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Turkey’s Election

Monday, July 23, 2007  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

While visiting Turkey last month, I had a guide who repeatedly told our group that Turkey would never become a state with Sharia law as she and most women of Turkey would never allow it. She spoke at length about her education and the opportunities available to women in Turkey, and denounced the head scarf worn by the wife of the president of Turkey.

The election results in Turkey suggest she may not have had her fingers on the pulse of the country. From the opening of the account of the tally in the New York Times:

The Islamic-inspired governing party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a larger-than-expected victory in nationwide parliamentary elections on Sunday, taking close to half the total vote in a stinging rebuke to Turkey’s old guard.

With nearly all the votes counted, the Justice and Development Party led by Mr. Erdogan won 46.6 percent of the vote, according to Turkish election officials, far more than the 34 percent the party garnered in the last election, in 2002.

The secular state establishment had expected that voters would punish Mr. Erdogan’s party for promoting an Islamic agenda. But the main secular party, the Republican People’s Party, received just 20.9 percent, compared with 19 percent in the last election. The Nationalist Action Party, which played on fears of ethnic Kurdish separatism, won 14.3 percent, officials said.

The results were a mandate for Mr. Erdogan’s party, with large numbers of voters sending the message that they did not feel it is a threat to Turkish democracy. It fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to amend the Constitution, a blank check that secular Turks fear. According to the preliminary results, Mr. Erdogan’s party will have at least 340 seats in the 550-seat Parliament. The main secular party will have at least 111; the nationalists at least 71, and independents an unusually large 28 or more.

Glenn Reynold’s correspondent in Turkey, Claire Berlinski, e-mails Instapundit with a “not to worry.”

If Berlinski is correct, then everyone welcoming Khomeni would have anticipated the theocracy that followed. I suspect that wasn’t the case, and I suspect as well that a few pictures of women celebrating the election results is cold comfort to my guide and many many other secularists in Turkey.

The Indispensible Gergaghty hasn’t posted on the elections yet, but watch his blog as Jim has spent considerable time in Turkey. I hope he gives us his assessment.

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