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DarkWaters

Political Islam on the rise in Turkey

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Here is an article on CNN.com that describes the results of Sunday (July 22nd's) Turkish Parliamentary elections:

Turkey's ruling Islamist-rooted party claimed a resounding victory Sunday, winning nearly 47 percent of the vote in the country's parliamentary elections, electoral officials said.

::: SNIP :::

Sunday's victory is a boost for Erdogan, who called the early elections in May after opposition lawmakers blocked his choice of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul to become the country's president.

The nomination sparked massive protests from Turks who feared the AKP would attempt to turn Turkey into an Islamic state. It also elicited a warning from Turkey's military -- which has seized power from civilian governments three times and pushed out a forerunner of the AKP in the 1990s -- that it would step in if necessary to protect the republic's secular tradition.

Here is an interesting op-ed by Ayaan Hirsi Ali where she describes how Democratic elections might be the vehicle for Political Islam to amass power in Turkey.

Here is an interesting excerpt:

The proponents of Islam in government, such as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and their Justice and Development Party, have been remarkably successful. They have exploited the fact that you can use democratic means to erode democracy, employing a powerful strategy.

An important trait of liberalism, however, is the opportunity to learn by trial and error. Turkish secular liberals must start their own grass-roots movement, one with the message of individual freedom.

Three pillars of that strategy are worth discussion.

The first is Dawa, a tactic inspired by Islam's founder, Muhammad. Dawa means to preach Islam as a way of life, including a way of government, perpetually and with conviction. Every convert is obligated to preach Islam to others, creating a grass-roots movement.

The secularists in Turkey underestimated this pillar and thus neglected competing with the Islamists for the hearts and minds of the electorate. Polls suggest that 70 percent of voters might still elect Gul president if Erdogan succeeds in changing the constitution so that the president can be elected directly. Any protest from the secularists against this evident popular will sounds irrational and undemocratic.

As recently as 1997, the Kemalist secular Turkish military has removed Prime Minister Erbakan from power for bridging mosque and state. This tactic may not work indefinitely if Islamists keep on getting democratically elected.

Political Islam is undoubtedly on the rise.

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Erdogan's party seems to be like a Turkish version of the GOP if one measures them both with reference to the average voter in their respective countries. It is a pattern in modern times that the parties with a reputation for being business-friendly also favor religion or conservative "social values". 

 

It will be interesting to see if Erdogan wins the presidential election in August, or if he has over-played his hand by clamping down on free speech. There are signs of disenchantment within his own party. If he loses, the replacement will probably lean more statist on economics... but this too would be the typical expected ebb and flow of modern democratic countries.

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Erdogan's party did not get a majority in the latest election. Though they're still the most popular party (41% of the vote), their support is slightly reduced (from an earlier 50%). This election was important because Erdogan was hoping to get enough of a majority to change the constitution ion a way that would let him stay in power. If no other party forms a coalition with him, that plan is dead.

 

This is a small positive for Turkey.

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Looks like that's all she wrote for Erdogan. The military finally decided that enough's enough.

Sky News is saying that Erdogan called on his supporters to go out on the streets...which is the most dangerous thing he could possibly call for, and a sign that he's beyond desperate.

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If it is a coup by the military, I hope it is not just one part of the military that might be opposed by the rest. The fact that they did not start by arresting Erdogan indicates poor planning or execution. If Erdogan's supporters come out in numbers, soldiers may well back down rather than massacre their fellow citizens. In summary, now that its begun, I really hope it is as smooth a success as possible. A failed coup might actually strengthen Erdogan more than no coup at all.

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One commentator. Dani Rodrik at Harvard, says that Erdogan was planning a purge before this coup happened. So, knowing they were going to be purge might have spurred a group of officers into action even though the odds were against success. 

Unfortunately, Erdogan knows that the U.S. and EU won't do anything other than mumble or complain, no matter how hard he comes down on his enemies. Turkey has long been seen as a country that should be kept outside the Russian sphere, and the U.S. will tolerate a lot before breaking with Turkey.

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