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Elections in Turkey: More of the same

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Some 9,000 Syrians fleeing violence and persecution have already crossed the border and requested refuge in Turkey. The civil war in Libya has dealt a heavy blow to large-scale Turkish investments there.

In Iraq, the relative political stability, which was achieved after last year's elections, is still precarious. The new Turkish government will face daunting challenges in the Middle East and of one them is, of course, repairing Turkish-Israeli relations, which have been badly damaged over the last two years.

The foreign policy issues that the new AKP Government will confront are not limited to the Middle East.

The accession of Turkey to the European Union has to be revitalized. The Cyprus conflict, which constitutes one of the main obstacles to accession to the EU, remains without a solution since 1963.The initiative to normalize relations with Armenia is still stalled.

AKP should more energetically tackle all these problems in the early months of the new mandate and also seek the support of the opposition. Experience has shown that the best period for a government to tackle difficult problems are the first six months. After that, all political parties usually concentrate their attention solely on the next elections.

Some people have been surprised by the extent of AKP's victory. They assumed that, after nine years in power and some controversial policies and attitudes perceived as authoritarian or ideological, the support for AKP would inevitably diminish.

To a large extent, the media propagated this opinion as well. The CHP leadership tried to convey the image of a party very confident of its own victory. But they were forgetting that what really matters is economic growth and the scale and quality of social services.

In these two areas, the performance of AKP is indeed impressive. To give just a few examples, the GDP, which was 230 billion dollars in 2002, has now reached the level of 736 billion dollars. The per capita GDP is now 10,000 dollars.

At a time when countries such as Spain, Portugal, and particularly Greece have accumulated foreign debts surpassing their GDP, Turkey's foreign debt is equivalent to only 28.7 percent of GDP. The economic development has permitted a vast extension of social services. Between 2003 and 2011, some 500 hospitals and 1384 clinics have been built. All citizens have now medical insurance. Most of the people living in shanty towns have now moved to modern apartment houses.

It would be wrong to say that the picture is rosy in every respect. The Turkish democracy is far from being perfect. There have been some attempts to intimidate the media, the freedom of expression continues to be limited, minority rights are not fully respected, and the justice system is in need of substantial reforms.

But the remedy to all these problems is still democracy. As Winston Churchill has said, "Democracy is the worst political system, except all the others."


Article by İlter Trkmen,  a Turkish diplomat who served as the Foreign Minister of Turkey in 1980-1983.

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Elections in Turkey: More of the same

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