Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Two slaps in the face for Turkey's generals

by Cem Uzun
Turkey's voters gave two slaps in the face to the Generals who forced Sunday's early general election. The Generals had tried to stir up anti-islamist hysteria against the AK Party government and to stir up nationalism by provoking conflict with Turkey's Kurds.
Voters punished the army by giving the moderate islamist AK Party 47% of the vote compared to the 34% they won in the last election in 2002. Voters punished the social democratic opposition that has supported the army consistently by electing 24 of the 63 independent candidates from a Kurdish/Left common list, including two leading figures from the Turkish left.
This is the first time far left candidates have been elected to parliament since 1965. Some of the left candidates not elected also got substantial votes. The election was a firm rejection of the army's coup threats. It also demonstrated the possibility of significant new openings on the Turkish left.
This election victory for the "Common Candidate"campaign is a beacon of hope for the future of the anti-war, anti-nationalist, anti-racist, anti-neoliberal movement in Turkey. The unprecedented unity in the campaign has shown the widespread desire for the building a new left to take on the generals, the warmongers, the privatisers and the racists.
The successful campaign in Istanbul district 1 "the Asian side" of Istanbul, with 3 million voters, has been a great example of the strength of these joint campaigns. The candidate was Ufuk Uras, ex general president of the ODP (Freedom and Solidarity Party). Within a couple of weeks of the beginning of the campaign over 80 election offices had been opened.
The vast majority were independent, spontaneouslocal efforts, with activists digging deep into their own pockets to raise the rent for shops, installing telephones and getting to work.
The campaign drew in wide support. Many people who been out of left politics for years were drawn back into activity alongside young people entirely new to politics. There was active support from the beginning from the Kurdish population, but as the campaign gathered strength, Ufuk Uras was increasingly being invited to meetings of Alevis (a substantialreligious minority that faces systematic discrimination), CHP members dissatisfied with the CHP leadership's craven backing of the army, and meetings of other minorities.
The common candidates campaign has cut across all the establish political faultlines. Ufuk Uras stood despite initial strong opposition of the party of which he was leader, the ODP. There is a universal determination among everyone who took part in the common candidates campaigns "not to go home".
We have been able to work together, and also to win. This new alliance needs to keep up the fight after the election. Ufuk Uras made a call for the construction of a new left in his victory speech. This is bad news for Turkey's generals, and for their backers in Washington and London. It is good news for us.