This morning Google News popped an interview that occurred between the Tehran Times and the current Turkish ambassador to Iran in my inbox. While the rest of the interview is insipid, evasive and defensive – as might be expected from a representative chosen by the government that just lost its footing following failure at the ballot box – the first response stood out as perhaps particularly barbed in a country where majority rule has not taken full effect, and where the majority might not support all aspects of the current government in power. While this was denied later on, the response could also be hinting at troubled relations between Iran and the new government to be formed in Turkey.
Full interview here.
Q: What were the reasons that the AKP failed to win the majority in the parliamentary elections?
A: This is the will of the people. As in all democracies, people give their votes based on their evaluation. The AKP has been in power for 13 years without any coalition partner but now if they want to be part of the government they would need a coalition partner; if not the other parties might form a coalition. We don’t know yet. It is too early to tell. I cannot speculate on the reasons why the election resulted in this way. In all countries, the party in power after certain time can lose. People can have a natural way of trying to see a new choice. It is the choice of the people and we have to respect that. Our president [Erdogan], made a written announcement in which he said the will of people is above anything and we have to respect that. He called all the parties to make a healthy and realistic assessment of the result of the election and we have to move forward that way. So we will see how things will evolve.
Not quite the party’s tone pre-election, when protesters were villianized, but…If you can wade through paragraphs of nothing-say and political tip-toeing, the sentiment is repeated near the end:
Q: Iranians are sensitive when it comes to declining number of votes in an election. So in our Iranian perspective we think something has changed in Turkey. Do you agree?
A: The changes are the reality of our life and political life. Nothing can stay frozen. In any democracy, some parties rule for a certain period of time and if the will of people realizes the way they need another option there will be changes. We have to see it as a healthy side of the society. Otherwise it would not be a democracy. We don’t expect that one who was elected at one point should be reelected all the time. Of course, if that is the people’s choice we respect that. But people’s choice can change. I don’t think we have to be concerned about that. The important thing is the reflection of people’s will to the governing of the country. If we don’t reflect on that then we have a problem. But if we reflect that will on the government, I don’t think there would be a problem. We have a culture of democracy in our country and we have been going to free and fair elections since 1946, so the governments at certain times have changed. And this party AKP has been the longest ruling party in Turkey in our democratic period, 13 years. Who knows? Maybe they will continue by a coalition by a minority government. So yes, changes occur, but we don’t have to worry about these changes. In Turkey, elections reflect the will of people and we have to respect that.
…which is also interesting considering that, just before the elections, Turkey’s president was trying to get a super-majority (66% of seats in parliament) so his party could push through constitutional changes giving the president extensive executive powers, and thus allowing him to not just retain, but also expand, his influence over the country. Needless to say there hasn’t been a peep of this since his party got 41%. I do love how the ambassador later stated, “Erdogan is not the leader of the AKP party. He is technically a neural president.” While the first sentence directly contradicts Erdogan’s relentless campaigning for the AKP prior to the elections (Turkish TV Stations Air 44 hours of Live Erdogan Speeches in One Week; “I will not be an impartial president”; Erdogan criticized by election board for role in campaigns), it is cute how the ambassador had to throw “technically” into the second. It seems even he can’t carry out the full facade.
A lot is still to be decided in the next few weeks (will there be early elections? a coalition government? an AKP minority government?), but already things are starting to shift. On Thursday 37 judges and prosecutors appointed in 2012 (under the AKP) had their licences revoked after a probe discovered that their unusually high scores were the result of cheating (though 20 judges with previous AKP ties suspected of cheating on the same exam were not removed), and an article titled, “Erdoğan attends wedding of foul-mouthed troll, causes outrage” popped up in a leading newspaper. I don’t think this could have happened a week ago on the eve of the elections, though with the judges – it’s not clear how much maneuvering the party can still accomplish in the government, i’t not clear how much power they will try to retain. Let’s see. For now it’s interesting to see how the possibly-incumbent government is trying out their footing on newly risen terrain.