Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Party Lists Released . . . Game On.

Turkey's political parties have released their party lists ahead of June 12 parliamentary elections. The AKP's list considerably diminishes the power of National Outlook ("Milli Gorus") politicians and aims to gain votes in coastal centers where the party has not fared strongly.

Meanwhile, the MHP is sticking to its strategy of going for votes in both Turkey's coastal areas and Central Anatolia. The MHP suffered a tremendous loss in last year's Sept. 12 election when many of its supporters broke with the party to vote for the AKP-sponsored referendum. MHP leader Devlet Bahceli made the referendum a chance to challenge the AKP on its Kurdish opening, but at the end of the day, MHP's brand of ultra-nationalism seemingly increased support for the MHP, which is now hovering right at the 10% threshold required for parties to enter parliament.

The AKP will go after the MHP with full force in an effort to have the party fall under the 10% threshold. Should this happen, the AKP would almost certainly be guaranteed the super majority of 367 deputies it needs to conduct business without much compromise. It is a make-or-break year for the MHP. Turkish political parties that fall under the 10% threshold have a difficult time coming back, and the MHP would likely come out of the bruising with an even more ultra-nationalist attitude.

Significant to the party lists is the lack of minority representation. No party nominated an Armenian candidate as initially conjectured. Two Jews and two Syriacs were nominated, though all but one of these candidates have either been placed low on the party lists or are representing small parties and so have little chance of entering. Erol Dora, a Syriac, is running for the BDP from Mardin and stands a decnt chance of being elected. If Dora is elected, he will be the first Syriac member of parliament in the history of the Turkish Republic.

Women also got the short end of the stick. The CHP nominated the most women (at 20 percent), and has made gender equality, which the party considers to be under attack, a major plank in its platform. The AKP nominated 14 percent, and the MHP 12 percent. 12 women are running as independents, mostly from the pro-Kurdish BDP, which has by far the highest representation of women in parliament. Among these women is Leyla Zana, a hardline BDP candidate who is very divisive in Turkish politics.

There was some initial speculation that the AKP might attempt to nominate a female candidate who wears the headscarf, though it seems Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc's February statement that now is not the time seemed to have held true in the end. Only one covered candidate was nominated, a school teacher from Antalya, and her name was placed toward the bottom of AKP's party list. For more on women's political representation (and the headscarf), click here.

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