Prosecards from the Edge (of a Continent)

A running commentary on my life in Izmir, Turkey...and other thoughts.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Bathing Suits and Ballot Boxes

The elections are coming.

Summer is in full swing, and people are abandoning the city in droves and heading to their summer homes on the brilliant white beaches of Ceşme. The weather is so fine, the atmosphere so lovely and relaxed down Ceşme way, it's almost enough to fool you into thinking that all is well and the world is a carefree place of sea, sand, sun and sandwiches.

But the elections are coming, just a few weeks now, and people are expected to turn out in record numbers. Perhaps with sand still clinging to their bare feet, and the scent of sea brine on the skin, but they will be there.

In this election the Turkish people will vote in a new parliament, which will in turn select a new president. A random survey of Turks I know produced feelings ranging from ambivalence to nonchalance to extreme concern and blackest pessimism over the current state of the country and probable outcome of the elections.

Turkey is between a rock and a hard place: like the U.S., it is effectively a two-party system (there are other parties, but they don't count for much). The most powerful party -- and, it must be said, the party that has actually been the most effective in getting things done in a long time -- also happens to be conservative and religious. Liberals fear these people are laying the groundwork for an Islamic state and are slowly and methodically lining up all their chess pieces to get the country to a definitive 'check mate' somewhere down the road.

On the other hand, no one loves the opposition party. The opposition presidential candidate -- well, calling him 'opposition' is a bit of a joke, because throughout his very long career in politics, the man's entire track record consists of opposition. All he has ever done is oppose. He has produced no initiatives, brought about no positive gain for the country...does anyone really want a mere naysayer with no goals and ideals of his own in the presidential office?

It's a pretty poor choice the people are left with. Interesting, too, because in this case it is actually the Islamic party representing progress (though who knows how far it will go). I suspect the religious side will win. On the one hand, great. They've done some good. I certainly appreciate the fact that Turkey's wildly escalating currency is finally a thing of past, and I don't have to keep track of all those zeros any more. On the other hand, it's just too dang hot to wear the hijab.

So let me raise my Conservative Party Cocktail -- ingredients: two parts booze, three parts tax (and that's supermarket price, not bar price) and a dash of disapprobation -- and drink to all things in moderation.


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