Turks Back Democracy and Europe
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 23rd July, 2007
There was a resounding endorsement of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in yesterday’s general election. His Justice and Development Party (AKP) won 47% of the vote, giving it a very comfortable majority in parliament. Moreover, the turnout was over 80%, even though many people had to abandon a slice of their summer holidays to take part. It’s a slap in the face for the military, which had been making threatening noises, and for those opposition forces — including ultra-nationalists — who had been wrongly claiming that Mr Erdogan intends to turn the country into an Islamic Republic.
‘We are the strongest advocates of a democratic, secular, social state governed by the rule of law,’ the Prime Minister reassured the public last night. ‘I call on all leaders not to close their doors. Let’s get round a table and discuss the problems of Turkey’s democray and make the rule of law reign.’
There are still dark forces in Turkey which need to be emasculated. And there are many improvements that need to be made in both the letter and the application of the law, relating to freedom of expression and other civil rights. Turkey must also do its part (as must others) to ensure that there is a workable settlement of the longstanding division of Cyprus. But we should welcome the advances that have and are being made. There have been some unhelpfully hostile noises about Turkey’s eventual accession to the European Union from some continental political leaders, who should know better. I, for one, am delighted that this has not dampened Mr Erdogan’s determination to pave the way for Turkey’s EU membership, as a modern, developing, secular state.