The results of the Turkish election are almost too good to be true.
Islamism-light has been handed a whopping defeat. Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan got nowhere near the two-thirds majority in the parliament which he staked his political reputation on – and the future of Turkey.
With all the wacko nonsense he and his close followers have been spouting about foreign [even the old canard about the Jews] plots against him and Turkey, he was increasingly a menace. There was little doubt that if he got his two-thirds mandate, he would amend the constitution and continue toward an authoritarian state with at least mild Islmicist overtones. In fact, this week’s vote while giving him a 41% of the seats in the 550-seat Grand National Assembly, was an 8% drop since the last 2011 elections. He will have a hell of a time forming a coalition without making major concessions on the right, the left and to minority ethnic groups.
But there were other goodies in the outcome: The Kurds whose “militants” waged a bitter and bloody 30-year war against the central government for language and other rights for their 20% of the population came in strong. The minority Turkish chauvinists liked to call “Mountain Turks” not only passed the 10% entry requirement with 13% [and help from non-Kurds] but came up with a hefty 49 seats. The largely rural far right Nationalist Movement Party [MHP, the “Grey Wolves”] drew a little over 16 percent, with counterintuitively to foreigners almost half its seats to women. That’s a spit in your face rebuff to Erdogan’s recent blatantly anti-women’s liberation slurs. Three Armenians, with their troubled history of persecution and annihilation from the failing Ottoman Empire, won seats from three different parties along with one Roma [Gypsy].
Chairman Murat Karayalçın of the main opposition, the old Attaturk Republican People’s Party [CHP], who got just over 25 percent of the vote, has called on the opposition parties to join him in coalition. It’s something he says they promised before the elections. That wouldn’t be easy, given the CHP’s continued nostalgia for Attaturk’s state capitalism which Erdogan’s AKP [Justice and Development Party] had tossed aside in the last decade for a partial liberation of the economy bringing on the recent burst of prosperity and his popularity.
The bad news, of course, is that Turkey enters this new period of vote swapping with its economy on a downward slide. Turkey was one of the worst-affected during the global economic crisis with its economy shrinking by a staggering 5% in 2009. The more recent growth that averaged 7.2 percent per year has collapsed into what the IMF expects to be only 3 percent in 2015 and 2016.
If political stability could be restored quickly, Turkey might continue to depend heavily on foreign investment to meet its balance of payments crisis and technological transfer needs. Somehow the new coalition, whatever it is, needs to go ahead with the large part of the economic reform Erdogan had largely abandoned going into the elections. Even that, though, isn’t likely given all its other problems – not the least the crisis in neighboring Greece – to renew a serious invitation to join the EU, long an aim of Turkey’s serious economic planners.