ISTANBUL, Turkey (Oct. 22)
Turkey’s Islamic fundamentalist Welfare Party has emerged as a strong candidate for the coalition government that will be formed by the conservative True Path Party in the wake of Sunday’s upset elections here.
The True Path Party edged out Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz’s Motherland Party, which has been in power for eight years.
The Welfare Party, which believes the United States and “Zionists” are involved in a plot to rule the world and dominate Moslems, received about 17 percent of the national vote.
The party, led by Necmettin Erbakan, will send about 62 deputies to the 450-seat Parliament, making it the fourth-largest party. While the True Path Party came out ahead with 181 seats and 27 percent of the vote, it did not win enough votes to form a government on its own.
Whether or not Erbakan is invited to join a coalition, he is expected to exert a loud and charismatic presence in Turkey’s third parliamentary government since the 1980 military coup.
The success of Erbakan, who has rarely polled more than 10 percent in his many decades of political involvement, has surprised political commentators and worried Turkey’s tiny Jewish community of 22,000 people.
“There is some concern because Erbakan does not hide his anti-Semitic and anti-Israel feelings,” said Sami Kohen, a veteran political columnist for the daily Milliyet newspaper.
Erbakan is against Turkey’s effort to join the European Community, which he sees as an Israeli-run body, though Israel is not a member.
In his campaign speeches, Erbakan often warned that the elections were a choice between “Greater Israel and Greater Turkey.”
“If you don’t want your sons, when they are soldiers, to be ruled by Solomon in Tel Aviv, you must vote for our party,” he said in a nationally televised speech last week.
“If you are not careful, Turkey and Israel will become one state,” he added.
A RISE IN ISLAMIC ACTIVITY
Political commentators warned against assuming that the success of Erbakan meant a resurgence of pro-Islamic feelings in this secular nation.
Since the founding of the republic in 1923, a certain tension has always existed between the state’s secular underpinnings and its almost 100 percent Moslem population.
Over the decades, successive governments have eased restrictions on some Islamic practices and organizations. Islamic banks now function, Islamic schools are flourishing, and last year the country was rocked by the Islamic-inspired assassinations of four prominent secularists.
But it remains a crime to advocate an end to Turkey’s secularism. And in the streets of major cities, miniskirts are more prevalent than chadors, the garb worn by devout Moslem women.
The Welfare Party’s ascendancy is “not serious, perhaps, but there is some concern in the Jewish community, because it reminds many people of what has happened in other Islamic countries, where pro-fundamentalist leaders have taken a lead or power,” said Kohen, the columnist.
But he and others pointed out Erbakan has never attacked the Turkish Jewish community.