Turkey celebrates 90th anniversary, 'Ataturk vs Erdogan'

2014 elections to decide nation's future direction

31 October, 14:24

    (ANSAmed) - ANKARA, OCTOBER 31 - This week Turkey is celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Republic that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk intended as a secular state; nevertheless, on Thursday three female MPs from the governing Islamic party AKP entered Parliament wearing an Islamic headscarf, thereby breaking the last of the taboos set down by the ''father of the homeland''. The act is symbolic of the critical juncture at which the country finds itself, between a political, neo-Ottoman Islam that PM Erdogan seems to want and an at least partial recovery of the European, secular spirit of 1923: a choice between Ataturk and Erdogan, the two statesmen who have had the largest influence on the country over the past century but are diametrical opposites. ''The ten years of Erdogan government and his ideology are a reaction against the progressive push for a new society from Ataturk,'' said Rasit Kaya, professor of political science at Ankara's Odtu University. ''It is significant that the Gezi Park protestors who took to the streets against Erdogan's authoritarian exercise of power and his race towards Islam have been called 'Ataturk's soldiers'.'' Three crucial elections over the coming year will decide the country's direction: local ones in March, presidential ones in the summer to be followed by parliamentary ones. If Erdogan's AKP wins, many expect that the country will become ever more Islamic. The competition seems to have started already, with heated debate all around. The head of the main opposition party CHP, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has accused Erdogan of being ''a dictator'' The polls that came out after the massive uprising of the young ''Europeans'' of Gezi Park in June and Erdogan's resulting heavy-handed crackdown put the AKP as down by 10% (due to the loss of many liberal voters), compared with the 50% support it raked in at the last parliamentary election. They also did not rule out a win by the two large Kemalist parties - the progressive CHP and the nationalist MHP - if they were to join forces, a prospect that in any case seems unlikely for the time being. The first crucial battle will be the Istanbul city council elections. The AKP-led megalopolis on the Bosporus with its 17 million inhabitants - almost a quarter of the total Turkish population - accounts for almost half of the national economy and is the country's window onto the world. A win by the opposition would put the ''sultan'' of Ankara - who will then go on to stand as candidate for head of state - in difficulty. The state of the economy will also heavily influence the elections.

    Since it came to power in 2002, the ''AKP system'' ensured political stability and economic development, with ''Chinese'' growth rates, up until three years ago. Turkey is now the 17th largest world economy. But the Turkish engine has started to slow. Analysts warn of a risk of a ''bubble'' in the likes of what was seen in Spain, swollen by high levels of public and private debt.

    Industrial production has dropped by 1.4%, the stock exchange by 12%, the Turkish lira is losing ground against the euro and the dollar and foreign investment has slowed. The war in Syria may also have an effect on the elections, possibly of a destabilising nature now that Al Qaeda has put down roots along Turkish borders: a result of the tolerance - if not actually aid - extended by Erdogan to counter the Syrian regime, charge the opposition.(ANSAmed).

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