As few within the UK and Ireland seem to be covering the Turkish General Election which takes place on 22nd July, I thought I would offer the odd piece on this subject to readers of Organized Rage. We are now into the meat of the campaign and it looks like the AK Party will gain enough votes to continue in office. A couple of interesting things that have arisen in recent days is that two of Turkey,s main minorities groups, the Kurds and Armenians look like voting for the AK Party of Prime Minister Erdogan in considerable numbers.[Justice and Development Party (AKP).]
The problem smaller parties have in Turkey is they must gain 10% over all to gain entrance to Parliament. In the mainly Kurdish city and provinces of Diyarbakır, the AK party is expected to win at least as many seats as the latest incarnation of the Kurdish movement, the Democratic Society Party (DTP). While the composition of the population in this area is predominantly Kurdish, the AK Party has become the first truly national party to draw away support from the Kurdish movements in decades. It increased its support in the region from 15 percent in 2002, to 30 percent in 2004 and is expected to increase it even further this time around.
In order to bypass the 10-percent election threshold which works against the best interest of minority groups, several of the Kurdish Democratic Society Party executives resigned and are running as independent candidates. It seems likely that the four independent candidates backed by the DTP are sure to get elected, the challenge facing the party is the fact that a significant part of their electorate cannot read or write in Turkish and will find it hard to locate the name of the candidates on the two-meter-long ballot paper. Unlike other provinces in the region, Diyarbakır is not dominated by the feudal clan structure (Aşiret) due to the hundreds of thousands of displaced villagers moving into the province during the 1990s conflict between the army and PKK. Consequently, the main issues that will dominate are ethnicity, in favor of the DTP, and religion which will favor the conservative political islam of the AK Party.
In Istanbul where a majority of Turkish Armenians live, the Prime Minster and leader of AK Party Recep Tayyip Erdogan since coming into office has been assiduously courting the Patriarch Mesrob II, head of the Armenian church in Istanbul and Turkey. He has even offered close associate’s of the Patriarch places on the AK Party 2007 candidates list, thus guaranteeing that some of them will be elected to the next parliament.