Feature

Former Islamists consolidate their rule.

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Turkey

“Democracy has won a victory,” said Cengiz Candar in the Ankara Turkish Daily News. The landslide win by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which took nearly half the vote in last weekend’s parliamentary elections, was primarily a reaction against the military’s attempt at intervention. The resolutely secular military didn’t trust the AKP because of the party’s Islamist past. When the AKP earlier this year nominated one of its members, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, to be president—a largely ceremonial position elected by parliament—the generals spoke up. They put out a memorandum warning that the military would “step in” if necessary to protect the secular state against an “Islamist” takeover of both parliament and presidency. The voters, though, saw the military’s meddling as anti-democratic. Before the memo was released, the AKP had the support of less than 30 percent of the electorate. At the ballot box last week, it took a historic 47 percent.

Scare tactics claiming that the AKP would “Islamize Turkey” backfired badly, said Mehmet Ali Birand, also in the Turkish Daily News. It’s clear why. “In its three years in government, the AKP did none of the things a truly Islamist party would do.” It didn’t break off relations with Israel, or distance Turkey from the E.U. and the U.S., or change the laws banning head scarves in government workplaces. Instead, it “brought stability to the country, propped up its economy, and smashed all the cliché slogans” of Islamism from its past. The voters, evidently, did not share the “anxieties” of the secular elite. Hundreds of thousands of them even cut short their vacations and rushed back to the roasting-hot cities to push turnout to a stunning 80 percent.

That’s because most Turks have benefited under the current government, said Asli Aydintasbas in the Istanbul Sabah. “The truth is, a large number of people, from the central city of Yozgat to the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, live in better conditions than before,” thanks to the AKP’s social security reforms and its housing and health-care programs. Particularly impressive is the support among our Kurdish citizens. The many Kurds who abhor the terrorist policies of the Kurdistan Workers Party have turned to the AKP. A party that speaks for Turks and Kurds, for the well-off and the poor, for the east and the west, is truly a party for all of Turkey. The AKP has officially “moved to the center.”

Semih Idiz

Milliyet

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