Documents to download

At Turkey’s general elections on 12 June 2011, the governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party) won 50% of the overall vote. This was the first time that a ruling party in Turkey has increased its vote in a third term. In the medium term its biggest challenges will be drafting a new constitution, stabilising the economy, and negotiating changing regional relationships, but in the short term it needs to diffuse a crisis over MPs boycotting parliament.

The AK Party has been in power since 2002, presiding over an impressive rise in Turkey’s strength and status after years of unstable coalitions and sporadic military coups. But there have been problems too, some of which were reflected in opposition parties boycotting the swearing-in of new MPs after the 2011 election because judges had barred nine MPs from taking their seats.

One of the AK Party’s stated priorities is drafting a new constitution – partly to move away from the military influence in the 1982 constitution, but also reportedly to increase the powers of the Presidency. But it did not win super-majority that would have allowed it to change the constitution without the support of other political parties. The large group of Kurdish politicians in parliament will undoubtedly increase the demands for greater rights for Turkey’s Kurdish minority. And there are fears that the government is becoming authoritarian, using the courts to clamp down on its opponents, including military personnel and journalists, and introducing widespread internet censorship.

Turkey’s impressive economic growth has meant that the economy was not a significant issue at the Turkish election, though there are problems on the horizon. The main question is whether the AK Party government, which has only ever really known a rapidly growing economy, will be able to successfully slow down unsustainable growth.

Regional relations will continue to be a major issue: since 2002 Ankara has dramatically improved its relationships with capitals across the region, and the government is likely to continue with its policy of ‘zero problems with neighbours’. However, its apparently haphazard response to the Arab Spring suggests that Turkey is learning to balance its national interest with its stated values. EU accession, on the other hand, was almost entirely absent from the election campaign, with no obvious effect. This indicates that Turkey is likely to continue with its current policy of restrained engagement with Brussels. But prospects for Turkish membership of the EU will also be shaped by the outcome of upcoming elections in France and Germany.

Documents to download

Related posts