Turkish Prisoners, by Nicolae Grigorescu
Once again, after a brief pause, political Islam has won in Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), earned nearly one out of every two votes in the renewed parliamentary elections on November 1. The AKP won more than 4.8 million new votes since the June 7 elections, in which it had lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since it came to power in 2002. The November 1 election gave the AKP a mandate to rule until 2019; by then Turkey's Islamists will have been in power uninterruptedly for 17 years. There are happy smiles on the faces of half the Turks.
The AKP's unexpected landslide victory can be explained in numbers. The party won by 9 percentage points more on Nov. 1 than on June 7, just five months before. How did this happen?
The AKP won over nationalist voters from the MHP by scrapping the Kurdish peace process.
1. The nationalist party, MHP, shares more or less the same voter base with the AKP. Votes often go from one to the other. In the June election, some AKP votes shifted to the MHP, which won 16.3% of the national vote. This was because some nationalists disapproved of the AKP's peace process with the country's restive Kurdish minority. After a new spiral of violence started in July, the government scrapped the peace process and ordered the military relentlessly to bomb the strongholds of militant Kurds in northern Iraq. With the AKP boasting its newfound nationalist spirit, the MHP lost 4.1 percentage points on Nov. 1, all of which apparently went to the AKP.
2. The summer-long violence between the autonomy-seeking Kurdish fighters and the Turkish military, which has killed hundreds, apparently wore down Kurds with more loyalist sentiments to Turkey, and caused a shift of votes at the magnitude of 1.4 percentage points from a pro-Kurdish party to the AKP.
3. Two splinter Islamist and nationalist parties that won 2% of the vote on June 1 disappeared from the political scene, winning just a combined 0.5% on November 1. From them the AKP earned another 1.5 percentage points.
4. In the face of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's lavish, expensive palace, new private jets, extravagant spending of public funds; his assertive intervention in party politics (he must remain non-partisan, according to the Turkish constitution), and growing allegations of corruption and nepotism, some traditionally AKP voters abstained from voting on June 7. Typically, half of those who abstained in June were AKP voters. Apparently, they returned to the ballot box in November, earning the AKP another good 2 percentage points (the turnout rate was nearly 4 percentage points higher in November than in June).
All of this makes exactly 9 percentage points: the difference between what the Islamists got in June and November. That is worrying for everyone in the civilized (and shrinking) parts of Turkey -- and the world.
AKP supporters celebrated their victory on November 1 with chants of 'Allahu Akbar.'
AKP fans celebrated their victory on November 1 with chants of "Allahu Akbar" ["Allah is the greatest"], an Islamist slogan, indicating that for them the political race in Turkey is in fact a "religious war." The only non-Turkish flags at the celebrations were the Palestinian and Ottoman. It is worrying that the party that won half of the national vote celebrates with religious slogans and Palestinian and Ottoman flags.
True, even if there is not yet credible evidence of vote-rigging, the election campaign was totally unfair to the opposition. Erdogan and the AKP massively used a powerful pro-government media machine, including the state broadcaster and a semi-official news agency.
"While Turkish citizens could choose between genuine and strong political alternatives in this highly polarized election, the rapidly diminishing choice of media outlets and restrictions on freedom of expression in general impacted the process and remain serious concerns," said Ignacio Sanchez Amor, the special coordinator and leader of the short-term observer mission of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
The head of the delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Andreas Gross, said: "Unfortunately, the campaign for these elections was characterized by unfairness and, to a serious degree, fear."
A recent study found that only a quarter of Turks are not afraid of Erdogan.
In fact, one could easily understand how democratic and fair the Turkish election campaign was from the words of Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas's political bureau. He called both Erdogan and his prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, to convey the Palestinian group's congratulations on Turkey's "democratic electoral environment."
In a way, this is Turkey's Stockholm Syndrome. A recent study found that only a quarter of Turks were NOT afraid of President Erdogan. As many as 68.5% said they were afraid of the president. It is interesting to note that according to the findings of this research, even some of his own supporters are afraid of him: If Erdogan's supporters make up 50% of Turkey and those who say they are afraid of him stand at 68.5%, this means a good 18.5% of his own supporters are also afraid of him.
The Turkish "Sultan wannabe" runs an empire of fear. The November 1 vote will only help make him even more despotic.
Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist for the Turkish daily Hürriyet and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.