The EU factor in Turkey's elections

Turkey is heading for general elections but political parties have had no time to properly announce their projects about Turkey’s future.

The EU factor in Turkey's elections

Beril Dedeoglu / Today's Zaman

Unfortunately they reserve much of their time to trumpeting rhetoric about patriotism. Previously the debate was about the division between “secularists” and “the others”; now it is about those who collaborate with the foreigners and those who do not. Nevertheless Turkey is not necessarily moved by these themes, because people need to hear concrete proposals about their daily lives and life standards.
When this popular demand became apparent, thanks to opinion polls and TV interviews, political parties started to speak about concrete issues. Populist promises used to get votes of different income groups were made. However Turkey is not the old Turkey anymore and people ask how these commitments will be realized.

Turkey’s people are well aware that if the populist electoral engagements are totally respected it could put the country into a difficult economic condition. Yet they remain unsure about the proposed social and economical models and the new political equilibrium.

In order to understand and evaluate each political party’s commitments about the social and economic arrangements, a useful parameter exists: the EU. Political parties’ attitudes toward membership of the EU helps us to predict what kind of Turkey they want to see. Political parties that don’t do enough to internalize the necessary economic and political transformations expected to become an EU member state declare that Turkey’s slow progress in the negotiation process is due only to the hostile manners of some member states.

For these parties a compromise with the EU is impossible, as the latter is just an actor that is a priori hostile to Turkey and has nothing but double standards. This point of view is largely supported by the growing nationalist rhetoric and it will probably be represented in the next parliament. Parties like the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Young Party (GP) or Labor Party (İP) are not talking about the social or economic negative effects of the EU integration process. They simply say that the EU wants to divide Turkey. In fact some EU member states of give the impression that they really want to do just that.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) appears to be confused on this subject. It has always said that it’s not opposed to the EU membership, even if its every sentence on the matter includes several “buts.” Allegedly the CHP is the real bearer of modernization, secularization and Westernization projects, but it couldn’t liberate itself from its traditional Jacobinism. That’s why it is stuck between being an EU supporter and defending the tutorship over our democracy.

The CHP talks about improving poor people’s lives and economic conditions without saying a word about their political representation. It promises to increase the agricultural subventions without showing the eventual financial resources for doing that. Consequently the CHP hasn’t announced what kind of transformations it expects too see in Turkey during the EU integration process. In brief, this party’s projects for Turkey are unknown.

In this context the governmental party has connected every thing in this electoral campaign to the EU. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has declared once again that the EU is the most important model for the resolution of Turkey’s problems. It says that new constitutional amendments are necessary and the subventions can only be made according to the EU regulations. In that context the AK Party’s main problem will be the nationalistic bureaucracy. However the AK Party’s movement capacity is limited by Turkish Euro-skeptics and European Turco-skeptics. The AK Party must decide quickly how to extend its movement capacity under these circumstances, just as Europeans must decide very quickly what kind of Turkey they want to have as interlocutor in the next few years.
Last Mod: 30 Haziran 2007, 10:32
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