Turkey’s Landmark Election
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 12th June, 2011
Across Turkey voters are going to the polls today — and at the polling stations İ have been visiting in Diyarbakır in the predominantly Kurdish south-east, voting has been brisk. Lots of extra police and security forces have been drafted in, and outside some polling stations there is a heavy police presence. Just the other day the distance at which police must remain from ballot boxes was reduced from 100 metres to 15 metres. The police say this is to protect voters from intimidation, but many Kurds see it as a form of intimidation itself. More irregular practices have been reported from several rural areas in Diyarbakır province, however, as well as pressure being put on Kurdish voters as far away as Bursa. Despite this, the 2011 general electıon in Turkey is being seen as a landmark. Few people doubt that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and hıs AKP wıll be returned with a third successive mandate, which is remarkable enough in itself. But the crunch is what happens afterwards, when there will be an attempt to write a new constitution, which could in principle open the possibility for greater autonomy for Turkish Kurdistan (though many Turks in the rest of the country are hostile to the idea). The main Kurdish party, the BDP, is not officially contesting the election, as under current rules there is a 10% threshold that parties must cross before any of their candidates can be decalred elected. The high level of that threshold is another thing Kurdish MPs are likely to press for in post-election constitution negotiations. Meanwhile, a number of prominent Kurdish political figures are standing as independents and are likely to be returned, including here ın Diyarbakır.