Turkish voted for Continuity and Stability, Expressed faith in sober values and old culture
Written by Syyed Mansoor Agha*
New Delhi, 5th July, 2018: On 24th June (Sunday) Mr. Recep Tayyib Erdogan was re-elected president of ‘Republic of Turkey’ for another term of five years with enhanced powers as Head of the State and the Executive Head. In an impressive turnout of 87%, Mr. Erdogan sailed out with a decisive majority of 52.6% vote in the very first round. While his main challenger Muharrem Ince of Republican People’s Party (CHP) could muster only 31% votes, though it was in the air that with the combined support of leftist elements, he will be able to drag the election to round two. After accusing state-run news agency Anadolu of “manipulation” over the reporting of vote-share figures, he was quick to accept his defeat.
He conceded “fraud” did not explain his loss: “Did they steal votes? Yes, they did. But did they steal 10 million votes? No.” Noting similarities between official data and monitored by his party, he said the victory margin was so wide that it “cannot be explained merely by election irregularities.”
In Turkey, till now the Presidency had been almost a ceremonial office. As in the parliamentary system, Prime Minister was the head of the Executive and answerable to the parliament. However, in a 2017 referendum, the Turkish people voted to make the Presidency an executive post, effective with the 2018 general election. In this system post of P.M. has been done away and the President will appoint Ministers of his choice, not necessarily from Deputies (M.P.s).
Simultaneous elections for the ‘Grand National Assembly of Turkey’ or Parliament were also held. People’s Alliance comprising AKP (295) and MHP (49) together won 344 seats in a house of 600. The opposition got 256 seats. (Nation Alliance of CHP (146) and IYI (43) total 89 plus HDP of Kurds 67.) Thousands journalist from all over the world swarm in as observers and put their seal on the fairness of the election.
This victory indicates that Turkish people loved the freedom of their faith and culture values. They stood for political continuity and economic stability by endorsing the direction Mr. Erdogan has given to social and economic development.
Turkey had an infamous tag of “sick man of Europe” since the mid-19th century. But now she stands on a firm ground for growth and prosperity. IMF defined Turkish economy as “an emerging market economy” and according to the CIA World Fact-book “Turkey is among the world’s developed countries.” Turkey is also defined by economists and political scientists as “one of the worlds’ newly industrialized countries.” A country of around 81 crore population (over 90% Muslims) had emerged as a “leading producer of agricultural products; textiles, motor vehicles, ships and other transportation equipment; construction materials; consumer electronics and home appliances.” Today Turkey owns largest construction industry of the world. These all factors add up to the popularity of President Erdogan. Though he is identified as “Islamist” he never played with religious emotions and never hurt other sections.
His journey of politics is long. He engaged in politics by joining the “National Turkish Student Union”, an anti-communist action group. After the 1980 military coup, Erdoğan followed Necmettin Erbakan’s “Islamist Welfare Party.” He was elected to parliament in 1991 but barred from taking his seat. In 1994 he was elected Mayor of Istanbul. He successfully tackled chronic problems of water shortage, pollution, and traffic chaos. Corruption was prevented and municipal funds were used prudently. He paid back a major portion of two billion dollar debt and invested four billion dollars in the city.
In 1998, Turkish constitutional court banned Welfare Party. Erdogan became popular during protests against the ban. In 1999 he was jailed and was forced to give up his mayoral position and banned from participating in parliamentary elections. In 2001, Erdoğan launched the Justice and Development Party (AKP) which participated in the elections of 2002 and won nearly two-thirds of the seats. But Erdogan could not enter due to a ban on his political activity. Instead, Abdullah Gul was nominated the Prime Minister of AKP Government. In December 2002, the Supreme Election Board canceled the general election results from Siirt. Legal changes enabled Erdogan to contest and won and eventually replaced Prime Minister Mr. Abdullah Gul.
In his political career he faced several political turmoils but after every storm, he emerged stronger. On 14 March 2008, Turkey’s Chief Prosecutor asked the country’s Constitutional Court to ban Erdogan’s governing party, but the party escaped the ban. In the June 2011 elections, Erdogan’s governing party won 327 seats (49.83% of the popular vote) making Erdogan the only prime minister in Turkey’s history to win three consecutive general elections, each time receiving more votes than the previous one. From the day one he is genuinely popular with faithful Muslims sidelined during decades of anti-Islamic rule. Those who are still opposed to sober lifestyle will need more sympathy and attention. They are required ample opportunity and outreach for correction of the vision and view regarding life and death. It a political necessity AKP allied with a far-right group MHP. Given the higher threshold required for reforms in the constitution, the President would need the backing of other parties too.
The graph of his rise to absolute power shows that his emergence as a tall leader is gradual and not sudden or accidental. His good work and real-politic paid greatly. Today on international arena too he stands as a visionary statesman and not merely a regional or national political entity. The transition of Turkey as a commendable power will depend upon how he will deal with his opponent voters and big powers that are apprehensive with the rise of an independent and virtually sovereign “Muslim Turkey”, replacing biased and anti-religious “Secular Turkey” dependent upon western forces.
Indo-Turkish Relations : India has age-old relations with Turkey. Mir’ât ül Memâlik (The Mirror of Countries, 1557) is counted as an authentic source of history. The book was authored by Seydi Ali Reis (1498–1563) the powerful Admiral of Ottoman Navy. He compiled his memories of his sojourn of India (from Gujarat to Khyber), Afghanistan, Samarkand, and Bukhara etc. from November 1554 to January 1557. Khilafat movement (1919-1921), under the leadership of Gandhi Ji is an important chapter of the history of Indian Independence movement which connects India with Islamic Turkey.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the first Prime Minister of India to visit Turkey in 1960. It was followed by, Vice-President Dr. Zakir Hussein (1965), Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (1988); President Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma (1993); President K. R. Narayanan (1998); Prime Minister Vajpayee (September 2003); VP, K Kant (1998); Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari (2011); President Pranab Mukherjee (2013). Prime Minister Modi (November 2015 to attend G20 Meeting.)
From Turkey Prime Minister Turgut Ozal visited India in 1986; President General Kenan Evren (1989); President Suleyman Demirel (1995); Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit in April 2000.
Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan first visited India as Prime Minister in 2008 and President Abdullah Gul in 2010. Mr. Erdogan again visited from April 30 to May 01 2017 as President, after winning formidable executive powers by scraping through in a referendum. The visit went through, with both sides committed to a stronger economic relationship and bolstering of people-to-people relations. In 2008 India was the first stop on his visit to Russia, China, and the United States. Ministers of External affairs of both countries including several delegations also paid visits to each other countries. A large number of social, religious and educationists also visit Turkey from India.
India and Turkey share a common interest in ensuring peace and political stability in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Therefore political stability and economic well-being are important for us. A statement, on the eve of Dr. Mukherjee’s visit, said, “India and Turkey share a lot of common interests in ensuring that there is peace, there is stability and political continuity and the environment for progress and development. “…it is a scope for India and Turkey to work together particularly in the private sector where Turkish companies are big in infrastructure globally. We are welcoming their participation in India.”
World Reaction : The election results have pleased as well as shocked many. As Time reported, “Western leaders also confront difficult choices in their relationships with Turkey.” There cause of concern is, “an emboldened president facing fewer constraints under new constitutional arrangements.”.. “EU High representative F. Mogherini and Commissioner J. Hahn refrained from congratulations, but praised “the strong attachment of the Turkish people to democratic processes and the pursuit of their civil liberties.” The E.U. Council will discuss relations with Turkey shortly, “balancing the need for collective action on migration flows with concern about democratic backsliding.” The U.S. maintains interests in resolving the Syrian conflict as US and allies want. The US also want to prevent Turkey the purchase of a Russian missiles defense system and seeing its citizens and embassy employees released from Turkish jails.
Among those who profusely congratulated is Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. He congratulated Turkish President on his re-election triumph, saying the result pointed out to the Turkish leader’s “great political authority” and mass support. French President Emmanuel Macron has also congratulated Tayyip Erdogan and hoped the country will further progress under his leadership.
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani was among the first who personally congratulated Erdogan on phone for his spectacular success. Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah also sent a cable congratulating Erdogan winning the presidential and parliament elections. Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain “extended heartfelt felicitations to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his victory.” Mr. Hussain underscored that the large turnout and the peaceful conduct of the elections as a testimony to the strength and vibrancy of Turkey’s democratic values and institutions.” Shahbaz Sharif also sent a message.
In a phone call, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas congratulated Erdogan on “the success of the Turkish democratic process and his victory in the presidential elections.” Abbas said, “I wish Turkey more success, progress, and stability.” In response, Erdogan stressed Turkey’s “continued support” to the Palestinian people and “their just cause and their right to freedom and stability.”
Many neighboring small countries also vehemently hailed the results. They include Albanian Premier Edi Rama; Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev; Mr. Bakir Izetbegovic, the tripartite Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and many others. Mr. Aliyev called it “great success” and said, “Turkey has grown under Erdogan’s leadership. Turkey’s economy has scored great successes and Ankara has cemented its position internationally.” The leaders also expressed their belief in the progress of the brotherly relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan in all areas. Aliyev invited Erdogan on an official visit to Azerbaijan, and Erdogan accepted. Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary called President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to congratulate him.’ He was first EU country to call the President to congratulate him.
Messages of congratulations also came from Malaysia, Greek’s Foreign Minister Nikolaos Kotzias, Sudanese President Omar al Bashir, and Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. More messages are pouring in.
Checks and balances : Amid the euphoria of decisive victory, it is important to remember that country is bigger than the individual. Power concentrated on few hands may be good till hands are genuine. Otherwise, it may be proved disastrous without an effective system of checks and balances. The concerns of the 47% citizens, who voted against be carefully listened. To grow more, a leader needs to address the anxieties of opponents with the bigger ear. We genuinely hope that this will be high on President Recep Tayyib Erdogan’s agenda. Frustration may invite rouge international powers to create trouble and create another 2016 like scene. Western countries may continue to cooperate in the matters of shared interest. But in the renewed cold war-like scenario, it will not always possible to follow their dotted line.
Modi and Erdogan : Many commentators have drawn parallels between Mr. Narendara Modi and Mr. Erdogan. But there is stark dis-similarity. In India, majoritarian chaos has spread largely through hate crimes like lynching and vigilante violence, all under the acquiescent silence of the government. Erdogan’s politics is quite clean from such deficiencies. However, both have displayed tendency of centralizing of power but with a difference. Erdogan’s policies are result oriented. And we are experiencing disastrous effects of one-man rule in India.
*Writer is a civil rights activist and a senior journalist.