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Turkey's election 'testament to democracy', say experts

Experts praise 'vibrancy' of Turkey's political climate as country undergoes its 25th parliamentary elections

Turkey's election 'testament to democracy', say experts

by Mustafa Caglayan


 As Turkey underwent critical parliamentary elections - the 25th of its history - on Sunday, experts have designated the vote as an evidence of the country's commitment to democracy.

"What we have seen today is an extraordinary testament to Turkey's vibrancy as a democracy," Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Judith Miller told Anadolu Agency in a media event that Turkey hosted in New York to give journalists live results of the election.

"Twenty different parties participating and competing, opposition parties making great gains, and President [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] not getting everything he wants; that's democracy," she added, referring to the presidential system Erdogan wants to introduce, which is contested by the main opposition parties.

According to the unofficial results, the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party won its fourth consecutive general election by getting about 40.81 percent of the vote with 99.97 percent of ballots counted, giving the party 258 seats in the Grand National Assembly -- 18 short of a simple majority needed to form a government.

This was largely because the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) passed the 10 percent election threshold. With 12.9 percent of the vote, this is the first time it will enter parliament as a party. Turnout was high, at 86.47 percent.

Miller added that Sunday's results could bring a positive change regarding Turkey's accession bid to the European Union, where "certain right-wing elements in Europe had used what they called the [Turkish] president's 'neo-Ottoman' statements as an excuse for not moving forward."

Echoing Miller's remarks, Rand Beers, former Deputy Homeland Security Advisor to President Barack Obama, told Anadolu Agency that the U.S. and Europe would engage as quickly as possible with Turkey's new government, "because nothing is going to happen in the region where Turkey is not part of the solution."

He said Sunday's election represented the progress of democracy in Turkey - a country that has experienced its share of military coups - since the AK Party came to power in 2002.

"We had, first of all, a shift to AK Party coming to power in the first place. Now we have had a shift that the full desires of the president [Erdogan] were not realized in terms of the election results," he said. "That is a testament to a country that has internalized democracy and moved forward over several elections."

Steve Forbes, chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media, also told Anadolu Agency that Sunday's vote had a potential to be remembered as a historic election.

"If Turkey makes some good moves on the foreign policy front and does start to move on its reforms, especially with the lira, then I think this election will be seen as one that points Turkey to a more positive direction," he said.

"The fact that Turkey had an open election today, I think, aids Turkey's prestige enormously," he said.

Forbes said the most immediate foreign policy challenges of the new government would be finding ways to defeat or contain Daesh while making sure Iran not become a dominant power in the region.

"That is going to require a persistent, complicated policy that will be helped if the U.S. has a clear policy as well, which we haven't had and which we will hopefully get with our next president," he added, referring to the upcoming U.S. presidential election in November 2016.

A sentiment echoed by Judith Miller, best known for her coverage in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq War, in which she vigorously supported claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

"Turkey is an indispensable player in the region and I would like to see how it would work more closely with others who share the same problems," she said.

Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.
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