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Revenge of the dispossessed

The Islamist AKP fought Turkey’s elections fuelled by discontent with political corruption and incompetence. All the aspirants to power were promising the earth, but can they deliver?

When asked in an interview what the phenomenal popularity of his Islamist Justice & Development Party (AKP) was based on, party chairman Tayyip Erdogan replied: "Hatred, rage and revenge."

His answer did not need elaboration. Turks understand that he was referring to what many of their compatriots feel about a corrupt political establishment that has landed them with the worst economic crisis in Turkey's post-war history. Last year's massive devaluation lost a million people their jobs and 95% of the population has been impoverished by it. Per capita income fell from $2,980 in 2000 to $2,170 in 2001. According to an American banker, in the past three years $45 billion (25% of GNP) has fled Turkey to enter the Swiss banking system.

Turks have always distrusted politicians but their doubts about the political establishment have intensified. An opinion poll conducted by Istanbul daily Milliyet among Turks aged between 16 and 26, the bulk of the population, indicated that 93% did not trust politicians, 89% did not trust bureaucrats and 88% did not trust the government. Young people are so fed up with Turkey that 70% said that given a choice they would live abroad, preferably in the US or Germany.

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