Political winds blowing against ruling party ahead of critical Nov. 1 election
Female relatives hold up a coffin during a funeral Monday in Istanbul for one of the victims of the twin bombings Saturday in Ankara. The attacks killed 97 and sparked anger over the authorities’ failure to ensure security. (Yasin Akgul, AFP/Getty Images)
ANKARA, Turkey — Suicide bombings that ripped through a rally promoting peace in Turkey’s capital have magnified the political uncertainty ahead of a key election Nov. 1 and raised fears that the country might be heading toward an extended period of instability.
The blasts, Turkey’s bloodiest in years, have further polarized the country as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tries again for a ruling majority in parliament.
With political winds blowing against the ruling party, the election could create power struggles just as the country grapples with more than 2 million refugees and tries to avoid being drawn into the chaos in neighboring Syria and Iraq.
This is a dramatic and dangerous time for the mostly Muslim nation and NATO ally, so often cited as an example of stability in a tumultuous region.
“We are now facing uncharted waters in terms of deadly violence in Turkey,” wrote Omer Taspinar of the Brookings Institution in Today’s Zaman, an opposition newspaper. “We are also in uncharted waters in terms of political polarization in the country.”
Turkey has suffered a spiral of violence since July, when a similar bombing killed 33 Turkish and Kurdish activists near the Syrian border, ending a cease-fire. Kurdish rebels blamed Turkey’s government, and hundreds have been killed since then in the renewed conflict with security forces.
No one has claimed responsibility for Saturday’s explosions at the Ankara peace rally, which killed at least 97 people and wounded hundreds.
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said Monday that the two bombers exploded about 11 pounds of dynamite each and that authorities have detained “a large number” of suspects.
Investigators are close to identifying those responsible and think they likely infiltrated Turkey from a neighboring country, he said.
Kurtulmus called for unity and solidarity in response to the attacks, which he said were aimed to sow discord and create “deep fissures” within Turkey.
Indeed, the attack in the capital — far from the conflicts bleeding over Turkey’s southern borders — is rattling nerves across the nation and beyond.
Amid the turmoil, the Turkish lira is losing value and interest rates are spiking, making it more difficult for Turkey to finance its looming short-term debt. Persistent instability also could harm tourism, an important source of revenue and foreign currency.
“These attacks won’t turn Turkey into a Syria,” said Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, insisting that Turkey’s growing involvement in the war in Syria will not drag the country into the Middle Eastern quagmire.
But Turkey’s government, which is openly hostile to Syrian President Bashar Assad, has struggled to avoid getting pulled into the chaos.
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