I have been watching the crisis over the election of a president of Turkey with considerable interest. The following remark by a young woman at the protests earlier this week against the ruling party’s candidate nicely summarizes the unusual dimensions of Turkish politics:
We, the free women of Turkey, do not want the hijab. We want to be like the European females, but we do not want to join the European Union. We want Turkey to stay free and independent.
Is there another country where the dimensions of political issues cut this way, with the most nationalist sectors also being the most secular? I would think not. And, while I do not claim to know much about Turkish politics, I do suspect that, with the Turkish presidency actually being much weaker than the prime ministership that is already in the “Islamist” party’s hands, that the opposition has at least as much to do with resistance to economic liberalization (among the requirements for EU membership) as with the secular-religious divide. Of course, it is the latter that evokes more intense popular passion. Perhaps someone who actually knows Turkey can tell me why I am wrong about that.
I hope to be back with a more detailed post on the institutional aspects of this crisis in the coming days.
In the meantime, I leave you with a fact that has not been widely noted in the coverage I have seen: The ruling party rules on only 34% of the votes cast at the last election. Just four seats short of two thirds, this must be the biggest distortion of votes to seats in the annals of electoral systems, or very close to it.
Early parliamentary elections have been called–for July (about four months ahead of when they would have been required). Can the AK make it to two thirds?