Politics, Part One

I’m just starting to learn about politics, and the political system here in Turkey.  And what a good time to learn, as national elections are this Sunday.  The history of this country is so fascinating – a long, winding saga.

The handsome and revered Mustafa Kemel, or Ataturk.

After the collapse of a 600-year rule by the Ottomans (brought on by a poor decision to align with Germany in World War I), a man named Mustafa Kemal, now called Ataturk or “father of the Turks” led a 3-year war of independence (against Greeks, Russians, French and Italians) to establish a secular republic.  Ataturk played a large role in getting Turkey “caught up” – not just economically and politically, but also with a large focus on social issues, which took the country away from it’s religious rule.  His philosophy is called Kemalism.

Ataturk is very popular with the majority of the Turkish people.  You don’t walk into a place of business without seeing his picture on the wall.  And there are statues and monuments aplently.  It’s extremely interesting to see such reverence for one leader.  I can’t think of an equivalent in the US – can you?

Turkey is led by a Prime Minister and President, although the prime minister has the majority of power.  There’s a 550-seat parliament, with reps elected for 4-year terms.  Much like the US, a party sees more action if they win both the executive and legislative branches. However, unlike the US, there are more than 40 political parties.  And, a party must get a 10% national threshold vote in order to actually serve.

With that being said, the party currently ruling is the AKP, or the Justice & Development Party.

Prime Minister Erdogan, of the AKP Party.

They are pretty darn conservative, and from what I’ve learned, have definitely rocked the boat while in office, starting to call for reforms that lean away from the current emphasis on social freedoms and secularism. There’s also been some strong restrictions on freedom of press, and access to internet sites around the world.   But, Turkey’s economy has been very healthy during their rule, so they will most likely be re-elected.  What will be important is whether or not they carry the parliament as well.  If they do, there could be some major changes coming to this country.  The Economist recently wrote this article  that simultaneously praises the current prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but encourages the Turkish people to vote for the opposition, or CHP (The Republican People’s Party).




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