Turkish Election: Islamism Triumphant

These are not final results but give a strong indication of what's happening. First the numbers:

The stealth Islamist party, Justice and Development (AKP), received almost exactly 50 percent of the vote. Under the Turkish system this will give them an estimated 325 members of parliament, or about 60 percent of the seats.

On the opposition side the social democratic Republican People's Party (CHP) got about 26 percent of the vote and 135 seats. The right-wing nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) took 13 percent giving it 54 seats. Eleven parties didn't make the minimum ten percent barrier (they received only about 1 percent or less). There are also 36 independents who are in fact Kurdish communalists.

Now is this good or bad?

In statistical terms, the AKP lost 6 MP's despite getting 5 million more votes, the MHP lost 18 MP's despite tallying half a million more votes while the CHP gained 33 seats adding 3.5 million votes. On paper, then, while the AKP stays in power, it is very slightly weaker than before.

But the outcome is nonetheless overwhelmingly bad. The AKP got almost--remember that almost--everything it wanted. It will be in power for four more years, infiltrating institutions, producing a new constitution, intimidating opponents, altering Turkish foreign policy, and shifting public opinion to dislike Americans and Jews more.

The only point on which the AKP supposedly fell short is that it didn't get the two-thirds of the seats, 357, that would let it pretty much write Turkey's new constitution any way it wanted. It is close to the 330 needed to take a constitution that it produced to a referendum.

But so what? Deals with willing parliamentarians from other parties could easily provide enough votes for the referendum option and if the AKP needs them it would offer lavish promises, both in terms of legislation these people wanted and in terms of personal benefits. The way things are going they would win that vote.

What all this means is that the AKP is entrenched in power and can now proceed with the fundamental transformation of Turkey.

The AKP has become famous for the subtlty of its Islamism, disguised as a "center-right" reform party. Some people in the Arab world are starting to talk about this as a model. Notably the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is fascinated by the strategy. Yet as the Islamist party gains more and more power and support--Turkey has demonstrated this--it becomes more ambitious, daring, and extreme.