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Turkey's Ruling Parties Routed In Elections
TURKEY'S ELECTORATE passed judgement on the governing coalition's handling of the country's economic crisis by voting them out of office.
The chief beneficiary of the massive protest vote was the 'Muslim democrats' of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), who secured a parliamentary majority with around 35% support.
The election was called early after the governing coalition started to disintegrate over the continuing economic recession and the handling of a $16 billion bail-out loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's mis-named Democratic Left Party won a pathetic 1% while his two coalition partners, including the far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP), failed to obtain the 10% threshold vote needed for Parliamentary representation.
The secularist Republican People's Party (CHP), with no parliamentary representation at the last election, secured 19.3% of the vote (178 seats).
However, the leader of AKP, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, cannot become prime minister as he was banned by the pro-military courts from standing for parliament for inciting 'religious hatred'.
The power behind the Turkish state remains the military whose capitalist, secularist ideology - based on modern Turkey's (established in 1923) founding father Kemal Ataturk - is opposed to both an Islamic state and socialism. The military has carried out several coups to halt workers' struggles and in 1997 to remove a government headed by an earlier incarnation of AKP.
Erdogan has gone out of his way to stress that AKP hasn't a hidden Islamist agenda, that it favours Turkey's early entry into the European Union and supports the capitalist global economy. Turkey's capitalists gave AKP a cautious welcome as the stock market surged by 7.2% and the lira currency recovered some of its earlier fall (reaching a record low) against the US dollar.
Erdogan is, however, more lukewarm about US-led plans to attack Iraq. Turkey is crucial as a staging post for an invasion force and last week was visited by US general Tommy Franks, the man responsible for military operations. However, Erdogan has said that any action must be first approved by the United Nations.
Underpinning Turkey's political crisis is the country's acute economic problems. Similar to Argentina's capitalist crisis Turkey's economy faced meltdown after a flight of capital and the collapse of the currency last year, during which the economy shrank by 7.4%. This followed an 18 month-long IMF imposed austerity budget which meant the country's working class paid a heavy price - ie millions unemployed, 80% inflation, wage cuts and privatisation, leading to mass protests by trade unions and small traders.
In February 2002, the IMF approved a further $16 billion three-year loan dependent on massive cuts in government spending and more privatisations. And although the economy has revived, it has been a jobless recovery.
Failure to deal with the ongoing crisis prompted a series of high-profile defections from Ecevit's party.
Desperate for assistance, Turkey's capitalist class has sought to gain entry into the EU by seemingly liberalising its laws to tackle its appalling human rights record. It recently abolished the death penalty sparing the life of jailed Kurdish PKK leader Abdullah Ocelan and has granted limited political and civil rights to Turkey's large Kurdish minority.
Nonetheless, Human Rights Watch say one million Kurds remain internally displaced refugees, unable to return to their towns and villages in the south east where the military had been fighting PKK guerrillas.
Moreover, in the last two years nearly 100 political prisoners have fasted to death or have been killed by military operations in Turkey's brutal and overcrowded jails.
Turkey's working class, with its fighting and socialist traditions, will once again be forced to counter the attacks of Turkey's capitalist class and international capitalism.
The AKP with its pro-market programme will prove as incapable as the previous coalition in dealing with the crisis. The only solution lies on the road of forging a new mass workers' party committed to socialist change.
In The Socialist 8 November 2002: