Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/486/2394
"No to coups, no to sharia"
Workers need an alternative
TURKEY IS engulfed in political and constitutional crisis, with huge street protests in Ankara and Istanbul. The crisis started after the Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, and a co-founder member of the ruling 'moderate Islamist' AKP (Party for Justice and Development), stood for the presidency.
Niall Mulholland, Committee for a Workers' International (CWI)
The 'secularist' opposition CHP (Republican People's Party) boycotted the first round of voting in parliament. The CHP has close links to the powerful military, which sees itself as the guarantor of Turkey's secular traditions. The CHP and military leaders whipped up fears of Turkey's "creeping Islamisation" under the AKP's rule. On 27 April the army general staff hinted at a coup against the government. Since 1960 the Turkish army has intervened four times to overthrow governments.
An enormous anti-AKP government rally, of up to one million people followed this army announcement. Under this military pressure, Turkey's highest court ruled, on 3 May, that the first round of the presidential election was invalid as it did not have a quorum. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the court decision "a bullet aimed at democracy".
Erdogan brought forward general elections to late June, which the AKP is expected to win. He also announced plans to hold a referendum so presidential elections are decided by popular vote rather than parliament.
The stage is set for more clashes between the AKP government and the CHP and military leaders. These forces represent different interests of the ruling elites, big business and the huge military complex.
The 'Islamist' AKP government, is more pro-EU and pro-market economy than the CHP would be. The Kemalist wing of the establishment is mainly made up from the huge military and state bureaucracy and ferociously protects its power, privileges and influence.
For decades, the Kemalists held power, pursuing pro-capitalist policies and enriching themselves. In 2001, they presided over near financial meltdown. This led to a huge shake-up of the political system. In the absence of a mass socialist alternative, the AKP was able to present itself as a party for the poor and came to power five years ago.
In office, however, the AKP quickly showed international capitalism it was a safe pair of hands. The economy grew on average 7% over the last five years but it left many working people behind, with big parts of the population living in poverty.
However, the populist AKP still enjoys higher poll support than the divided opposition. The AKP gets support from rural areas and from the millions of people from the Anatolia countryside that migrated to the big cities over the last few decades, particularly from conservative, small business people and traders.
Although the AKP espouses a relatively mild Islamist position, the party's social conservatism provokes real anxiety amongst sections of the urban middle class and working class. During the huge mass protests many demonstrators chanted "no to coups" and "no to sharia".
There is concern in the West. Turkey is a strategically vital country, and a key military ally for the US. The US wants to avoid a clash with the Turkish military tops, one of whom recently said a military attack on Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq was "necessary" and "useful". As The Economist (5/05/07) says: "The nightmare for America is Turkish and American soldiers exchanging fire in Iraq."
Missing in all these events is the independent voice of the working class; the only force in society that can show a way forward, by providing a mass socialist alternative to the false promises of the political Islamists, the Kemalists and the army.
In The Socialist 10 May 2007:
Socialist Party election analysis
Campaign for a New Workers Party
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party election campaign
Socialist Party workplace news