ISTANBUL – Turkey’s governing party AKP put a woman with a headscarf on the list of candidates for the upcoming general elections. However the woman is a candidate in Antalya, where she stands no chance of being elected. This way the AKP avoids a fuss in parliament: the headscarf is unwelcome in the Turkish parliament because it would erode the secular character of the state.
Today was the last day parties in Turkey could lodge their candidate lists to the voting commission. The woman with the scarf, Gülderen Gültekin, is candidate number 13 in Antalya, a stronghold of opposition party CHP. The AKP gets few votes there and will surely not send thirteen representatives to the parliament. Candidates with a headscarf that would actually have a chance, in cities like Ankara and Istanbul, didn’t make it to the candidate list.
The AKP supports more rights for women wearing the headscarf. The discussion about parliamentarians with a scarf was focused on by the opposition CHP party, which recently announced they would have no problem with the election of a woman with a headscarf. By announcing this, they put the ball back in the AKP’s court, but the AKP in the end apparently doesn’t dare. In 2008 a closure case started against the AKP, after the party proposed to lift the headscarf ban at universities. The party survived, but became wary.
There is no law explicitly forbidding the headscarf in parliament. The ban is based on secular principles in the constitution, and they are open to interpretation. The woman with a head scarf who was previously elected, Merve Kavakci, was prevented from taking her vow in parliament in 1999: she was booed out of parliament.
In the southern city of Sanliurfa the famous folk singer Ibrahim Tatlises is an independent candidate. He was recently shot and is still recovering from an almost lethal shot in the head.