Originally Published in 2002:
On November 3 voters delivered a devastating rebuff to all the parties that have dominated Turkish politics for the past two decades. None of the parties in the previous governing coalition cleared the 10 percent vote needed to secure parliamentary representation. The opposition Party of the Right Path (DYP), led by the former head of government, Tansu Ciller, also failed to get into parliament. The election result is an expression of the growing anger and discontent on the part of substantial layers of the population in relation to the country’s corrupt political elite. Turkey has experienced a worsening economic crisis over the past 18 months. Two million workers have lost their jobs and the value of the Turkish currency, the lira, has halved against the US dollar. It is above all lower and middle-income workers and their families who have shouldered the brunt of unemployment and inflation. Widespread social discontent has resulted in an electoral victory for the Islamist Party of Justice and Development (AKP), which will occupy nearly two-thirds of the 550 seats in the Turkish parliament. The party will play the leading role in the new parliament although it won just 35 percent of the vote. Its absolute parliamentary majority is a result of the failure of most of the other parties to cross the 10 percent hurdle. When one compares the hopes and expectations which Erdogan and the AKP encouraged in their election campaign with the party’s rapid adoption, after the election, of the course advocated by the IMF, the US and the EU, then it is evident that this election victory is only a temporary stage in the continuing political and economic crisis in Turkey. The anger and discontent which swept aside the Turkish political establishment will inevitably backfire on the AKP.