Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Frank Rettenberg Discusses Turkey's Recent Elections

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Frank Rettenberg Discusses Turkey's Recent Elections

Article excerpt

"Turkey's Elections: The Humiliation of the Elite" was the topic of a Dec. 5 lecture by Frank Rettenberg hosted by the Marin Chapter of the World Affairs Council at Dominican University in San Rafael. Rettenberg, a career foreign service officer from 1959 to 1989, spent seven years in Turkey as a student and diplomat. His most recent visit to the country was in September 2002.

The retired foreign service officer gave a run-down on Turkey's Nov. 3 elections and the fall-out resulting from the formation of Turkey's first majority government in more than a decade. Rettenberg attributed the ousting of Turkey's previous government to "a great sense of voter anger." Voters, he explained, were upset by unemployment, inflation, official corruption and bickering in the previous three-party coalition government. Although the victorious Justice and Development Party (known as AK, which means "white" or "pure" in Turkish) has roots in the Islamic-based Welfare Party which was banned in 1998--as was its successor, Virtue, in 2001--Rettenberg said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the new government. "The people in the government are the most moderate in the party," he stressed, "and, despite their Islamic roots, they do not call themselves an Islamic party." The AK's main support came from Turkey's poorest of its 69 million citizens, he noted, and they are the most religious and the angriest.

Furthermore, Rettenberg continued, although the AK won 34 percent of the votes, the party will have two-thirds of the seats in parliament. …

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