Mustafa Kemal, celebrated by the Turkish State as a Turkish World War
I hero and later known as "Ataturk" or "father of the Turks," led the founding
of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 after the collapse of the 600-year-old
Ottoman Empire and a three-year war of independence. The empire, which
at its peak controlled vast stretches of northern Africa, southeastern
Europe, and western Asia, had failed to keep pace with European social
and technological developments. The rise of national consciousness impelled
several captive nations to seek to regain lost independence, leading to
the empire's fragmentation. This process culminated in the disastrous Ottoman
participation in World War I as a German ally. Defeated, shorn of much
of its former territory, and partly occupied by forces of the victorious
European states, the Ottoman structure was repudiated by Turkish nationalists
whom Mustafa Kemal brought together under his tight leadership. The nationalists
expelled invading Greek forces from Anatolia after a bitter war. After
the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey the temporal and religious ruling
institutions of the old empire (the sultanate and caliphate) were abolished.
The leaders of the new republic concentrated on consolidating their
power and modernizing and Westernizing what had been the empire's core--Anatolia
and a small part of Thrace. Social, political, linguistic, and economic
reforms and attitudes decreed by Ataturk from 1924-1934 continue to be
referred to as the ideological base of modern Turkey. In the post-Ataturk
era, and especially after the military coup of 1960, this ideology came
to be known as "Kemalism" and his reforms began to be referred to as "revolutions."
Kemalism comprises a Turkish form of secularism, strong nationalism, statism,
and to a degree a western orientation. The continued validity and applicability
of Kemalism are the subject of lively debate in Turkey's political life.
The current ruling AK Party comes from a tradition that challenges many
of the Kemalist precepts and is driven in its reform efforts by a desire
to achieve EU accession.
Turkey did not enter World War II on the Allied side until shortly before
the war ended and became a charter member of the United Nations. Difficulties
faced by Greece after World War II in quelling a communist rebellion and
demands by the Soviet Union for military bases in the Turkish Straits prompted
the United States to declare the Truman Doctrine in 1947. The doctrine
enunciated American intentions to guarantee the security of Turkey and
Greece and resulted in large scale U.S. military and economic aid. After
participating with United Nations forces in the Korean conflict, Turkey
in 1952 joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Turkey is
currently a European Union candidate.
In the November 2002 election of Turkeys 58th government, the Justice
and Development Party (AK) captured 34.3% of the total votes, making Abdullah
Gul Prime Minister, followed by the Republican Peoples Party (CHP) with
19.39% of the vote, led by Deniz Baykal. A special General Election was
held again in the province of Siirt in March 2003, resulting in the election
of AKs chairman Recep Tayyip Erdogan to a seat in parliament, allowing
him to become prime minister. AK and CHP were the only parties to surpass
the 10% threshold required to hold seats in parliament. The elections resulted
in 363 of the 550 seats going to AK, 178 seats to CHP, and 9 as independent.
Due to a reshuffle in party affiliation, AK holds 367 seats, CHP holds
175 seats, five are independent, and three joined the True Path Party (DYP).
In March 2004 nationwide local elections, AKP won 57 of 81 provincial capital
municipalities and, with 41.8% of the votes for provincial council seats,
consolidated its hold on power.