Friday, May 04, 2007

Turkey Calls for Early Elections... Thankfully

The Voice of the Martyrs welcomes the news of an early general election in Turkey set for July 22. We believe that this is may the only way that the present crisis between Islamists and secularists in the Turkish parliament can be resolved without military intervention. It is hoped that an early election will stem the decline of the separation between religion and state in Turkey and the creeping rise of Islamism that has become evident since the election of the Justice and Development Party.

This opinion was confirmed by Zeyno Baran, Senior Fellow of the Hudson Institute, who wrote in an April 28 article called "Don't Misread Turkey's Generals" that this rising crisis is what compelled the Turkish General Staff to issue a strongly worded warning about the erosion of the secular nature of the republic. According to Baran:

Many in the West-particularly in Europe-consider this statement by the military to be unacceptable interference in the political process. However, given the unique nature of Turkey's democracy, this statement may ironically end up preventing a much worse outcome.

In a carefully reasoned article, Baran notes how, in light of its fiercely secular past, the Turkish military has enjoyed great legitimacy in the eyes of most Turks compared to other institutions. As he notes, however, this has, unfortunately, "led many people to expect the military to "save them" from internal and external challenges, illiberal political parties, or corrupt governments.

Instead of taking on the accountability to ensure that their secular system is preserved through the normal democratic process, the Turkish people have become lazy and vote irresponsibly, believing that if anything goes wrong, the military will put it right again.

For example, during the last parliamentary elections in 2002, many Turks angry with the outgoing government voted for the Justice and Development Party (AKP). When I later asked some of these individuals why they voted for a party that they themselves suspected of having Islamist roots, I was told, "all other parties failed us...let's try these guys...if they don't play by the rules, then the military will kick them out."

To download the entire article, click here. It is really a worthwhile read to anyone seeking to understand the Turkish political environment, especially as it relates to the roles of Islam and secularism.

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