Sunday, June 7, 2015

Turkish Elections

Turks will be going to the polls this weekend, in an election that is likely to determine the future of their country, and have major consequences for US foreign relations.  Recip Tayip Erdogan, who has become increasingly Putinesque over the past decade, is hoping to win a 60% majority in Parliament, enabling him to change the Turkish constitution and solidify his power.

As a NATO member, Turkey is a vital participant in US Middle East operations.  The US looks to Turkey as a partner in its struggle against ISIS (aka etc. etc.), but that partnership has not been what the US might have expected before Ergogan's Islamist party came to power.  It well may be that Erdogan feels more comfortable with ISIS across the border than the Kurds, and his participation in the war against ISIS has been sorely lacking.

As Iraq fragments into Shi'a, Sunni, and Kurdish sectors, and the likelihood that the Kurds finally will achieve the Kurdish homeland they have aspired to for at least the past century, Erdogan feels increasingly threatened by the PKK and other Kurdish nationalists in Turkey.  Personally, I believe that the Kurds deserve a homeland, including Kurdish Iraq, Kurdish Syria and, ideally, Kurdish Turkey as well.  It is understandable that the Turks are unwilling to see a significant chunk of their country pulled away to become part of greater Kurdistan, but tacit support for ISIS by the Erdogan government can only help to further exacerbate conflict in the Middle East.

It also is in the best interest of the US for the secularists who led Turkey since the days of Ataturk maintain essential political influence.  If the current election gives Erdogan the ability to aggrandize his increasingly autocratic power, we all are losers.

Great news!  Not only did Erdogan not make his 60%, he lost his parliamentary majority!  Better yet, the biggest gains were by the pro-Kurdish HDP (People's Democratic Party), which made significant outreach to secularists, gays, women, and others not comfortable with Islamism.  Hooray!

No comments: