And What Is To Come Next?
Opponents of Islamists are currently extremely perplexed
Last Sunday the Islamist Justice and Development Party headed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 48, won the parliamentary elections in Turkey. And mass media of the world paid little attention to this fact, but they should have done. Indeed, until now Turkey was the only Moslem country which consistently oriented the West. And it would be logic to ask, what is to come next?
The present-day leader of Islamists started his career in the pro-Islam Welfare Party (Refah). In 1994, Erdogan was elected the mayor of Istanbul; he took much effort on improving the life of the city and actively struggled against corruption. In 1996, the Welfare Party entered the ruling coalition, the leader of the Party Necmettin Erbakan became prime-minister of Turkey. However, Islamists ruled for a very short period. In a year after the election, the government resigned under the pressure of the military authorities who always held the temporal principles. In 1998, Recep Erdogan was put into prison for two months for “inciting religious hatred”. That is why, according to the Turkish law he cannot be currently elected neither deputy of the parliament, not to speak about the prime minister post. On the whole, this is probably not the most important thing for him. The party headed by Erdogan lays special stress to the fact that they managed to demonstrate how actively Islamists influence the minds of the electorate. Indeed, none of the traditional temporal parties entered the parliament. Even the Democratic Left Party headed by the incumbent Prime-Minister Bulent Ecevit, which won only 1% of the electoral votes (and the barrier necessary to overcome at the parliamentary elections makes up 10%).
At the same time, the success of Islamists can be easily explained; their triumph is due to the economic disorders and the charges of corruption against the traditional Turkish parties. What is more, Turkish villagers who make up the majority in the country have always been very religious. That is why the victory of the Islamist party is quite logical. This popularity is also strengthened by the fact that the party is headed by a young energetic politician, the man constantly saying about his devotion to Islam.
To all appearances, opponents of Islamists are currently extremely perplexed. The military authorities have practically given up the control over the political processes in the country. In any case, they have already recognized results of the elections. But on the other hand, if it’s necessary the army can re-gain control over the situation very quickly. And the popularity of Islamists among the population will be ignored at that. However, there is no necessity of this kind yet.
Erdogan has already appeased the Turkish military authorities, his political opponents and certainly the West with the USA at the head. Islamists constantly say that they want Turkey to abandon NATO. They add at that, Turkey would profit much from membership in the European Union.
But the West cannot be satisfied only with the statements about stability of Turkey’s political line. In order to know to what extent Turkey is loyal, Washington would like it to join the war campaign against Iraq. In this case, it would be clear on what side Erdogan is. At the same time, Erdogan has got a good opportunity for a manoeuvre: the previous government, which didn’t sympathize with Islamists, all the same disapproved the idea of war against Iraq.
Relations with Turkey are especially important for Russia, because of Chechnya first of all. The Turkish authorities have been always showing their sympathy for Chechen guerrillas. Though, currently the sympathy isn’t so much undisguised as a couple of years ago. Turkey banned entry to the country for some terrorists. But Islamists are quite a different thing: for the sake of solidarity with the co-believers they can do a lot.
These are only suggestions so far, not more. It’s too early to say how Turkey will change under Islamists. It is not ruled out that we will witness arising of a rather civilized political power, something like Christian Democrats in the West. But it may happen that radicals have come to power in Turkey once again. If so, the Turkish army will have to interfere again.
Vasily Bubnov PRAVDA.Ru
Photo: Recep Erdogan
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://world.pravda.ru/world/2002/5/15/39/3050_erdogan.html