In 1996, Refah, or the Welfare Party of Necmettin Erbakan in Turkey, became the first Islamist party in the Middle East to come to power through the ballot box. Many voters supported it because it was seen as an efficient, honest party in contrast to Turkey's other main parties.
   Given its Islamic ideology, Refah was not as averse to admitting the existence of the Kurds in Turkey as were the other main parties.
   Indeed, Refah held out a forlorn hope that it could solve Turkey's Kurdish problem by emphasizing overall Islamic unity. As such, however, it should be emphasized that Refah and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) remained enemies competing for some of the same (ethnic Kurdish) clientele. The same dynamic continued between the AK Partisi (AKP), with its roots in Islamic politics, and the Kurdish nationalist party (Demokratik Toplum Partisi DTP) and undoubtedly will continue between whatever successor parties arise in the future.
   Refah advocated the elimination of emergency rule in the southeast of Turkey, favored the liberalization of restrictions on the Kurdish language, and emphasized a peaceful settlement. Because the Peoples Democracy Party (HADEP), the overtly Kurdish party, had been severely restricted by the government, Refah was able to do quite well in the Kurdish southeast of Turkey during the national elections held in December 1995.
   RefaKs attempts to make headway with the Kurdish problem foundered, and its tenure in office proved short-lived because of the strong opposition expressed by Turkey's military. Erbakan was forced to resign in June 1997, and Refah itself was banned by the Constitutional Court in January 1998, the same fate ironically suffered by earlier Kurdish parties. The more moderate and successful AK Party under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been in power in Turkey since November 2002.

Historical Dictionary of the Kurds. .

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  • Refah Party — or Welfare Party Turkish political party noted for its Islamic orientation. It was founded in 1983 by Necmettin Erbakan. After doing well in local elections in the early 1990s, it won nearly one third of the seats (the largest single bloc) in the …   Universalium

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