05/02/2007, 00.00
TURKEY
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Erdogan chooses early elections

by Mavi Zambak
Faced by the presidential election impasse, the party in power launches its electoral campaign. According to some polls the Akp can count on 65% of voters.

Ankara (AsiaNews) – The Progress and Justice Party (AKP), which holds two thirds of parliament seats, today called for early legislative elections to be held on June 24th or at the latest July1st.   AKP’s decision came on the heels of the Constitutional Courts annulment of the first ballot for the election of the President of the Republic.

 

Tomorrow May 3rd, the government wants to go ahead with its candidacy of Abdullah Gul, the current foreign minister, in the hope that it will obtain the necessary two thirds majority vote, an undertaking which is now virtually impossible, given that the opposition is determined to continue its boycott of the ballot. At this point the only viable option to go to the polls.  But before general elections become a necessary imposition, yesterday they became a weapon in the hands of Prime Minister Erdogan.

 

“The parliamentary system is blocked ….we must return to a vote.  Our people will make the best decision”: he declared yesterday with clarity and cunning, in the face of rising tensions in a country divided between secularists and Islamists.  

 

Thus Erdogan has played a new card, clearing the way for an electoral battle and gaining the trust of the population.  In the nationally televised address, he called into play the positive steps made by in government over the past four years, leaving out completely the tense political climate of recent weeks as well as the institutional crises that Turkey is facing.  His is already a campaign speech, in which he attempted to calm the voting public, the Turkish people, the army and the markets.

 

He pointed to the current health of the Turkish economy following the deep crises in 2001; he listed a long series of public works that have been carried out; he recalled the many “tests” that have been overcome triumphantly by his government.

In fact the economy has grown at an average annual rate of 7%, but analysts feel that the current tension between the army and the government risks freezing foreign investment; as a result the stock exchange and Turkish lira have immediately suffered losses.

 

The pious tones of Erdogan also listed the number of people who have received government housing; how many homes have been connected to the water system; how many kilometres of road have been built; how many investments have been made in the poor and needy….”At this point – concluded the premier, staring straight into the TV screen – it is enough to protect stability.  It is enough to protect peace.  It is important that the climate of trust which we have built with great effort over the past years is not destroyed”.

 

Beyond these mechanical affirmations, the people are beginning to question the means with which this stability and peace is maintained: yesterday May 1st no less than 580 people were arrested after their attempts to mark workers day; and there are multiple signs of intolerance within the society itself, which seems to be falling deeper into the hands of a party which openly declares itself islamist.

 

Notwithstanding the obvious contradictions – tensions between extremists on the right and left of the political divide, between islamic fundamentalism and secularism – AKP still enjoys broad support among the electorate.  The ocean of protesters who filled Istanbul last Sunday against the islamification of the State, do not seem to have borne mush influence on the situation: from various surveys and polls published on Internet the majority of Turks are not contrary to having Gul as president; in the increasingly probably early elections 65% of Turks would vote AKP.

 

 

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