Turkey: When a Majority Isn’t Enough

Continuing the sample blogs on Turkish politics, here is a post on Turkey’s current government.  I reference those previous posts a lot in this sample…


In June 2011, Turkey’s Islamic AKP , a centre-right party, won a third term in office.  They achieved something pretty rare in a parliamentary system that uses PR voting: they won enough seats to have a single-party majority cabinet.  Across Europe, the United Kingdom is the only country that usually achieves this and they 1) use first-past-the-post elections (which limit the number of parties) and 2) are currently in a minimal winning coalition with the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats (so even the UK doesn’t have a single-party government right now!).

So, the AKP managed to win nearly 50% of the vote (49.8%) and 327 seats in parliament (about 59.5%).  Why wasn’t that good enough?

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has some pretty big plans, and foremost among them is a rewrite of Turkey’s constitution.  Turkey’s current constitution was written in 1982 and heavily influenced by the 1980 military junta, so order and law trumped freedom and democracy.  The rewrite (beginning this year) is likely to tackle some pretty significant issues.

Several outside actors (including the European Union, which has tied Turkey’s membership negotiations to constitutional reforms and to the issue of Cyprus) want Turkey to address issues with political freedom and the treatment of minorities, two areas in which Turkey has received considerable criticism in the past.  Other issues likely on the agenda: the appointment of judges, civil-military relations (a VERY big deal in Turkey!), and figuring out what exactly it is the president might do.

Back to that earlier question of why a majority isn’t enough for the AKP; if they had won just 3 more seats, they would have been able to do this rewrite by themselves.  As it stands now, they will need to gain support from one of Turkey’s other political parties: either the secular centre-left (but nationalist) Republican Party, the Far Right National Movement Party, or the Kurdish BDP (a party the AKP seems to pretend doesn’t exist at times).  Appealing to one or more of these parties is going to be a challenge for the AKP.

However, given that Erdogan’s critics believe that he is most interested in bolstering his personal power in these reforms, having this potential check on AKP power is probably a good thing.

References

Turkey’s ruling AKP wins third term.  13 June 2011. Retrieved from http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2011/06/2011612234318956351.html

Wolfram Nordsieck. 2011. Turkey.  Retrieved from http://www.parties-and-elections.de/turkey.html

Steven Cook. 2012. Turkey: You Say You Want a Constitution.  Retrieved from the Council on Foreign Relations at http://blogs.cfr.org/cook/2012/03/20/turkey-you-say-you-want-a-constitution/

Dan Bilefsky and Sebnem Arsu. 2012. Charges Against Journalists Dim the Democratic Glow in Turkey. The New York Times, 4 January. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/05/world/europe/turkeys-glow-dims-as-government-limits-free-speech.html?pagewanted=all.


The Assignment Prompt

Overview the current governing coalition of your country’s parliament.

Info to include: Which political parties make up the current governing coalition in your country? Would you say this government is left, centre-left, centre-right, or right (based on average party ideology)? How many seats and what percent of seats in parliament does each party hold (lower house only) and what is the total percent of this coalition? What type of government is this – is it a single-party majority, minimal-winning, oversized, or minority cabinet?  You also might include some mention of recent events that have shaped this coalition.

Blog writing tip for students:  The title of your blog is really important!!!  A lot of readers are going to read your title (not your introduction) to decide whether they want to read more, so try to come up with something eye-catching and/or interesting.

My assessment of this sample: Given this blog deadline was shortly after the last one, I wanted to keep it brief, cover all the required info, but still have something interesting to say about Turkish politics.  Not counting the references, the post itself is barely over a page (double-spaced), so I met the “short” goal!

As for where you can find that interesting spin, draw from your own experiences when possible.  Given my interest in ethnic politics, I’ve had a few students talk with me (and write papers) about what Turkey’s constitutional reforms are likely to mean for the Kurdish population.   As a result, I had a basic understanding of the big issues concerning the reforms that I was able to pull from in writing this post.

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