Monday, March 30, 2009

Confident on its path, Turkey votes

There live, blogging the election in Turkey

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.
I checked the last two figures with the CIA World Factbook. The restaurateur knew his figures. The article concludes: "Economic fundamentals are sound, marked by moderate economic growth and foreign direct investment." Though the latter is no doubt slowing, the people seem confident about their country's future.

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.


  1. And human rights mean nothing?

    My grandparents survived a genocide that Turkey denies happened in its history. The Ataturk ultranationalism is what stops Turkey from being admitted to the EU in addition to its track records on human rights (esp. minority rights), treatment of prisoners, etc. Insulting Turkishness is a criminal offense and is applied regularly to journalists and academics who seek to find the reality of its history particularly in matters of genocide and minorities.

    I am surprised this means nothing to you as a journalist, Jotman - particularly the assassination of Hrant Dink and the support for his assassins.

    In 2005 Mein Kampf made the Best Seller list. The ultranationalism is and remains a problem. The "you need us" mentality is a sign of that militaristic notion of superiority - not the kind of same kind of thing we associate with the word "confidence." It is a bullying mentality. Every summer there is another provocation with Greece, that is meant to compensate for internal problems.


  2. J,

    Thanks for having brought to our attention some of the pressing questions concerning human rights in Turkey.


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