THE ‘social explosion’ which the International Monetary Fund and the Turkish employers’ organisation have long been worrying about has, in a sense, expressed itself in the general election in Turkey on Sunday. The centre ground of established politics in a key US ally and NATO member has collapsed. The three parties which formed the coalition government of the past three and a half years have been decimated.
The two traditional Tory parties failed to get into parliament. The two centre-left parties, including prime minister Ecevit’s party, each got just over 1 percent of the vote. About ten million people did not vote at all. The winner, with 35 percent of the vote, is the Justice and Development Party (the AK party), perhaps the last party which the powers that be would have chosen to form the next government.
It is an Islamist organisation that has reinvented itself as a centre-right party along the lines of European Christian Democrats. But the vast majority of the people who voted for it did so not because of its Islamic colouring or its acceptance of neo-liberalism. They voted in the hope that it will be an alternative to the previous government’s slavish obedience to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Although the AK party has done its best not to alienate big business, it is perceived as anti-IMF, and its propaganda at the grassroots has been much more radical than its official pronouncements. This will cause serious problems for the party when it comes to power, and begins to show that it has no intention of putting up any resistance to the IMF programme.
The military’s obsession with the ‘Islamic threat’ is also likely to ensure that no political stability can be achieved. AK leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already been prevented from standing as a candidate in the election.
He is the ex-mayor of Istanbul and served a prison sentence five years ago for reading out part of a poem at an election rally. The issue of who is to become prime minister will be one source of instability. Another is that the military (indirectly, through the judiciary) are likely to attempt to close the AK party down.
The only other party to be represented in the new parliament is the People’s Republican Party (CHP), which got 19.5 percent of the vote. Traditionally a left social democratic party, CHP pulled in behind the IMF programme shortly before the election. It recruited Kemal Dervis, the World Bank vice-president sent over from Washington, to ensure the smooth implementation of IMF policies. But the party benefited from not having been in government, and it is very likely that it would have done even better with an anti-IMF stand. The reason there will only be two parties in parliament is that there is a 10 percent national threshold.
Parties with less than that get no representation, even though they may have come first in any number of constituencies. This means only 17 million voters, less than half of the total 41 million, will be represented.
The threshold was designed to keep smaller parties out in order to achieve stable governments, and to prevent any Kurdish party from entering parliament. It has certainly succeeded in the second aim. The coalition of left and Kurdish parties, DEHAP, got 6.2 percent but will not be represented, although it came first in 12 of the 20 largely Kurdish eastern provinces.
The unexpected success of the Young Party tells a clear story. The party was founded a few months before the election by Cem Uzan, a young businessman whose family owns one of the largest conglomerates in Turkey. They are also complete crooks. Their company is currently being sued in the US for having effectively stolen $2 billion from telecommunications giants Motorola and Nokia. Uzan got 7.3 percent of the vote. The reason is that practically all of the party’s propaganda was based on a nationalist attack on the IMF. ‘We will drive the IMF into the sea,’ he said.
An early election was called in Turkey for two reasons – to get a strong government which would push IMF policies through ruthlessly and would bring Turkey into the war against Iraq without any faltering. No luck on either front! Somewhere near 100 percent of the population is opposed to attacking Iraq. The AK politicians said nothing about the war, but it is clear they are not warmongers, and it is widely assumed by their voters that they will oppose an attack.
In fact they will probably go along with it, not wanting to attract further hostility from the military. But an AK government is obviously not the staunch ally the Bush gang needs to have in Turkey. The coalition government in Israel, another vital US ally, has collapsed. The Saudi Arabian government says it will refuse US use of its airbases to attack Iraq.
The instability across the region is bound to deepen the minute the US unleashes its bombers.
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