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Votes that defined 2010
Turkey's constitutional referendum, the US Midterms and the future of Sudan: the defining votes of 2010
Last Modified: 27 Dec 2010 15:04

Turkey referendum: Marginalising the military

Turkey's constitutional referendum in September, seen as a tussle between an Islamist-influenced government and its secular opponents, was heralded "a historic threshold on the way to advanced democracy and the supremacy of law".

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had urged, successfully, a "yes" vote on the package of reforms that set to promote individual and human rights, increase access to the courts, and decentralise judicial authority.

On the losing end of this battle was the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Republican People's Party (CHP), who staked their "no" campaign on the legacy of Turkey's secularising and modernising founder, Kemal Ataturk.

Struggle for modern Turkey continues [Gallo/Getty]

The European Union (EU), which one day may welcome Turkey into its ranks, approved of the reforms and joined Barack Obama, the US president, in welcoming the result.

The constitutional amendment marked a liberal transformation of the Turkish state and possibly the most reformist act Erdogan had ever taken.

Erdogan said that the changes were needed to strengthen democracy and bring Turkey closer to European norms, as the country continues its bid to join the European Union.

Erdogan, who enjoys strong popular support in Turkey, now needs to see through the amendment process and cement, both his victory and his political career.

US Midterms: Rise of the Tea Party

Two years after Barack Obama won the US presidential elections - on the back of promises to tackle a struggling economy and withdraw troops from Iraq - he faced a struggle in the US Midterm elections.

Obama failed to articulate his vision for the economy and on reforming the poor healthcare system in the US. This failure in communication translated into electoral victories for the Republicans, winning back seats in the Senate and taking control of the House. 

2010 marked the rise of the Tea Party [Gallo/Getty]

The Tea Party, a broad-based and well-funded conservative political movement that reached remarkable levels of popularity, endorsed mostly Republican candidates who performed well in the poll. The de-facto symbolic head of the movement, Sarah Palin, became one of the most recognisable political figures in the country.

With the Republicans now controlling the lower house - which they last did in 2006 - they could push through conservative legislation on majority votes, including measures to shrink government and cut taxes.

However, the Democrats could still use their Senate majority to stop these bills, including an anticipated repeal of Obama's overhaul of US health care.

The bottom line is that the election outcome cast doubts over Obama's vision, including immigration, getting America out of her wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, health care reform and climate change policies, and has left him in a political quagmire of some sort.

But the true significance of the Tea party’s victory can be appreciated with hindsight.

When Obama swept to power after winning the 2008 presidential elections, on the back of a "disastrous" George Bush final term, the natural assumption was that from now on end, the Republic Party would suffer for a while, and would no doubt have to re-invent itself into a new - more "close to the centre" -party.

Re-invent itself it has, but if anything, the Tea Party have pulled the rabbit out of the hat. The last thing they represent is a more "close to the centre" Republican party.

Iraq elections: Political deadlock

Iraq held elections on March 7, aimed at electing a new parliament and a prime minister. The polls were seen to be a critical stage in the country's political development since the US-led invasion in 2003.

The country previously held national assembly elections in January 2005, and parliamentary elections in December of the same year.

Two significant differences separate Iraq's parliamentary election from the first poll held in 2005.

US combat troops have left, although their still is a large US military presence there. The other is that a large number Iraqi Sunnis who did not vote last time, cast their ballots.

A majority of Sunni politicians (and voters) boycotted the election process in 2005, in what they later admitted to have been a miscalculation which paved the way for Shia dominance of the Iraqi government and parliament.

Despite increased violence in the lead-up to the elections, Iraqis went to the polls in large numbers, with voter turnout standing at 62 per cent, according to officials.

Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister, gained 91 seats, and his main rival Iyad Allawi gained 89 seats.

The election results, however, added to rather than reduced the country's political turmoil and ended up reinforcing rather than easing the country's sectarian tensions.

Negotiations

Eight months of political deadlock ensued, and in the months that followed, neither side was able to pull together a coalition that would allow them to create a new government.

But on October 1, al-Maliki struck a deal with a Shia factions that had previously opposed him, putting him within striking distance of a majority in the new 325-member parliament.

The parliamentary polls came as US combat missions came to an end in Iraq [GALLO/GETTY] 

Al-Maliki had won the support of Shia movements, including a faction loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The so-called Sadrists contested the elections in an alliance with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), led by Ammar al-Hakim, another Shia party that came third at the polls.

The newly formed alliance came ahead of Jalal Talabani, the president, reappointing al-Maliki as prime minister in November.

However, the event was marred by a walkout by al-Iraqiyya, the main Sunni-backed alliance led by former prime minister Iyad Allawi.

The party claimed that al-Maliki had reneged on an agreement to reinstate four Sunni leaders who had been banned for alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath party.

In November, an agreement was reached on a government of unity that included posts for Allawi's party and drew the support of the Kurds.

The agreement gave al-Iraqiyya, the position of speaker of the parliament as well as leadership of a newly created committee overseeing national security.

The creation of the committee was a compromise pushed by the Obama administration to ensure the participation of Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the Iraqi government since 2003.

The Kurds, who played the role of kingmaker in the final talks, as their seats in parliament were needed to create a majority, held on to the presidency, which resulted in the reappointment of Talabani.

On December 21, parliament gave unanimous approval to the new government, just days before a constitutional deadline, thereby formally returning al-Maliki to power for a second term.

Iraq in 2010, is perhaps the stablest it has been since the U.S occupation began. And although the various poltical groups have been able to work out how they will share power in the government, their is no certainty as to what the future may hold.

Will Iraqis finally be in a position to rebuild their country and society, or will the country sink back into chaos?

Sudan: Between the North and South

In Sudan, the largest country in Africa, almost three million people have registered to vote in the upcoming January 2011 referendum that will decide if the country splits into two.

While most analysts expect the south to break away, the real concern is whether this can, and will, be managed peacefully.

The vote is a key part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended Africa's longest-running civil war, in which an estimated two million people were killed.

The North-South Sudan conflict dates back to Sudan’s independence.

The future of Sudan hangs in the balance [EPA]

Under British occupation South and North Sudan were effectively administered separately. The British also made it illegal for Sudanese living in the North of the country to travel too far South. The same applied to Sudanese living in the south who wished to travel north.

When the country gained independence in 1955 both the Northern and Southern parts of the country were clumped together without resolving or addressing the most important political and geographical issues.

Two civil wars devastated the country - the first from 1955-72 and then again from 1983-2005.

It was against this backdrop that the 2005 CPA decided that a referendum should take place to decide the future of South Sudan.

Since the CPA agreement - and in apprehension of the referendum - relations between the North and South have been relatively stable, a vote to split will raise many issues that could threaten this.

Where will the borders of the new state fall and what effect could it have for those living on such future boundaries? Residents in the oil-rich Abyei region, which sits on the likely border between North and South Sudan, will vote on independence in a separate referendum.

Will the oil in the South be a reason for conflict, or will the pipeline through the North remain as a mutually beneficial link between two independent states?

Most of the country's oil lies in the South, although the North has the refineries, pipelines and Port Sudan, the only commercial outlet to the Red Sea and crucial overseas markets.

What fate lies in store for Southerners who fled during the decades of conflict and are now settled in the North? A sizable number of Southerners now living in the North have said that were happy there and did not plan on voting.

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