Turkey results, relief for democracy

Turkey results, relief for democracy

Results in Turkey’s recent parliamentary elections have come as a shot in the arm for secular and liberal democrats in that country. The weeks leading up to the polls, there were widespread fears that Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was slipping into an authoritarian mode. Erdogan’s AKP (Justice and Development Party) needed a two-thirds majority to help him push through constitutional amendments to shift the country from a parliamentary system to a presidential one. But the results have thrown Erdogan’s carefully-planned agenda virtually into the dustbin, with the AKP losing its majority status in parliament for the first time since coming to power in 2002. The party needed 367 seats but managed only 258.

The results are a huge relief for Turkey’s opposition as Erdogan, since his ascendancy as president from the post of prime minister in 2014, has increasingly turned intolerant of criticism. He has clamped down on the media and the opposition besides introducing Islamist-laced governance replacing the strongly secular ethos that Turkey has promoted since its emergence from the debris of the Ottoman era. Erdogan even went to the extent of banning Twitter in reaction to certain tweets critical of his government. But what really angered people and turned into a spark against the AKP was his move to destroy the historic Taksim Gezi park in Istanbul and replace it with a mall. The protests succeeded in stalling the destruction but gave an indication of what could follow if the AKP was allowed to rule the roost.

Alongside the marginalisation of Erdogan, voters in Turkey have given the thumbs up for the pro-Kurdish alliance, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), led by the charismatic Selahattin Demirtas. The significance of the HDP’s maiden entry into parliament is that it stood for liberal and secular politics, an indication that voters are getting wary of Erdogan’s increasingly Islamist tilt combined with a dictatorial streak. The president’s political indiscretion and Turkey’s poor economic performance in recent years too has gone against the ruling AKP. Figures for the last five years show that the economy has stagnated and growth has reportedly dropped from around 10 per cent to three per cent in the last five years. Overall, the elections in Turkey have shown incontrovertibly that the democratic process there is well entrenched and that it is not easy for anyone to subvert it, even if it happens to be Erdogan. Democracy in Turkey should also ideally act like a torch-bearer in a region that is wracked by violence, religious extremism and atavistic forms of governance.
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