Tonight all over Turkey, people are glued to their television sets, checking the election results.
Turks I have spoken to say point to the economic strength of recent years as their main reason for returning the incumbent Islamic party to power. My last visit to Turkey was seven years ago -- in the spring of 2002 -- when Turkey was just coming out of a recession. Istanbul seems far more prosperous today.
One restaurant owner rattled off statistics highlighting the economic growth of Turkey during the period of my absence. He told me that:
- turkey had gone from being the world's 25th richest country to the 15th
- inflation was down to only 7%
- the average annual income has climbed from $3,000 to $10,000.
What about the question of EU membership? Since I was last in Turkey, the European Union has invited numerous states to join its club - several remain less developed and democratic than Turkey. What message has Europe sent the Turks? Ahmet, a college student I spoke with -- his major was Russian literature -- provided an answer to my question.
Ahmet said, "Seven years ago attaining EU membership was all we talked about [I can vouch for that]. But today Turks' attitude is that we can make it ourselves. We don't need Europe. But Europe will someday realize it needs us."
Ahmet wished the politicians in Ankara would acknowledge this fact and stop pandering to Europeans.
Blogging tonight from Istanbul, I find it easy to imagine that an aging Europe will one day be courting the favors of a young, proud and prosperous Turkey.
Photos by Jotman.