes to further improve ties between his country and Turkey."