The country’s grimly predictable authoritarian descent continuesby Simon A Waldman / July 13, 2017 / Leave a comment
The politics of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his party are no mystery. They lie in the party’s very name, the Justice and Development Party (AKP). By justice, the AKP and its leaders do not really mean fairness, openness or equal treatment for all, but reshaping Turkey in the image of their conservative and pious support base. The results, as we have seen in the year following the attempted coup on 15th July 2016, are deeply troubling.
Together with Turkish journalist and academic Emre Caliskan, I recently authored a book entitled The New Turkey and Its Discontents. As part of our research, we interviewed many of Turkey’s political figures. We found that when we asked a question we were rarely given a direct answer. Instead we were taken on a long meandering narrative about injustice and suppression. The AKP politicians or sympathisers we spoke to were no exception.
Central to the narrative peddled by Erdoğan and the AKP is Turkey’s history of military interventions (1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997) to safeguard the vision of its modern founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. From the AKP’s perspective, Ataturk’s establishment of a staunchly secular republic in 1923 led to the hegemony of a secular elite, which curtailed outward expressions of Islamic identity in an effort to “westernise” and “civilise” the country. Founding members of the AKP witnessed a military intervention take place in 1997, when the army staged a behind the scenes coup against the openly Islamist Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan of the Welfare Party, where as members Erdoğan and other leading members of the AKP had their first foray into politics.
Since coming to power in 2002, the AKP has, it believes, faced plotting from every corner. In 2008 a case was brought to Turkey’s constitutional court to close the party for anti-secular activities, which just narrowly failed (the AKP was fined instead). There were the Ergenekon and Balyoz “deep state” investigations from 2008 onwards, alleging a clandestine alliance between military factions and civil society networks to oust the AKP government (convictions were later overturned after irregularities in the cases were found). Even the 2013 Gezi Park protests were likened to a coup attempt.
It has been one year since a faction within the military loyal not to the state, but to Fetullah Gulen, a Turkish Islamic preacher based in Pennsylvania, tried…