The Turkish leadership enjoys popular support
The June 24 elections recorded a voter turnout of 87%, the highest ever. From those who went to vote, 98% gave their political choice to the new parliament. The new parliament will be housing the highest ratio of women MPs of Turkish democracy to date.Updated: Jul 12, 2018 21:24 IST
On June 24, Turkey left behind the most important election of her democratic history. The first free multi-party election in the country was held in 1950. Over the past 70 years, it witnessed three military coups. However, the bloodshed recorded in the failed coup attempt of 2016, which the nation will remember this weekend, on July 15, cannot be compared with any of the previous ones. Tanks, F-16 fighters, and helicopters from the inventory of the armed forces targeted the national parliament, the presidential compound and the security forces’ compounds in Ankara. In a few hours it was clear that they were terrorists in uniforms who had been sneaking into the Turkish military since the 1980s, holding ranks between general and lieutenant, receiving orders not from their commanders but from a primary school graduate, a so-called cleric harboured by and living in the United States since the 1990s. That night, 251 people, most of them civilians, were killed and more than 2,500 wounded by the terrorists. The highest casualties were in Istanbul.
At that time, I was the director general in the foreign ministry, in charge of bilateral relations with South Asian countries, including India. In the early hours of the following morning, I received a call from the Indian Ambassador in Ankara, telling me that Mr Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, would like to talk to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of Turkey. This was a sign of solidarity between the largest democracy on earth and the Turkish democracy. Those were the days in which we realised who the genuine friends of Turkey were. The so-called lovers of democracy in the West who wish to educate others about what democracy should be, waited for days to do what PM Modi had done. Those who rush to congratulate the former generals when they topple elected leaders in our region, preferred to watch the strength of the Turkish democracy defeat the coup orchestrated from the opposite coast of the Atlantic.
In April 2017, it was again India, the first nation who hosted President Erdoğan two weeks after the Turks voted in a referendum to change the country’s governing system from a parliamentary to a presidential democracy. Erdoğan, unlike other leaders, did not combine his itinerary with any capital and flew straight to New Delhi with a 400-strong delegation. Talks between friends were fruitful. Since then, bilateral trade has soared, the number of visitors between two countries doubled and more Indian couples have preferred to choose Turkey for their destination weddings.
The free media in democracies have an indisputable right to question the elections. Some columnists of both the Turkish and Indian press have honestly commented on Turkish elections as well as last year’s constitutional referendum. However, the criticism of some focused mainly on the credibility of the elections, held under the state of emergency, which was declared immediately after the bloody coup attempt of July 2016. Turkey is not the only European country that has held elections under the state of emergency. France also held presidential elections under a state of emergency declared after a terrorist attack, where the casualty figures were clearly lower than Turkey. The June 24 elections recorded a voter turnout of 87%, the highest ever. From those who went to vote, 98% gave their political choice to the new parliament. The new parliament will be housing the highest ratio of women MPs of Turkish democracy to date. Erdoğan himself received 52.5% of votes, at least 20% higher than his nearest contestant.
Located at the epicentre of a very tough geography, sharing a common borderline of 1,300 kilometers with Iraq and Syria where the fight against the DAESH is still going on, keeping a secular and pluralistic democracy is not easy.
India, like Turkey, has been and still is the target of a number of terrorist organisations. Turkey expects the Indian media to understand its fight against terrorists who enjoy military, financial and logistical support from beyond the borders.
Sakir Ozkan Torunlar is Turkey’s ambassador to India
The views expressed are personal
First Published: Jul 12, 2018 17:39 IST