Majority welcomes headscarved deputies, opınıon poll finds

In 1999, a headscarved woman, Merve Kavakçı, was elected to Parliament. When she entered Parliament she faced protests from other deputies.

March 25, 2011, Friday/ 17:20:00

A recent opinion poll has revealed that an overwhelming majority of the Turkish population favors the election of headscarved women to Parliament as deputies, amidst a heated debate over whether political parties can reach a consensus to allow women to enter Parliament with their headscarves.

A full 78.1 percent of respondents said they would favor the idea of women being allowed to become deputies with their headscarves, according to the poll carried out by the Ankara-based MetroPOLL Strategic and Social Research Center. Another 19.5 percent said headscarf-wearing women should not become deputies.

The idea of allowing headscarved women to enter the Turkish Parliament returned to the agenda earlier this month after a group of women, including journalists, representatives from nongovernmental organizations and activists, launched an initiative.

The initiative demands the nomination of headscarf-wearing deputies in the parliamentary elections of June 12. The initiative calls itself “We want headscarved deputies.”

There is a strict ban on the use of the Muslim headscarf in Turkey. Women with headscarves are not allowed to enter military facilities, including hospitals and recreational areas belonging to the Turkish military. There is currently no headscarved deputy in Parliament. In 1999, a headscarved woman, Merve Kavakçı, was elected to Parliament from the now-defunct Virtue Party (FP). When she entered Parliament with her headscarf, she faced strong protest from other deputies and was forced out of Parliament.

Asked if they find the number of women in such fields as politics, public administration and business adequate, 71.9 percent said “no” while only 23.4 percent said “yes.”

The survey also questioned respondents about what they think about the course of Turkish politics. While an overwhelming 68.7 percent said they do not believe opposition parties are successful and effective in their “mission of opposition,” only 21 percent said they find opposition parties successful and effective. In response to a question of whether they would like a coalition government or a single-party government to rule Turkey, 75.3 percent responded in favor of a single-party government, while 17 percent said they would like a coalition government to rule Turkey.

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has been governing Turkey as a single-party government since 2002. The party is often the center of criticism by its opponents, who argue that a single-party government does not represent a majority of the nation. The AK Party, on the other hand, believes that a single-party government is more favorable for Turkey as it is hard to pass laws or make reforms in a coalition government. Respondents were asked about their opinion of the 10 percent election threshold, which prevents small parties from entering Parliament. While 45.1 percent said they support the threshold, 38.8 percent answered to the contrary. Turkey’s small parties insist that the election threshold be lowered so that more political parties and more voters could be represented more directly in Parliament. The AK Party is planning to lower the threshold to 7 percent, but no steps have been taken to this end thus far.

Little praise for CHP, MHP

MetroPOLL also asked respondents about their opinion of policies pursued by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Asked if they find CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu effective as the leader of a political party, 60.5 percent of respondents said “no.” Slightly more than 29 percent, on the other hand, said they find Kılıçdaroğlu effective. More than 59 percent said they do not believe Kılıçdaroğlu and his team are working in harmony for their party, and only 25.6 percent said they disagreed.

Kılıçdaroğlu was elected to the top post of the main opposition party in May of last year after a video clip was posted online showing the party’s then-leader Deniz Baykal having an affair with a party deputy.

In response to a question over whether Kılıçdaroğlu and his team will manage to bring the CHP to power in the next parliamentary elections, slated for June 12, an overwhelming 69.4 percent said “no,” while only 19.4 percent said “yes.”

According to the MetroPOLL survey, the MHP is far too weak to become an “alternative” to the AK Party. Seventy-one percent said the MHP cannot become an alternative to the ruling party and only 21 percent said they see the MHP as an alternative to the AK Party. More than 62 percent said Devlet Bahçeli is not effective as the MHP leader.

The survey also showed that the majority of respondents do not back anti-democratic actions. More than 58 percent said they would not back the idea that the military can seize control of the country “if necessary.” Only 34 percent said the military can stage a coup if necessary.

Respondents were, however, divided over the “freedom” of journalists and writers in Turkey in their profession. While 49.6 percent said journalists and writers are unable to express their opinions freely, 43 percent disagreed. A debate over freedom of the press flared up recently after the arrest of some journalists as part of the Ergenekon case. Ergenekon is a clandestine criminal network accused of working to overthrow the government. The jailed journalists are accused of membership in a terrorist group. Asked if they can share their opinions with the public freely, 71.7 percent said “yes” and only 26.3 percent said “no.” One of the main questions included in the survey concerned people’s perception of the secular lifestyle in Turkey. The question was whether respondents believe that the secular lifestyle is in danger. While 56 percent said “no,” 36.9 percent said “yes.” Asked if Turkey should switch to a presidential system, 39.6 percent said “yes” and 36.9 percent said “no.”

AK Party well ahead of rivals in elections

Pollsters also questioned respondents about their voting preferences. Asked which political party they were planning to vote for in the June 12 elections, 48.3 percent said they will vote for the AK Party, a figure higher than in the March 2009 local elections, in which the ruling party won around 39 percent of the vote.

According to the poll, the CHP will receive 27.5 percent of votes in June. The MHP will receive 11.7 percent of the votes, while the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) will get 6.6 percent. Another question concerned trust in political party leaders. When asked which of the existing political party leaders they trusted the most, 44.1 percent of respondents said they trusted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the most. Erdoğan was followed by the CHP’s Kılıçdaroğlu with 15.5 percent and the MHP’s Bahçeli with 3.5 percent.

The poll was conducted from March 16 to 19 by telephone among a random national sampling of 1,532 adults residing in cities, towns and villages. The margin of error for the overall poll was 2.5 percentage points, with a confidence level of 95.

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