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Jun-13-2011 17:50printcomments

Turkey can be a Model for Change

This is a victory not only for Prime Minister Erdogan but also for Turkish democracy.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Photo: ft.com

(TEHRAN) - In the nine years of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s leadership, Turkey has not only made fantastic economic progress but it has also assumed a higher profile in the international arena.

On Sunday, Turkish voters rewarded Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has been in power since 2002, with a landslide victory and gave Prime Minister Erdogan a mandate for a third term. His center-right Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, or AK Party, won 49.9 percent of the vote, giving it 326 seats in the 550-member parliament.

The result is also a powerful endorsement of the mixture of neoliberal economics and Islamism offered by Erdogan. With this impressive victory, Erdogan has become the most powerful leader in Turkey since 1938 -- the year when the Turkish Republic’s founding father Kemal Ataturk bid adieu to this world.

The AKP rescued Turkey’s economy from the abyss it fell into during the 2001 crash, when inflation reached 138 percent and “buying a kebab in the old currency cost a seven-figure sum.”

In the pre-AKP days, per capita income in Turkey was hovering around $3,000 and the country’s total exports never crossed $30 billion. Turkey was just another Islamic country reeling under recurring military coups and dictatorships and struggling to find its identity. Turkish brands were treated with scorn in the world market, and Turkish businessmen were not very influential in economic circles.

Bur under the AKP’s able leadership, all this has changed. Inflation is down to 7.2 percent, per capita income has risen to $10,000, and exports are expected to approach $134 billion in 2011, making Turkey the sixth strongest economy in Europe and the 17th largest in the world.

The generalissimos will never return to power, and democrats are cruising along toward a brighter future. Turkey’s new image has boosted sales of its brands, and Turkish businessmen are globetrotting for new business opportunities, competing with the captains of industry.

Turkish companies are competing successfully in the European Union, the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Modern Turkey is the envy of the developing world and is enjoying an economic growth rate close to China’s.

Erdogan has also changed Turkey’s place in the world. Long before the AKP hit the scene, the Kemalist republic had morphed into the deep state, which became a subservient ally of the U.S., a NATO member, and a friend of Israel.

But Erdogan’s AKP miraculously sent Turkey’s legacy of military rule to the dustbin of history. Under his leadership, Turkey has steadily distanced itself from the United States and Israel and showed an increasing disinclination to participate in U.S.-NATO adventurism in various parts of the world.

And the new Turkey has deepened its ties with the Islamic world, especially with countries in Southwest Asia and North Africa, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, and established new relationships in Africa and Latin America. All this has made Erdogan a popular leader in the Islamic world and the most successful prime minister at home.

However, the election result falls short of the two-thirds majority needed to rewrite Turkey’s military constitution of 1982 without having to consult parliament. In his victory speech, Erdogan said the AKP would “discuss the new constitution with opposition parties.”

“The people gave us a message to build the new constitution through consensus and negotiation,” he told supporters in Ankara. This is a victory not only for Prime Minister Erdogan but also for Turkish democracy. With a new mandate to govern for another term, the AKP will now seek a broad consensus to write a new constitution and find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue.

Papa Tayyip, as he is called by his supporters, promised an ambitious program of development for Turkey during his election campaign. His crazy projects, as he himself calls them, include a canal from the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea, a new city to be built outside Istanbul, a third airport for Istanbul, a third bridge over the Bosphorus, new hospitals, new earthquake-resistant housing, and even ebooks for all students in Turkey.

Turkish voters have given Erdogan a mandate to implement his ambitious plans, promulgate an independent foreign policy, and make Turkey a more democratic and more progressive nation. Turkey’s gradual rise during the last decade under the AKP’s shrewd leadership can be a model for other Islamic countries.

_________________________________

The writer, Gul Jammas Hussain, is a Pakistani journalist based in Tehran. Gul's writing takes into account the long struggle of the Palestinian people, whose plight is largely ignored by western media. Salem-News.com is extremely pleased to feature the work of Gul Hussain as we believe that Americans and other western people, need to receive information about the Middle East, from the Middle East, whenever possible. We are glad to amplify the voice of Gul and other writers who seek to deliver true, unfiltered information to the world at large.

If you would like to contact Gul Jammas Hussain in Tehran, you can send an email to this address: guljammas@gmail.com.




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