4 November 2002
What's next in Ankara?
Prime Minister Bulent Eçevit, seventy-seven years old and in failing health, probably never thought he'd lose this badly. But his party got fewer than 10 percent of the votes in the Turkish election, meaning they will get no seats in Parliament. Meanwhile, as projected here earlier, the AKP (Justice and Development Party) under Recep Tayyip Erdogan swept to 34.2 percent of the vote, enough under Turkish law to form a government without having to seek a coalition partner.
Erdogan himself cannot become Prime Minister in 1998, he was convicted of inciting religious hatred and was barred from seeking office for five years which has prompted worries that the next occupant of the post will be a mere figurehead. Quickly, though, Erdogan moved to answer some of the more obvious questions which arose from the AKP victory: no, Turkey will not abandon its uniquely-secular position in the Muslim world, and no, Turkey is not backing away from its hopes of becoming part of the European Union.
The Turkish military, Cato the Youngest notes, "has historically been willing to throw out any government that threatened the secular order established by Ataturk." And indeed, the AKP victory is generally attributed more to dislike of the Eçevit regime than to any deep-seated desire among the Turkish electorate to follow the lead of the Islamic fundamentalists on Turkey's flanks.
It will be an interesting time, to say the least.