Will the AKP bring stability to Turkey?
The landslide victory for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) is being widely attributed to the public’s need for stability. The question of whether the political environment in the lead-up to the elections was fair will continue to be debated for some time, of course. But the polling itself was held in a freer and much more secure environment than many expected.
In other words, no one can declare the results of these elections, which gave the AKP nearly 50 percent of the vote, null and void. The 315 deputies the AKP now has in parliament will not only give it a free hand for the next four years, but also enable it to lay the groundwork so that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan can remain the preeminent force in Turkey during that period.
The AKP does not have enough deputies to fashion its own constitution and make Erdoğan the executive president he wants to become, of course. But it will be there to serve him as he wants.
Meanwhile accusations against him alleging corruption or the misuse of power will also dissipate. Erdoğan can claim now that his integrity has also been judged by the people and not found to be lacking.
The losers of these elections, on the other hand, are not just the opposition parties. Looking at the big picture the main classes to have lost, sociologically speaking, are the staunchly secularist Kemalist nationalists and westward looking liberal democrats.
In other words these elections will not bring Turkey any closer to the EU. Turkish-EU ties will be based on purely pragmatic considerations aimed at meeting the needs of unforeseen international developments.
Representatives of the prevailing order in Europe will have some concerns over Erdoğan’s victory, of course. They will nevertheless be relieved that there is a strong hand in Turkey – even if it is lacking in democratic instincts – which they hope will secure the political and economic stability Europe needs to see in this country for its own interests.
This victory also confirms the average Turk is not all that concerned with European values relating to democracy, human rights and freedoms, but, would rather have a strongman keeping order.
This leaves us with a Turkey that is more suited to the Middle East than to Europe. Many AKP supporters would prefer it that way anyway. Their gut-level anti-Western sentiments continue to be discernible.
The angry reactions by AKP supporters to the Western media, prior to the elections, and to Western election monitors at polling stations during the elections, have heightened their sense of victory. Their general belief, which will no doubt also be fed by Erdoğan in the coming period, is that this victory was secured in spite of the West.
It is telling that ultra-religious and pro-Erdoğan daily AKİT carried the headline “Do Not Please the Giaour” on the day of the elections, under the banners of leading Western papers. “Giaour” is a highly derogatory term Muslims use for Christians.
In the final analysis half the electorate voted for oriental and not Western values pertaining to governance. One can also add the 12 percent that voted for the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the big loser in these elections, to this figure because this party is instinctively anti-Western.
Despite all of this, the world is not going to change simply because the AKP won a landslide victory. Ankara faces the same problems at home and abroad in the political, security and economic fields that it did before the elections.
How the AKP manages these will have a bearing on the “stability” that is being much touted now as the cause of its electoral victory. Looking at its past performance doubts will linger. The question of whether the AKP can bring real stability to Turkey, therefore, will remain an open one for some time.