Turkey election results: Advice on forming a government, Don’t!
By Taha Meli Arvas
Sometimes there are single words or idioms in a language which speak volumes to “outsiders,” giving them insights into the psyche of the local population. One such word and more importantly the way it is used in Turkish is “Avrupayi,” meaning European or “of Europe.” The word “European” doesn’t carry a connotation, positive or negative, to the average American English speaker; it’s generally neutral. To the average Turk, however, Avrupayi is almost exclusively used in a positive context, as if aspirational. To sum up Turkey’s parliamentary elections that took place Sunday in one word, I will have to go with, “Avrupayi.”
I’ll excuse you while you adjust your ascots and fascinators. Okay, shall we proceed? You might like European vacations, admire its history, its people, even its food, however, the one thing you will almost never hear someone say is, “The Europeans have really perfected democracy.”
Currently, the United Kingdom is ruled by Her Majesty’s Prime Minister, David Cameron. A man whose government has veto power in the United Nations Security Council, may make or break the European Union with its threats to abandon it and whose policies effect commonwealth countries upon which the sun literally never sets. That’s pretty impressive. This prime minister must have received a grand mandate from the people in order to shoulder such responsibilities, no? Cameron was elected prime minister with only 36.9 percent of the vote. This might seem like a low number to Americans who are accustomed to a two-person race, but this is common in Europe. The majority almost always loses. The only person in the history of Turkish politics to receive a majority of votes, whether you like him or not, was President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan only eight months ago, with 52 percent of the vote. No other politician has ruled with a mandate in the Republic’s history.
The Belgians, perhaps the most European of the Europeans, spent more than 18 months, 541 days to be precise, trying to form a government following lopsided elections. The Italians (as I wrote in a recent column) have elections every 18 months and fight over who should rule the country. Separatists in Spain, Belgium, the U.K. and other parts of Europe always want to break-away from their “oppressive” governments. The Greeks, the inventors of modern democracy, also elected a prime minister, Alexis Tsipras from the Syriza party, with 36 percent of the vote this year. During the same election, nine other parties received less than 7 percent but more than 1 percent of the vote; combined they had more of a mandate than Syriza.
Whether you are a fan of this type of divided, uncertain and shaky form of government or not, one thing is certain: The people lose. Late on Monday, the Turkish stock exchange is down by over 6 percent, the Turkish lira was also down by over 5 percent and CDSs, insurance against political uncertainty, was 7 percent more expensive. This is the result of the divided elections. Gas, water and electricity prices will increase and foreign investment will decrease as an uncertain government does little to attract investors. Those who faulted the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) for their economic policies are hardly being “greeted as liberators” by financial markets, and the public is having to pay a regressive tax for their choices in the form of higher prices.
The reality is that the ruling AK Party received 41 percent of the vote, by European standards, a landslide. The problem is that the rest of the votes lie among three other parties. Without making judgments as to the validity of the arguments of any of these parties, I must ask: Now that the elections are over and the people have spoken, will the people get what they wanted? Will the separatist pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) be able to help their Kurdish constituents with a 13 percent showing? Will the ultra-nationalists be able to counter the Kurd’s power with their 16 percent of the vote? What about the nine-time loser, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), how can they claim to have won?
The unfortunate truth is that Turkey has become “European.” Unlike the truly European Belgians, Greeks and Italians, we don’t have a common currency to guarantee monetary stability. Those with a vested interest in influencing the elections did so and profited handsomely – only 9 stocks out of 357 stocks haven’t fallen, while billions of dollars in market cap has evaporated. The elites will rule the country, as they do in Europe, and profit from the labor of the few.
My advice to the winning AK Party charged with forming a government: Don’t. The majority of Turks, 59 percent, chose someone else. Nothing lasts forever; give them a chance to form a government. Either they will be able to and then will either be successful or fail. If you truly care about the country, only the latter will concern you, in which case you will be called on to run the government once again and save us from the Avrupayi trap.