Populist antisemitism, particularly that which is mystified in religious language, is a canary in the mine for any political party. So it is, I reckon, with the Islamist incumbents, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey. Islamism is a man-made ideology which from the most violent to the most political embeds Muslim supremacism as a central tenet. Maybe for a while nobody gets hurt. But the chauvinism and bigotry tends to leak out sooner or later.
Read Marko and Shiraz Socialist for an overview of Turkey at election time. There’s a concise narrative and (you’ll need to consult the guide) tabular round-up of Turkey’s political characteristics at Polity – Turkey is also fairly high on the Economist’s Political Instability Index.
The opinion polls prior to the recent local elections were wrong – the AKP is now on the back foot, having seen its share of city and provincial council positions slump from 47% to 39%, losing particularly in the Kurdish regions of the south-east. It probably doesn’t need saying that this has nothing to do with antisemitism in the AKP – I thought I’d mention it because I’ve gone quiet on antisemitism on this blog – but the reversal in the AKP’s fortunes is reassuring in democratic terms since there was considerable worry that its government was becoming a ‘reign’. In Hurriyet, a retired teacher interviewee:
“Above all, these elections showed the understanding of ’democracy’ of the Turkish people. I really believe in our citizens. We are able to say ’stop’ as we can say ’go ahead’ when required”
But overall, the analysis is shockingly scant. What did for AKP?What of the opposition?
The BBC points to the economic downturn and corruption allegations in AKP’s losses. Hurriyet says that the AKP propaganda uniting Kurds and Turks took on an insincere quality as AKP leader Tayyip Erdoğan abandoned his conciliatory position on the Kurdish nationalist (and terrorist, although – I didn’t realise there were gradations – not to the extent that it’s blacklisted by the EU) PKK and began to appease the security forces (see the Polity overview linked above for why). It also observes that the AKP’s relaxation of efforts to join the EU was regarded by many tentative supporters as a betrayal of the values which has swept them to power in 2007, and even the introduction of a Kurdish-language TV station could not atone for this. There is also the matter of the AKP’s position on Armenians. There are about a million municipal and provincial mayoral posts in Turkey, but basically opposition parties took an increased share of the vote from the AKP on the whole. Erdoğan is looking small.
The Republican People’s Party (CHP) is a centre left party and the main opposition in Turkey. Its logo contains the Kemalist 6 arrows – republicanism, nationalism, statism, populism, laicité, and revolutionism. Its successful Antalya candidate, Mustafa Akaydın, was deposed last year from his rectorship of Akdeniz University by the AKP because of his hardline stance in support of a headscarf ban (with which I disagree – I detest the headscarf as a self-harming thing for a woman to wear, but why shouldn’t conservative Muslim women participate in education?) despite winning the majority of votes in his university. On Sunday he beat the AKP candidate by 5% of the votes. Elsewhere in Ankara, Izmir and Istanbul, the CHP also gained, achieving 23% of the vote overall.
The ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (aka Nationalist Action Party) came third with 17% of the vote. They are statist (fascist by Muffin’s definition) rather than ethnic or religious nationalists, and aim to subsume the Kurds and the conservative Muslims. They would, for example, permit the headscarf in public institutions.
The Democratic Society Party (DTP), led by Ahmet Türk, is favoured in Kurdish areas. It is a Kurdish nationalist party which offers little or nothing to the Turkish majority, and whose leaders were indicted by the AKP back in 2007. Although it won only 5.5% of the vote, this was concentrated in a way which doubled to eight the number of east and in the Kurdish-dominated southeast municipalities it won in 2004. Kurdish separatists vote DTP. Its rise is a concern.
These elections were widely regarded as a referendum on the AKP. Since their bruising, it remains to be seen whether they will now progress with promised democratic reforms, in the form of the National Programme, which advance Turkey’s EU membership plan. But you get the sense that the people of Turkey want to join the EU, and will align behind the party which promises this.
Much more: Erkan’s Field Diary.