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Monday, June 27, 2011

Turkey: time for reassessment - by Morten Messerschmidt and Robert Ellis

The remarkable thing about the Turkish election result is not that Prime Minister Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won but the unanimity in the international press that it would not be good for Turkish democracy if they gained 330 seats or more in the Turkish parliament. In the event, half the votes only resulted in 326 seats, falling short of the 330 seats needed to change the constitution with a referendum and the 367 seats which would have made it possible for the government to change the constitution alone.

The other common denominator was the fear that an overwhelming victory would reinforce what the Financial Times called the AKP’s “unsettling authoritarian tendencies”. This was demonstrated when The Economist recommended that Turks voted for the opposition CHP (Republican People’s Party) to put a brake on Erdoğan’s autocratic style of government.

The reaction was not long coming. Erdoğan blasted The Economist for being part of “a global gang” which took its orders from Israel, and for good measure blasted the CHP’s leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for also being “a project of international gangs”. The Wall Street Journal in turn accused Erdoğan of “reviving the crackpot anti-Semitic media theories of former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad”.

According to Burak Bekdil, a Turkish columnist, Turkey behaves like a nouveau riche businessman. “With a newly-gained self-confidence and the deep layers of an inferiority complex that stems from a past full of poverty and disgrace, he insults, provokes, agitates and tests the limits of his powers.”

Turkish columnist Semih Idiz recently mooted the notion that Ankara’s relations with Europe should be based more on economic self-interest than integration, and called for the establishment of a new “modus vivendi” and a new narrative between Turkey and Europe.

Now that a number of European and Turkish politicians are no longer laboring under the illusion of Turkish EU membership, this might be an opportune moment to reassess the situation.

For more: Turkey: time for reassessment - New Europe