The sweeping victory of Recep Tayyib Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party in Turkey’s most challenging and crucial parliamentary election is a testimony for the wise and visionary leadership of Erdogan as he challenges the military establishment and the parties that ruled Turkey for most of its recent history. Turkey’s democracy came out much stronger because of this election and because of Erdogan and Gul.
Tayyib Erdogan and Abdullah Gul won a clear vote of confidence from the people of Turkey as a reward for the stability, economic growth, reform and the corruption free government that has characterized the tenure of the Justice and Development Party.
Perhaps the people wanted to redefine and refine the idea of a “Turkish Secular State” that respect and recognize the role of religion plays in the people’s life but not necessarily as the source of its laws. As such Tayyib Erdogan did not win on a platform of “ Islam is the Solution” as is the case in many of the Arab Muslim countries where “Islamist” parties always advance the much often used and misused slogan. Of course many of the “Islamist” parties always failed to explain how Islam will solve the problems of unemployment and poverty, solve corruptions and incompetence of the government, solve the problem of education and economic growth and of course solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. They simply say, “Islam is the Solution”. Of course and so far, these “Islamists” parties failed at every thing and showed that Islam is not the Solution.
The Turkish vote confirm Turkish voters are much more mature and sophisticated than their counterpart in the Arab world. Of course in the Turkish election, Erdogan did not win a 99.9 % of the vote and his party did not win a referendum but won in a very tough fight. Secularist Parties such as The Republican People Party that ruled Turkey for most of its recent history failed to convince, or better said, intimidate the voters that Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party was about to change the “secular” nature of the state as defined by Kamal Attaturk. Its politics of fear failed.
The problem with secular Turkey is that it rejects outright any value system that is based in religion and goes much father than any western secular state by denying entry to public place such a university,public office, or eveb a hospital ( can you imagine that)to any women who chose to wear the hijab or the Islamic scarf. Some generals went as far as threatening they would not enter the presidential office if the wife of Abdullah Gul were inside since she wears the hijab. Perhaps the US and not France can teach the Turks something about secularism and respect for religion.
For most if not all-secular Turk there is confusion as to what secularism is all about. Their secularism is far from democracy and it exclude and disfranchised from full citizenship all those who chose to express their religious believes and values by wearing the hijab. Secular Turk simply denies such rights to majority of its citizens.
Tayyib Erdogan affirmed his commitments to a reformed secular turkey with the need to address the Kurdish minority as full citizens of the state and recognizing their culture and language. Erdogan needs to address these issues heads on. There is nothing wrong with women wearing the scarf and entering public and government buildings; there is nothing wrong with Kurds speaking their language. Tayyib Erdogan can be the next Attaturk who again carry on with refining and redefining secular Turkey with due respect to its diverse population, and respect the people’s expression of their faith. Within secular Turkey there must be room for such different value system, without being against the nature of the state as a “secular” state.
This is the first time in recent history where a sitting party brought stability and economic growth. The Turkish military always thought of themselves as the guardian of the people’s interest and secular democracy when in fact they ran the country as a military dictatorship with elected civilians as ‘managers”.
For the most part, secular parties such as the Republican People Party were too nationalistic for their own good similar to Germany’s national socialist party. The late Bulent Ecevit was a close to a nationalist dictator as they can come by, jailing so many leftists and in fact with the support of the army ran an absolute dictatorship.
Perhaps this is the golden era of Turkey and the people of Turkey should be very proud of their nation and of their maturity as citizens. They for sure can teach the Arabs few things about democracy, about secularisms and of course about Islamic oriented parties.