Islamic Party in Turkey Wins Extensive Victory

July 27, 2007 04:56 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
In recent elections the Islamic-inspired governing party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won 340 of the 550 seats in the Turkish Parliament, indicating shifting attitudes in a country that has followed strict secularist codes since 1923. 

30 Second Summary

Turkey as it exists today began in 1923, when a former Turkish Army commander named Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a strict secular reformer, emerged from the tumultuous years after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire as the president of Turkey’s first republic.

During the decade that followed, Ataturk began a campaign that abolished religious governmental bodies, forbade polygamy, restricted traditional Muslim dress, adopted Swiss, German and Italian codes of law, and replaced the teaching of Arabic script with the Latin alphabet.

Now Turkey's secularist past is at a crossroads. Recent elections have seen the Republican People's Party (CHP)––the main secular party started by Ataturk––diminish in popularity at the hands of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Although secularist critics say that the AKP's ties to Islam and its efforts to roll back restrictions on Muslim dress are antithetical to the Western ideals sought by Ataturk, AKP supporters argue that such restrictions are emblematic of the undemocratic way in which the CHP limits religious expression in the predominantly Muslim country.

To the United States, the election has the potential to serve as a model for the rest of the region. Some say that if the AKP is successful in tempering Islamic beliefs with democracy, the government could serve as a model for stabilizing other nations in the region.



According to a report written by Stephen A. Cook and Douglas Dillon Fellow titled "Generating Momentum for a New Era in U.S.-Turkey Relations" the stability of the new Turkish government is critical for the United States because of its potential to serve as a democratizing ally in the increasingly hostile environment of the Middle East.


Historical Context


Impact on EU Membership

Reference Material

Turkey was once the center of the Ottoman Empire. Now as the country works to gain entry to the European Union, the BBC offers a short history of the nation and its national and international conflicts.

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