The Justice and Development Party (AKP) was re-elected on Sunday of last week with a thumping majority in the Turkish elections.
It is a landslide for the Islamist party that faced a concerted effort by Turkey’s powerful military to influence the outcome of the poll.
The AKP increased its share of the vote to 47 percent from 34 percent in the 2002 elections.
The military campaign against the “danger” of Islam at the end of April backfired.
So did the campaign to whip up anti-Islam and anti-Kurdish jingoism by the main opposition, the People’s Republican Party (CHP). The CHP, which calls itself social democratic, failed to increase its vote.
The re-election of the AKP is widely seen as a victory for democracy in a country where the military often intervenes in elections. Yet it also represents a continuation of neoliberal policies implemented during the AKP’s first five years in office.
The “reform” programme is part of an attempt by Turkey to join the European Union and the AKP’s victory has been welcomed by the Tüsiad bosses organisation.
In his victory speech, prime minister Tayyip Erdogan said, “We will pursue economic and democratic reforms with determination.” The democratic reforms are supported by many Turks, while the economic reforms hurt the majority. Yet, the social democrats are not opposed to the neoliberal policies.
They simply attacked the popular reforms on human rights based on preserving the “Republic”.
In effect, the government’s neoliberalism has had no opposition in parliament while its democratic reforms have faced fierce opposition.
The AKP’s victory, in spite of its deeply unpopular economic policies, came about because of the distortion of politics in Turkey caused by the Islamic and Kurdish factors.
The state is modelled on a secular system imposed by its founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The military plays a prominent role as “defender of secularism” and is hostile to a growing Islamist movement and the Kurds.
The Turkish state’s secular image has not stopped it being a longstanding ally of the US, a member of Nato and supporter of Israel. The minority Kurds have faced years of persecution and their language was banned, while left wing movements have been repressed.
The AKP government has been more conciliatory on the Kurdish issue than any previous government, which has made it a target for the right and the establishment. The majority of the country would like to see a peaceful end to the fighting between Kurdish guerillas and the military.
The campaigns for independent left candidates in Istanbul represent the hope of building a party which opposes both the neoliberalism of the government and the jingoism of the social democratic opposition.
This is a victory for the movement
by Cem Uzun in Istanbul
There were celebrations in Istanbul after the victory of independent left candidate Ufuk Uras.
Turkey’s voters elected 24 of the 63 independent candidates from a Kurdish/left list, including two leading figures from the Turkish left.
This is the first time since 1965 that radical left wing candidates have been elected to parliament.
This victory for the “Common Candidate campaign” is a beacon for the anti-war and anti-neoliberal movement.
Over 80 election offices were opened around the country, with activists digging deep to fund the campaign.
Many people who have been out of left politics for years were drawn back into activity to work alongside a new generation of activists.
There was support from the beginning from the Kurdish population.
This new alliance needs to keep up the fight after the election. Ufuk Uras made a call for the construction of a new left in his victory speech.