Economic issues loom large on Turkey’s election day
Turkish voters are casting their ballots today for parliamentary candidates. The elections are expected to transform the Republic’s political scene and bring to power the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), headed by Istanbul’s popular former mayor, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Considering that general public sentiment is running high against the nation's current leaders, accused of corruption, poor leadership and mismanagement of the economy, it is widely anticipated that the AKP could win most of the 550 seats in Parliament. AKP is followed in the polls by the Republican People's party (CHP), a left-wing secular party led by Deniz Baykal. Most parties currently represented in Parliament will doubtfully cross the 10 percent threshold to parliamentary representation.
Turkey’s dire economic condition underlies the early elections, originally scheduled for April 2004. Massive foreign debt, soaring inflation, poverty and unemployment are all expressions of what is considered to be the country’s worst recession since 1945. While the ruling parties have failed to reinvigorate the economy over past two years, the Islamists have managed to build up an alternative welfare system, offering housing, education, employment and healthcare services.
AKP was founded last year by the former members of the banned Islamist Virtue Party (FP). Its leader, Erdogan, has recently been disqualified from acting as a member of parliament, having been convicted in 1998 of inciting religious tensions. Without being an elected MP, Erdogan could not serve as Turkey’s prime minister, however he could still work to amend the laws to allow him to serve as a government minister.
A likely candidate for premiership could therefore come from possible coalition partner CHP. The party’s popular new member Kemal Dervis has served as economy minister in Bulent Ecevit’s government since mid-2001. Entrusted with wide economic responsibilities, Dervis masterminded a tight rescue plan for the Turkish economy, backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
AKP has reiterated its commitment to implement the $16 billion crisis package granted by the IMF. The party also pledged to push ahead with Turkey's drive to join the European Union (EU).
A first Islamist-led government, which came to power under Necmettin Erbakan in 1996, has been ousted after a year by an army-led campaign. — (menareport.com)
© 2002 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)
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