A glance at the Turkish election

July 26, 2007 - 0:0

As predicted, the Justice and Development (AK) Party won Turkey’s parliamentary election.

Turkey had to call early elections due to the crisis caused by secularist MPs’ opposition to the nomination of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul for the post of president. The election can be viewed and analyzed from various angles. In the November 3, 2002 election, the AK Party won 34.2 percent of the vote and took 362 seats in the legislature. In the July 22 elections, despite the 12 percent increase in votes, the party was only awarded 339 seats because a third party and unaffiliated candidates also entered parliament this time. According to Turkey’s electoral law, parties must win 10 percent of the vote to enter parliament. In the 2002 election, only two parties gained 10 percent of the vote, the Justice and Development Party and the Republican People’s Party. It should also be noted that women candidates won 46 seats in the 550-member parliament. In Turkey’s political system, after the election results are approved by the country’s Supreme Election Board (YSK), the president must task the leader of the winning party, in this case Justice and Development Party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with forming a new government in 40 days. In light of the configuration of the new parliament, the Justice and Development Party should be able to form a new government. Turkish law requires that fifty percent plus one of the members of parliament (276) vote to approve the new cabinet, and since the AK Party has 339 seats in the legislature, it should face no problem in gaining the necessary votes. However, according to the Constitutional Court, 367 MPs must be present in parliament to form a quorum, and if the Republican People’s Party, the Nationalist Movement Party, and the unaffiliated MPs boycott parliament on the day of the vote to approve the new government, the parliament will face another crisis. Last spring, the opposition’s political maneuvers did not compel the AK Party to drop Gul as their presidential candidate but created a constitutional deadlock in the Turkish Parliament that precipitated early elections. One of the most important problems in Turkey’s political system is the position and influence of its appointed and elected components. Turkey’s current constitution, which was written by the military after the coup of September 12, 1980, is designed in such a way that the elected components are under the control of the appointed components. Yet, factors such as the domestic, regional, and international political situations, and most important of all, the economic situation, will probably compel the parties in parliament to reach a compromise. During the recent election campaign, Deniz Baykal, the leader of the Republican People’s Party, which is the main opposition party, gave signals that the party is prepared to reach an agreement, and Erdogan also hinted that some kind of rapprochement with the secular party is possible. If an agreement can be reached, a new president can be elected. However, if no consensus is reached in the first 40 days after the new parliament takes office, Turkey’s parliament will be dissolved and the country will have to hold another election. The Turkish Constitutional Court’s decision affirming that a quorum of two thirds of MPs (367) is required for parliament sessions means that the parliamentary majority can actually be held captive by the minority, and this has become a major problem for Turkey’s inefficient system. This can cause serious problems for Turkey and diminish the effectiveness of the country’s executive branch of government. Due to the current configuration of parties in the Turkish Parliament, an AK Party agreement with any of the other parties would have serious repercussions for the country as well as the Justice and Development Party itself. The fact that the Nationalist Movement Party won 72 seats in parliament and unaffiliated candidates, who are mostly Kurds, won 27 seats is a reflection of the drastic political, social, and cultural differences in Turkey, which could lead to disputes in parliament. In counterpoint to the Islamist-secularist rivalry, the fact that the Nationalist Movement Party parliamentarians and the unaffiliated MPs are from opposing camps is one of the most important concerns of Turkey’s political and media circles. For example, where the Nationalist Movement Party called for the execution of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in its election campaign, the unaffiliated candidates called for him to be pardoned. It seems that since the Kurdish issue is still the country’s greatest problem, due to its new configuration, the parliament will become a battleground for this conflict. Aware that it must take the concerns of domestic groups and the international community into consideration on this issue, the Justice and Development Party has taken very constructive steps to resolve the Kurdish problem. Before the election, the Justice and Development Party declared that it would maintain the country’s secular system, and this was a major factor behind its victory. Although it is considered an Islamist party, it presents itself as conservative, and after the victory it reaffirmed that it would abide by the secular republic system. Many say the AK Party adopted this stance due to Turkey’s domestic situation. Moreover, old school Islamist leader Necmettin Erbakan’s opposition to the policies of Prime Minister Erdogan, the fact that the hijab issue has been left unresolved, and the continuation of Turkey’s close relations with the United States and Israel show that the AK Party does not have a serious dispute with the secularists and takes their concerns into consideration when making national decisions