Following elections in Turkey this weekend, Prime Minister Recep Erdogan finds himself again in the middle of all the action. His AKP party won 50% of the seats in parliament but will need to coalition with other parties to gain a 2/3 majority to push ahead with his controversial desires to modify his country’s constitution. Debates over such measures leading up to the election were heated and wide ranging with many fearing Erdogan would like to see greater power in the hands in the office of the prime minister rather than in parliament where change is much slower.
Meanwhile, as Turkey claims neutrality in many of the disturbances in this Arab Spring, the UN has reported more than 7000 Syrian refugees flooding across Turkey’s southern border seeking relief from political or military reprisal in their country. Some are reportedly Syrian soldier’s seeking a way out from not having to fire on their own people as ordered.
One additional problem for Prime Minister Erdogan that could be used to his benefit is the 80% increase in the number of seats held by Kurdish Peace & Democracy party members in Turkey’s parliament with this weekend’s elections. The simple act of recognizing the Kurds has been a troubling sore spot for official Turkey but with more seats held in Parliament, this hardline may be softening at last.
“The Kurds are better represented now than they have ever been,” said RFI correspondent in Turkey Jerome Bastion, talking on FRANCE 24. “It will allow them to advance their cause of recognition as a distinct ethnic group, in particular by working to soften the nationalist tone of the current constitution.”
With the help of such partners, Erdogan could improve his nation’s reputation and efforts toward EU inclusion and perhaps at the same time gain his coveted 2/3 majority in a new parliamentary coalition. These remain hopeful possibilities for now, however. Since many in Turkey pushed and maintained by it’s widespread military culture are still influenced by old hardline stances against recognition of the Kurds as an ethnic group at all, it is often the western leading liberal press that has given voice to those previously excluded. Meaning of course, that while the press remains fearful of military reprisals on the street, throughout the country, freedom of speech may have to wait a while even after the elections have changed the tenor of debate. LINK