Can Tunisia or Egypt find role model in Turkey?
Turkey has raised its voice for Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak to step aside, as it tries to burnish its credentials as the region’s 'model' democratic, modern, and Islam-leaning state.
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Poll: Turkey has strong blend of Islam and democracy
On Wednesday, a poll of seven Arab nations and Iran published by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) think tank found that 66 percent of 2,267 respondents said Turkey represented a “successful blend of Islam and democracy.”Skip to next paragraph
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In the past three years Turkey has mediated – not always successfully – between Syria and Israel, with Brazil on Iran’s nuclear program, in the Balkans, and recently with Qatar on Lebanon’s political deadlock, to name a few regional initiatives.
The TESEV poll found that Turkey’s “Muslim background” was the most-cited reason for its “model” status, followed by its economy, its democratic government, and that it is seen to “stand up for Palestinians and Muslims."
“Until recently, prevailing opinion in Turkey was that Arabs did not like the Turks,” said the report, according to a description of the Turkish-language document in the Hurriyet Daily News. “However, this research challenges this belief; there is now growing sympathy for Turkey and Turks in the Arab world.”
Some 78 percent of respondents said that Turkey should play a bigger role in the region; positive regional opinion has risen from 75 percent to 85 percent about Turkey, which has taken a tough line against Israel over its raid last May on the Gaza-bound "Freedom Flotilla," which killed nine activists from Turkey, one a dual US citizen.
Erdogan set the tone on Egypt earlier this week. He said the AKP “came to power declaring: ‘Enough, the final say and decision belongs to the people.’” He said the AKP “always opposed … oppression,” and stated: “Governments, which close their eyes, their ears and their mind to the people, cannot survive long.”
Erdogan offered a “very sincere warning” for Mubarak, noting that “We are human, we are mortal.… We will all die and be called to account for what we left behind." The Turkish leader added: “In today’s world. Freedoms cannot be postponed or ignored.”
Before those remarks, the Turkish media criticized Erdogan for his silence.
“Ankara has always played for stability in the region and this has also meant supporting dictators,” wrote columnist Semih Idiz in the Hurriyet Daily News. “The dilemma for Foreign Minister [Ahmet] Davutoglu is that his vision of an influential Turkey in the Middle East is really contingent on the present status quo in the region.”
But that hasn’t prevented Turkish officials from stating their case, as the pro-democracy confrontation in Egypt enters its 10th day.
“This regional role of Turkey is very much self-attributed, it’s self-declared, [and] they are also learning about their role in the region,” says Aktar. “So I am not very surprised about the lack of enthusiasm [toward the Egyptian protests] in the beginning. [The AKP] have achieved something extremely important, politically speaking, but they are over-cautious sometimes. In a word: Better late than never.”