Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Crucial Test is Yet to Come

The Moslem party in Turkey won the recent elections:

Turkey's Islamic-rooted ruling party won parliamentary elections by a wide margin Sunday, and the prime minister pledged to safeguard the country's secular traditions and do whatever the government deems necessary to fight separatist Kurdish rebels.

With more than 99 percent of votes counted, television news channels were projecting that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party would win 341 of the 550 seats, down from 351 in the outgoing parliament.

Erdogan, a devout Muslim, told supporters in his victory speech that he would preserve pluralistic democracy and work for national unity.

"We will never make concessions over the values of people, the basic principles of our republic. This is our promise. We will embrace Turkey as a whole without discriminating," he said at a rally in the capital Ankara.

Note, however, that the number of seats declined. And the Justice and Development Party won about 47% of the votes. Small parties had their votes wasted when they failed to meet the minimum to gain seats.

I hesitate to join in the race to call Turkey lost. I'd be happier if the secular parties won, but the Moslem-oriented parties don't appear eager to end democracy. As long as rule of law continues and elections free and fair are held, Turkish democracy will endure.

The key to watch is an election that the Justice and Develpment Party loses. If they hand over power like any other party in any other democratic nation, this recent strengthening of Moslem-friendly voters will not be a disaster.

That's the key isn't it? Do the Moslems of Turkey view democracy as just the most convenient way to seiz power or do they accept the democracy they are doing so well with right now?