Turkish Elections: Continuing to Sail in Rough Seas

October 26, 2015

On June 7, Turkey held parliamentary elections. The result was a disappointment for the Justice and Development Party (JDP) because the electorate denied them a fourth consecutive term with parliamentary majority. The logical solution would have been a coalition government but in a polarized country that proved to be impossible. So we are going to the ballot box again this Sunday, November 1 and all we hear is endless promises.

Some polls indicate that the electorate would again deny the JDP a parliamentary majority. Others do not exclude the possibility that it may. It appears that the electorate is left with two choices: the prospect of a coalition government plagued with internal disputes or a JDP government which has learnt its lesson which, by all indications, is not the case. Sadly, the chances for a new government which can effectively deal with Turkey’s fundamental issues such as multi-dimensional polarization, the re-building of national unity, political reform, upgrading of our democracy and revision of our failed foreign policy are slim. In brief, Turkey will continue to sail in rough seas.

But Turkey’s problems are not confined to those major issues. There is at least one other problem which any new government must address from day one regardless of who forms it. This is putting a quick end to the state of lawlessness in the country. This consists of a long list of troubles linked to our involvement in the Syrian conflict and the macho political culture which has come to dominate our daily lives. To be more specific, the new government must ensure the security of our porous borders, enforce traffic rules starting with speed limits, put an end to violence against women, put an end to power cuts, prevent waste, care for city planning and the environment just to name a few. For months now, we have a government but the country is not being governed.

Although there is scant hope, a thorough revision of foreign policy is essential. Russian intervention in Syria has added new risks and challenges to our extremely troubled agenda. Maybe the government has found some comfort in what Secretary Kerry said in the context of US-Spain cooperation during the press conference following the talks he had with Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Garcia-Margallo y Marfil in Madrid last Monday:

“… In addition, our troops have served shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan, Turkey, and off the coast of Somalia…”

(The Secretary must have been referring to the deployment, under a NATO mission, of Patriot batteries in Turkey in 2013. Americans have left. Germans are about to leave but the Spaniards are still in Turkey.)

Turkey’s security rests upon three pillars: our internal peace, a sound foreign policy and a solid defense posture. NATO, treated by the government sometimes as punching bag, sometimes as a life-jacket can only provide support under certain conditions; it cannot be a substitute. Turkey didn’t have to be in the same boat with Afghanistan and Somalia.

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