Turkish election result: no intention to challenge the world

Sabri Oncu soncu at pacbell.net
Sun Nov 3 19:03:58 MST 2002

Final result: AKP (Islamists) got 361 and CHP (turd-wayists) got
177 seats in a 550 seats parliament. The remaining 12 seats went
to independents. Islamists (but not fundamentalists) will form
the government. Among other things, this is one more nail in the
coffin of the turd-way, in particular, and of the center, left or
right, in general. Multitude, or as it is called in Turkey,
reasonable majority, is apparently not that reasonable after all.
Though, like Lula, these ones also claim that they pose no
serious challenge to the world, at least, as yet.



Turkish Party With Islamic Roots Declares Victory
New York Times, November 3, 2002


ANKARA, Turkey -- A party with Islamic roots declared victory
Monday in Turkish elections, and its leader immediately moved to
calm fears of a shift away from secularism in this key U.S. ally.

To the cheers of his supporters, Justice and Development Party
leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "From now on, we will celebrate
victories on behalf of our nation and state."

With 68 percent of the ballots counted, Erdogan's party had 34
percent support and appeared likely able to form a government
without coalition partners -- a rarity in Turkish politics.

The party, which has its roots in Turkey's Islamic movement,
sought to soothe the public and markets by pledging support for
Turkey's traditional secularism, its EU bid and its commitment to
an International Monetary Fund austerity program. In its campaign
the party called itself a conservative movement and said it would
not pursue an Islamic agenda.

Addressing a news conference, Erdogan said his government's first
priority will be to "speedily pursue the EU membership process."
He said that his government will "follow an economic program to
integrate the country with the world."

"We have no intention to challenge the world," he told Dow Jones
Newswires. "Under our government, Turkey will be in harmony with
the world."

Erdogan leads the Justice party, but has been banned by the
elections board from standing as a candidate because of a jail
sentence he served in 1999 for publicly reading a poem that a
court deemed anti-secular. It is not clear who would serve as
prime minister if the party wins or if lawmakers would move to
end the ban.

With 68 percent of votes counted, Ergodan's party had 34 percent
support and the rival Republican People's party had 19 percent,
the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported.

No other party had more than 10 percent of the vote, the
threshold a party needs to win seats in parliament. If no other
party reaches the threshold, all the seats in the 550-member
parliament will go to the Justice and Republican parties, with
the former having an absolute majority in parliament.

Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's party had only 1 percent of the
vote and his coalition partners were well below the 10 percent
threshold needed for entry into parliament.

"We committed suicide," Ecevit said, referring to parliament's
agreement to hold elections 18 months early. Legislators agreed
to the vote amid Ecevit's failing health.

The last time a leader from the Islamic movement led a government
was in 1996, when Necmettin Erbakan became the first-ever
pro-Islamic premier in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey.

Erbakan angered the powerful military, which regards itself as
the guardian of Turkey's 80-year-long tradition of secularism, by
emphasizing the country's Islamic heritage. He was forced from
government in 1997 amid strong pressure from the military.

The Justice party was established last year by lawmakers from a
banned pro-Islamic party and has already sparked tensions with
the staunchly secular establishment.

The elections come amid the country's worst economic crisis since
World War II -- a crisis many blame on Ecevit.

During the campaign, the Justice party said it would concentrate
on social welfare, support Turkey's $31 billion IMF-backed
recovery program and has hinted that it would support a U.S.-led
operation in Iraq if it has U.N. approval.

The voting comes as the United States is trying to showcase
Turkey as an example of a secular, democratic country that is
overwhelmingly Muslim but has cast its future with the West.
Washington, for example, strongly supported Turkey's push to take
over the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan.

Turkey is also crucial to an Iraq operation, a point that was
underscored when Gen. Tommy Franks, the head of any future Iraq
operation, visited Turkey last month.

But many in the secular establishment fear that the party might
clash with the military, which has led three coups.

Voters eager for a change have been flocking to the Justice

"I voted for Justice because we have no trust left in the other
parties," Hatice Bilal, 43, a civil servant, said after casting
her vote in Istanbul. "We want an end to poverty."

A party with Islamic roots taking power could lead to instability
and tensions in the region. Observers point out that many of the
party's loyalists were members of previous more radical movement
and may not be satisfied with the non-confrontational attitude
adopted by their leaders.

But others point out that if the party continues its moderate
stance, it could serve as a bridge between the Middle East and
Europe as Islamic radicalism is increasing.

"It will tell people that there is a case where Islam is
compatible with democracy. It will be a wonderful message out to
the world and to Muslim countries," said Soner Cagaptay, an
analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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