Yesterday's Turkish Elections

Yesterday's Turkish Elections

Photographed last summer at an Ankara anti-government, pro Ataturk political rally.

Turkey is a complicated place. It has always been a multiethnic, multicultural and multireligious - although a predominantly Muslim - nation. Throughout most of modern Turkish history, from 1923 until 2002, the religious leaning were subtly kept out of power and so-called "secular rule" was enforced by it's military through a number of military coups. "Seemingly", all that changed in 2002 with the election of the Islamist leaning AK Party and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the former Prime Minister and the current sitting President of Turkey. Under the guise of the European Union membership process and through a set of maneuvers, Erdogan successfully curbed the political power of the military.

With last night's AK Party election sweep, Turkey is entering a new phase of it's history. President Erdogan, who is accused of wide-scale corruption, is likely to convert the country into a presidential system and assume broad powers. Modernists, secularists, minorities and certain business circles are justifiably worried. Even without the broad power he has just been granted, Erdogan was already taking an increasingly authoritarian stance, arresting journalist, prosecutors and even kids who "insult the President" on Twitter. Beside the domestic politics, when you consider the escalating turmoil in the region, AK Party's and Erdogan's strengthening of power is not good news. It's meaningless to speculate on how things might turn out in the long run, but one thing for sure, the country is more polarized than it has been for a long time.

Everyone has a different opinion and a political position about what's going on in Turkey. My take is that it doesn't matter much who is in power. Since the Marshall Plan of 1948, Turkey, for the most part, has been a good puppy of the West. And since the emergence of Neoliberalism in the 1980's, irrespective of who was in charge, Turkey has facilitated globalization and privatization in its borders; Erdogan and the AK Party is no exception. Although AK Party talks the populist Islamist talk to the local population, they've readily proven themselves to be good henchman of the forces of global capitalism. Once one of the handful of countries in the world that could feed its population, Turkey has been transformed into a heavily indebted country requiring significant imports to sustain its increasingly urban population. Turkey ranks 2nd after Mexico in income inequality among OECD nations. And, some of my friends at the World Bank are partly responsible for all that.

In the words of Ataturk: "Full sovereignty is only possible with economic sovereignty". By that measure, no nation on earth is truly sovereign.
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