Boring elections coming up! Or not?

We already know who’s going to win the elections in June. The latest poll even predicts a 46% victory for governing AKP – that’s hardly a loss compared to the previous elections in 2007.  Opposition party CHP is growing and would get 25% of the votes if elections were held now (an increase of about 5% compared to 2007), and the other opposition party, MHP, would also make it past the 10% threshold. These statistics might change a little, but the fact is, the AKP is going to be in government again. So, boring elections coming up? I don’t think so!

Constitutional change

One of the things that will be heavily debated is constitutional change. The Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association, TÜSIAD, dropped a brick this week by proposing rather radical changes. They propose for example to allow headscarves in parliament, and a regional state structure. That might even need amendment of articles 2 and 3 of the constitution, which are officially unchangeable.

Everybody knows constitutional change is needed. The AKP managed to get some changes through at a referendum last year, but it’s not enough. Kurds want more constitutional freedom (see below), the 10% threshold needs to be lowered, the immunity of MP’s should come to an end, and the reform of the military and judicial system are not yet completed.

I applaud TÜSIAD for making such bold proposals. They are now the starting point of a heavy debate. The higher you start, the more you will get in the end.

MP’s with a headscarf

The debate inside the AKP is intense: should they allow women with a headscarf to run for parliament? A good number of of women want to, and the AKP doesn’t know what to do. The point is, if they let the women run and they are actually elected, there will be a huge problem: they can’t be admitted into parliament wearing the scarf. That will lead to a major ordeal in parliament, like in 1999, when Merve Kavakci was prevented from taking her oath and couldn’t become a MP, although she was democratically elected. One ‘solution’ would be, in the eyes of many (male) decision makers in the AKP, to let the women stand for election in cities where they won’t win anyway. They think that would serve everybody: the women would be supported, but it wouldn’t lead to trouble.

A disgusting non-solution, if you ask me. These women should all be independent candidates in provinces where they have a lot of voters support, and together challenge the system. It’s hard to get enough votes as an independent candidate, but you have to start somewhere to break the status quo.

Kurdish question

It’s still rather quiet as far as the Kurdish question is concerned, but that will surely change soon. Maybe even today, because sit-in protests will start in the south east of the country to protest the total lack of progress in solving the Kurdish question. Also, the PKK has announced the end of its one-sided cease-fire a few weeks ago. It didn’t lead to any attack or firm defence yet, but that could happen any moment. Third, the candidate list of the pro-Kurdish party BDP is going to be interesting: more hardliners than are in parliament for the BDP now, so it seems. Even people who were banned from politics will probably be on the list. A possible source of trouble.

Democratization

PM Erdogan still likes to present himself as a democrat and promote ‘advanced democracy’, but he is having a hard time being convincing. Press freedom is one thing, but the developments in the Middle East are interesting too in this perspective.
Turkey, lead by the AKP, says they promote democracy in the region. It made sense when Erdogan was one of the first to call on Egyptian president Mubarek to step down and supported the protests in Tunisia in January. But now that Libya is in trouble, Erdogan refuses to take a clear democratic stand. He doesn’t call on Ghadaffi to listen to the people and step down, he doesn’t firmly express himself against Ghadaffi killing his own people and doesn’t want to join any embargo. On the other hand, Turkish parliament will most probably agree today on sending submarines and ships to the region to contribute to the international forces. But not for fighting, no, only for ‘humanitairian and defence purposes’.

Erdogan keeps all his options open. Because Turkey has economic interests in Libya, and nobody knows yet who’s going to come out off the Libyan trouble as winner. By trying to support both sides a little bit, he hopes to gain by either outcome of the conflict.Erdogans undemocratic sides will not bring his victory in danger – it hasn’t before, his lack of democratic blood isn’t something new of course. But the debates and developments will be interesting.

So: boring elections? Not at all, even though we already know who’s going to win.

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