Well by 9pm Sunday night Istanbul time, the most boring question of last night’s Turkish election – who would win – had been answered, with the ruling AKP party romping it in with 48.5% of the vote, while the most interesting question – would they get the magic two-thirds majority in the 550 seat parliament – remains unanswered.
However, because the full result requires a distribution of the votes for parties that never got a 10% score across the country, that result is looking more and more likely – and will have an impact on Turkish life (and by extension the West) that is yet to be fully defined.
A two-thirds vote will mean that the moderately Islamic AKP can choose its own president, overriding the Constitutional Court which can knock-back those deemed unsuitable. The AKP’s preferred candidate, foreign minister Gul, has an observant İslamic wife who wears the headscarf – which is technically illegal in Turkish public buildings. Seemingly a small issue, it goes to the heart of Turkey’s idea of itself as a secular nation with a range of laws limiting Islamic presence in public life.
But secular individualism – and a largely westernised versıon – is no match for the appeal that an Islamic lifestyle-politics has – an all-encompassing values system with the transcendental force of religion. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly presented himself as someone whose patriotism is strengthened by his Islamic religion – thus turning him into a figure “above politics”.
But if the AKP does have the magic two-thirds, his problems may come from his own supporters. Crazy stuff like trying to criminalise alcohol or pre-marital s-x has been batted back before – will Erdogan be able to resist the push? He will certainly go into Northern Iraq almost immediately to deal with the PKK – and possibly the Kurdish autonomous region government, given that each party has been baiting the other as to how soft they are on the Kurds.
Beyond that, there is the question of Turkey’s NATO membership – especially in the light of the US’s blind-eye towards the PKK and the recent discovery that the latter were using US weapons supplied, the US claims, by corrupt troops gunrunning their own ordnance. The other relationship in question is its ally status with Israel (which Israel repays by, among other things, having an official state position that there was no genocide of the Armenians) which may simply be politically unsustainable.
Despite all this, the US wall be relieved at the AKP wan – because the prospect of the ultra-nationalist MHP party being in power as part of a coalition was too much to contemplate. Had that occurred Turkey would have marched all the way to Jerbil, the Kurdish capital, thus de facto dissolving Iraq.
And that won’t happen now. Will it?