July 27, 2008
Turkey: The Islamic Democrat Option & The Court
The Financial Times has an interesting commentary on Turkey and the current court battle against the AKP: Objection overruled: Turkish political Islam fights for survival in court. Of particular note is the decline of the European option and what may be the subsequent damage to political liberalism. It is hard to say what is precisely right here, but my instinct is that the Turkish secular establishment is shooting its own foot off. The gains by the AKP are as much due to simple basic competence as Islamic appeal, and from the point of a view as a model cited now and again in MENA (in MENA, by Islamist parties), this struggle, unlike much Turkish political reference, has echoes.
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A couple of corrections to the article: the article calls the AKP populist. It isn't, it's a conservative party, with economics on the right (economically liberals) - on social/civil issues they're on the right too by Western standards, but not so by Middle-Eastern ones, which could even earn them a label of classical liberals to some extent in that context.
Also, Turkey is not so divided about the closure case. The (very illiberal and not so democratic) seculars, as represented by the CHP, have the support of only 20% of the population. For historical reasons though, they're overrepresented in different institutions (the army, the judicial, etc.) and as a result command a quite disproportionate power base.
Well there are a lot of seculars who voted for AKP because (1) AKP were indeed competent in their first term, and (2) the other parties are absolutely terrible, especially their leaders. AKP pursued a very divisive agenda after their electoral win last year and so a lot of seculars who were with them then are not so enthusiastic now. Were there a competent viable alternative, AKP wouldn't have become so powerful.
I do find it amusing how journalists keep going through the motions of acting like the decision is somehow in doubt. The only question at this point is whether 9 or 10 of the judges will go along with the decision to close.
Posted by: Djuha at July 28, 2008 01:31 AM
The bombing in Istanbul a few hours ago puts this issue in high relief. One of the most potentially troubling aspects of Turkey's political/social demographics is its strong geographic component. People in western Turkey are much more likely to view the AKP's religious tendencies with deep suspicion. Western Turkey is a very different place from much of the rest of the country. Long-time residents of Istanbul have several expressions meaning "recent immigrant from Anatolia" and none of them are complementary.
Turkey could live with the AKP. But if the establishment's cack-handed efforts to crush them result in a more radical brand of politicized Islam, I forsee terrible trouble ahead. Many Western Turks would happily sign up for Megali Idea before they'd re-create the Caliphate.
Posted by: Anonymous at July 28, 2008 02:26 AM
anonymous - Dugin's ideas of a Russia-Turkey-Iran military/anti-colonial alliance, described as 'Eurasia' ('Avrasya' in Turkish are more of an active driver in Turkey and in the military today, after pan-Turkish 'Turanism' has mostly died.
Posted by: dawud at July 28, 2008 07:04 PM
and while the headscarf on university campuses issue may be truly secondary to EU & economy issues, it was critical to the conservative Turks who voted for the AK Party - and considered these moves overdue. and nowhere near as divisive as trying to initiate a coup because you don't like the democratically elected party in power.
Posted by: dawud at July 28, 2008 07:06 PM
links on Dugin and Turkish military/'intelligentsia' links:
Key points from Marlène Laruelle's paper on
"Russo-Turkish Rapprochement through the Idea of Eurasia: Alexander Dugin's Networks in Turkey," given at the Jamestown Foundation in Washington, DC, Tuesday, April 29, 2008:
# The concept of concept of Eurasia (Avrasya) was developed independently in Turkey, and its exponents were initially critical of Dugin's Eurasianism.
# This, however, has now changed. In 2003, the Turkish translation of Dugin's Geopolitics was published as Rus Jeopolitigi Avrasyaci Yaklasim, and according to Laruelle "seems to have gone over well with part of the Turkish military"--especially among "army officers disillusioned by Turkey’s loss of clout in NATO and shocked by the Iraq war."
Retired Brig. Gen. Nejat Eslen:
'Democracy is not a priority for Turkey'
But we cannot possibly say that Russia closely followed Dugin's concept, because he realized that he made mistakes as well and noted that cooperation with Turkey was needed. Of course, the Dugin concept has supporters in Turkey, like Doğu Perinçek, [leader of the ultranationalist Workers' Party] and his followers. Dugin came to Turkey upon the invitation of this group.
Posted by: dawud at July 28, 2008 11:32 PM
Well, (thankfully) I stand corrected.
Posted by: Djuha at July 30, 2008 11:55 AM
Yes, it was quite a good outcome -- much more politically intelligent than I expected. While political dexterity isn't necessarily what you look for in a supreme court, I'll take it, in this case.
The court fired a warning shot across the AKP's bow. Nobody is completely happy but everyone is forced to the grudging admission that the system actually worked. Nicely done. There may really be hope for Turkey after all.
Posted by: Anonymous at July 30, 2008 02:38 PM