Dawn: WASHINGTON – As Turkey prepares to vote for its first ever directly elected president, a new US survey says the Turks are divided over the current government’s efforts to amplify the country’s Islamic features.
But there is also a sharp dip in the popularity of the once all-powerful Turkish military.
An overwhelming majority (69 per cent) says that Islam plays a large role in the political life of Turkey, with only 26 per cent saying it plays a small role.
Since 2005, six-in-ten or more have said Islam is a major force in Turkish politics. However, in 2002, prior to Erdogan’s election as prime minister, the public was split: 45 per cent said Islam played a large role, while 43per cent said the role was small.
The leader responsible for the resurgence of Turkey’s Islamic identity —current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — is also the main contender for the president’s office. Most observers expect Erdogan to win the upcoming Aug 10 election.
The survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center, however, show that Turks are almost evenly split between those who are happy with Erdogan’s leadership and the state of the nation and those who believe the former Istanbul mayor is leading the country down the wrong path.
Overall, 44 per cent are satisfied with the country’s direction, while 51 per cent are dissatisfied; 48 per cent say Erdogan has a good influence on the country, while the same percentage believes he has a negative impact.
Support for the Turkish military is down to 55 per cent, a sharp plunge from 72 per cent in 2010 and 85 per cent in 2007. Turkey’s military has long been a major player in the country’s politics and there have been several military coups since the Turkish Republic was found in 1923.
Many Turks also sympathise with the street demonstrations that rocked the country and attracted international attention just over a year ago. A 49 per cent plurality says they supported the anti-government protests in Istanbul’s Gezi Park.
Another long running theme in Turkish politics is the deep divisions between secular and religious camps in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation, and contemporary Turkish society continues to reflect this divide. For example, highly observant Turkish Muslims are much more likely to support Erdogan, believe the country is on the right track, and oppose last year’s protests.
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