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Turkey’s Post-Election Future Focus of Helsinki Commission Briefing

Washington – The United States Helsinki Commission will hold a briefing on Turkey’s future following the country’s precedent-setting November 3rd election.

Turkey: What Can We Expect After the November 3rd Election?

Thursday, November 14, 2002

2200 Rayburn House Office Building

10:00 AM – 12:00 Noon

Panelists:
• Abdullah Akyüz, President, Turkish Industrialist and Businessmen’s Association – US, Inc (TUSIAD)
• Sanar Yurdatapan, Musician and Freedom of Expression activist
Jonathan Sugden, Turkey Researcher, Human Rights Watch

On Sunday, November 3, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former mayor of Istanbul, won an unprecedented 34.27 percent of the votes in Turkey’s legislative election. The party won 363 of the 550 seats in the Turkish Grand National Assembly and will form Turkey’s next government. The Republican People’s Party (CHP), led by Deniz Baykal, received 19.39 percent of the votes and won 178 seats in the next Parliament. Independent candidates won the remaining nine seats.

None of Turkey’s other 16 political parties met the ten percent minimum threshold necessary to be represented in the Parliament. Most significantly among them are the three parties of the outgoing tripartite coalition led by Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit:
     • the Democratic Left Party (DSP, nationalist left),
     • the Nationalist Action Party (MHP, ultra nationalist),
     • the Motherland Party (ANAP, center-right).

The AKP’s predecessor, the Democratic People’s Party (DEHAP), also failed to cross the ten percent threshold, receiving just 6.22 percent of the votes at the national level – more than 40 percent in several Kurdish provinces in the East.

The election was held during a rather turbulent time in Turkey. While facing a massive recession, Turks worried about another war with Iraq and its worsening affect on their economy. The continuance of their close relationship with the United States is also a concern of many Turks living in a neighborhood of states increasingly hostile to the United States’ anti-terrorism campaign.

The effect, if any, on the rise of Islamist parties in Turkish politics is yet another concern. All of this following the recent snub by the European Union regarding Turkish accession, and increasingly bleak prospects for a resolution of the Cyprus impasse. At its December 16-19 Copenhagen summit, the European Union is expected to decide whether to give Turkey a date for negotiations.

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