Turks don’t care about European elections

ISTANBUL – Turks are indifferent to the European elections. They don’t know they are being held, and anyone who does know is not interested. Sahin Alpay, Professor of Politics, and a columnist: ‘Turkey has other things on its mind.’
Anyone starting a conversation with a Turk about the European elections is usually heard talking about the anti-Turkish attitude of French President Sarkozy and German Chancellor Merkel within three minutes.  They make front page news all the time, not only at election times, and they largely define the Turkish feelings about Europe. In recent weeks the newspapers publish an occasional story about anti-Turkish campaigns by right wing European parties, but for the rest, the elections don’t attract any attention.
Even political scientist and columnist Sahin Alpay, who calls himself a ‘Europhile’, isn’t writing anything about the elections: ‘Why should I? Turkey has no voice in Europe, it’s not relevant for Turkey.’ Alpay also believes Turkey shouldn’t dance to Europe’s tune when it comes to democratic reforms, but has to modernise because it’s good for Turkey itself. Then access to the European Union will follow naturally. ‘And that would be good for both Turkey and Europe’, Alpay says.
And these reforms are exactly what Turkey is absorbed in these days. The Kurdish question is seeing progress, the discussion about how minorities in Turkey (Kurds, Greeks, Armenians) have always been treated is intensifying, and the judiciary is trying to deal with Ergenekon, a network of, among others, highly placed ex-military men and academics who were plotting a coup. For months now, there has been debate about a new constitution, and recently a court decided that President Gül has to appear in court, even though his position guarantees his immunity.
In all these matters, Sahin Alpay believes, it comes down to the question of if Turkey will become truly democratic of stay stuck in a political system in which a small bureaucratic elite has all the power. Alpay: ‘Sarkozy and Merkel play on the reactionary forces in Turkey, who get stronger because of that. That doesn’t help democratisation in Turkey. That’s what I write about, because that’s important and directly influences this country. The European elections don’t. Who cares about them?’

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