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Turks Turn on Islamist Government?

Gaza flotilla backfires at home.

4:33 PM, Jun 21, 2010 • By ADAM BRICKLEY
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Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is probably the happiest man in Turkey right now. He's just inherited the leadership of the country's secular socialist opposition, and now he's reaping the benefits of an incredibly boneheaded move by the "moderate" Islamists who run the country.

Turks Turn on Islamist Government?

recently released poll shows the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP)  of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan slipping out of first place for the first time in years. Instead, Kılıçdaroğlu's Republican People's Party (CHP) has inched to a razor-thin lead. If these numbers were to hold through next year's election, the AKP's Sunni Islamism will be dealt a heavy repudiation -- as Kılıçdaroğlu is a member of the minority Alevi religious sect. He could also be Turkey's first Kurdish Prime Minister -- depending on whether or not one considers his Zaza ethnicity to be a Kurdish subgroup or a separate people (either way he's not an ethnic Turk).

Now, this success is partly due to the fact that Kılıçdaroğlu is enjoying a surge of personal popularity as he tries to modernize the party founded by Kemal Ataturk. However, it also appears that Erdogan's heavy support of the Gaza "aid" flotilla has blown up in his face -- and that his gradual Islamization of the government may have reached a point where the public is ready to pull the plug. 

To be fair, Kılıçdaroğlu has joined Erdogan in heavily condemning the Israeli raid on the flotilla -- but he has also blasted Erdogan for needlessly provoking Israel. So, now that the prime minister has marched into a full-blown religious confrontation with the Jewish state, the electorate is opting for a more fair-minded leader who concerns himself with national interest over religious zealotry.

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