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Sun, June 12, 2011 | Rubin Reports | By Barry Rubin

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters gathered in front of his Justice and Development Party headquarters in Ankara, Turkey, late Sunday, June 12, 2011. According to initial results Turkey's ruling party won a third term in parliamentary elections Sunday, setting the stage for the rising regional power to pursue trademark economic growth, assertive diplomacy and an overhaul of the military-era constitution. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)


Turkish Election: Islamism Triumphant

These are not final results but give a strong indication of what’s happening. First the numbers:

The stealth Islamist party, Justice and Development (AKP), received almost exactly 50 percent of the vote. Under the Turkish system this will give them an estimated 325 members of parliament, or about 60 percent of the seats.

On the opposition side the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP) got about 26 percent of the vote and 135 seats. The right-wing nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) took 13 percent giving it 54 seats. Eleven parties didn’t make the minimum ten percent barrier (they received only about 1 percent or less). There are also 36 independents, many of them Kurdish communalists.

Now is this good or bad?

In statistical terms, the AKP lost 6 MP’s despite getting 5 million more votes, the MHP lost 18 MP’s despite tallying half a million more votes while the CHP gained 33 seats adding 3.5 million votes. On paper, then, while the AKP stays in power, it is very slightly weaker than before.

But the outcome is nonetheless overwhelmingly bad. The AKP got almost — remember that almost — everything it wanted. It will be in power for four more years, infiltrating institutions, producing a new constitution, intimidating opponents, altering Turkish foreign policy, and shifting public opinion to dislike Americans and Jews more.

The only point on which the AKP supposedly fell short is that it didn’t get the two-thirds of the seats, 357, that would let it pretty much write Turkey’s new constitution any way it wanted. It is close to the 330 needed to take a constitution that it produced to a referendum.

But so what? Deals with independents could easily provide enough votes for the referendum option and if the AKP needs them it would offer lavish promises, both in terms of legislation these people wanted and in terms of personal benefits. The way things are going they would win that vote.

What all this means is that the AKP is entrenched in power and can now proceed with the fundamental transformation of Turkey.

The AKP has become famous for the subtlety of its Islamism, disguised as a “center-right” reform party. Some people in the Arab world are starting to talk about this as a model. Notably the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is fascinated by the strategy. Yet as the Islamist party gains more and more power and support — Turkey has demonstrated this — it becomes more ambitious, daring, and extreme.

This would include:

  • A constitution that would take the country far down the road to a more Islamist state and society.
  • A more presidential style of government empowering the mercurial (a nice word for personally unstable and frighteningly arrogant) Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to become the chief executive.
  • The government can now infiltrate, take over, and transform the remaining hold out institutions, especially the armed forces and courts, along with the reemainder of the media that has not yet been bought up or intimidated by the Islamists.
  • A government whose policy is to align with Islamists like iran, Syria (not Islamist but part of the Tehran-led alliance), Hamas, Hizballah, and perhaps the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • A government against U.S. and Western interests.
  • A government that, to put it bluntly, hates Israel and many of whose members hate Jews.

This is a disastrous day for the United States and for Europe; for the prospects of stability and peace in the Middle East. And it isn’t great news for the relatively moderate Arab states either.

It is the end of the republic as established by Kamal Ataturk in the 1920s and modified into a multi-party democracy in the 1950s.

Yet how many people in the West actually appreciate what is happening? How many journalists will celebrate the election as a victory for democracy? Lenin once reportedly remarked that he would get the capitalists to sell him the rope with which to hang them. The AKP has gotten the West to provide that rope as a gift.

About the author,

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at

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Quotes and Sayings

About the Region, Islam and cultural totalitarianism...

    The Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement. Our deputation here in Paris is fully acquainted with the proposals submitted yesterday by the Zionist Organisation to the Peace Conference, and we regard them as moderate and proper. We will do our best, in so far as we are concerned, to help them through: we will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home.

    — Faisal bin al-Hussein, Letter to Felix Frankfurter, President of the Zionist Organisation of America; Paris, March 3, 1919

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