IOS holds lecture on “Turkish General Elections: Results and Implications”

November 10, 2015 at 162, Jogabai, Institute Building, Jamia Nagar, New Delhi

L-R: Prof. Javed Ahmad Khan, Centre for West Asian Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi; Prof. Aftab Kamal Pasha of the Centre for West Asian and African Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University; Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam, Chairman of the IOS;

The Institute of Objective Studies hosted a lecture on the “Turkish General Elections: Results and Implications” on November 10, 2015 at the conference hall of the Institute. Delivering the lecture Prof. Arshi Khan of Department of Political Science, AMU, Aligarh and Member of General Assembly, IOS, held that the stunning victory of the Justice and Development (AK) party of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, in the snap poll called on November 1 last would turn over a new leaf in the country. The election was necessitated because AK refused to accept losing its majority in the previous poll in June. The religious-nationalist party’s campaign strategy involved cracking down on Kurdish militants. He believed that AK would use its political capital to restart the peace process with the Kurds. He said that Erdogan and AK were optimistic that they could use their pro-religious credentials to split conservative Kurdish parties. He observed that AK officials had begun discussing plans for Erdogan’s long-standing ambition: Changing the constitution to create an executive presidency. Erdogan would allow Ahmet Devutoglu, the prime minister, to wield official power, while pulling the strings in the background. Prof. Khan said European leaders were desperate for Turkish help in stemming the flow of migrants. In mid-October the European Union and Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, agreed to reopen negotiations on several aspects of accession of Turkey to EU in exchange for a deal on refugees.

Prof. Khan remarked that the AK Party defied pollsters and even expectations of its own strategists, consolidating support from the right to claw back a parliamentary majority that would bolster Erodogan’s grip on power. The result handed the AK Party 317 of the 550 seats in parliament, only 13 short of the number Erdogan would need for a national referendum on constitutional changes. He said that the vote came at a critical time for Turkey on the global stage, with the United States dependent on Turkish air bases in the fight against Islamic State in Syria and the European Union desperate for Turkish help with its growing refugee crisis. He noted that Erdogan’s victory, two weeks ahead of a G-20 summit in the Mediterranean city of Antalya, left Western allies dealing with an emboldened leader they might already know, but whose cooperation had not always been easy to secure. He observed that financial markets rallied on the poll results with the lira on track for its biggest one-day jump in seven years and stocks up by 5 per cent, relieved that the uncertainty from an election cycle stretching back almost two years, had finally ended. He said that Turkey was not an ordinary country; it had a rich cultural legacy from the Ottoman Empire.

Underlining the importance of Turkey as a strong country, Prof. Khan said that it was Asia’s door to Europe. Turkey was developing the world’s largest airport in Istanbul which could receive 1260 aircraft daily. Besides, Turkish Airlines won the world’s best airlines award. In order to supplement its energy needs, Turkey had set up to two nuclear reactors. The Turkish military, he said, played a pivotal role in the empowerment of the people by democratising the polity. This could be understood in terms of revival of Islamic spirit in the country. While 40 percent of the country’s economy was controlled by the military, the AK Party had given a new identity to the people.

Decent roads, school buildings and other infrastructure bore testimony to socio-economic development of the country. He said that Erdogan might not be an Ataturk, but certainly he was a charismatic figure who established connect with the people with his speeches that were patiently listened. Referring to the Syrian problem, he said that Russia and Iran had complicated the crisis. The Syrian conflict was a world problem and needed to be tackled with the participation of all the stakeholders. He explained that Turkey wanted to be the energy hub of Europe. He said that software was the latest addition to the achievements made by Turkey. The country could boast of setting up 35 thousand Information Technology labs and a number of database halls where training was being imparted to Turkish youth. He remarked that after the elections, Turkey had become the most important Muslim country to be watched.

The Chairman of the IOS, Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam presented some facts about Turkey which reflected the progress the country has made. He said that Turkey’s national GDP had gone upto about 1.1 trillion dollars in 2013. Erdogan’s efforts made the country become 10th economy of the world from 111th position, qualifying it to enter G-20. During the last 10 years, 125 new universities, 189 schools and 510 hospitals were opened. Per capita income during the period rose from 3,500 dollars to 11,000 dollars annually. He said that Erdogan was the only leader who along with his wife undertook a visit to Myanmar for sharing the miseries of Rohangya Muslims. He was also promoting the Usmani script (the language written in Arabic letters). He held that at the instance of Erdogan about 10 thousand Muslim children of seven years took out a march on the streets of Istanbul declaring that they had now attained the age of seven years and were proud that hence they would offer prayers five times a day and commence memorising the holy Quran.

Presiding over the function, Prof. Aftab Kamal Pasha of the Centre for West Asian and African Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University shed light on the post-election phase of Turkey and said that the result was a huge personal victory for the 61-year old Erdogan, who might now be able to secure enough support for his ambition to expand his role into a powerful French-style executive presidency. He said that the political landscape had changed dramatically in Turkey since June, with the country even more divided along ethnic and sectarian lines.

Distinguished Audience

Earlier, the lecture began with the recitation of a verse from holy Quran by Hafiz Athar Husain. Prof. Javed Ahmad Khan from the Centre for West Asian Studies, JMI conducted the proceeding. A large number of scholars, social activists and prominent citizens were present on the occasion. Notables among those who attended the function included Dr. Hasina Hashia, Mushtaq Ahmad, Dr. Eqbal Husain, Syed Mehdi Husain, Syed Mohsin Ali Kirmani, Naushad Ahmad, Chauhan, Mohammad Moinuddin, Haseeb Ahmed, Mumtaz Ahmad, and Mufti Ahmad Nadir Al Qasmi.


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