The Failure of the AKP’s Total Transformation Project

By Erdi Öztürk

In the context of “Teaching the Crisis – Geographies, Methodologies, Perspectives”, Summer School, September 2-14, 2013, Institute for European Ethnology, Humboldt-Universität Berlin
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AKP (Turkish abbreviation for “Justice and Development Party”), established by the reformist wing of the pro-Islamic Virtue Party, defines itself as a “conservative democratic” movement. The party is socially and fiscally conservative, aiming to represent the devout Muslim trade’s people as well as the newly-emerging conservative bourgeoisie, lower and lower-middle class conservative Sunni Turks and Shafi’i Kurds living in the “periphery”. The predecessors of AK Party, the Welfare Party (“Refah Partisi” in Turkish) and the Virtue Party (“Fazilet Partisi” in Turkish) were against the European Union membership bid of Turkey, more critical of the market economy and defended a more statist approach (İnsel, 2003: 3). However, AKP supported the European Union membership negotiation process of Turkey and introduced reform packages for adopting the EU acquits in its first years. (Kahraman, 2007: 139-143).

Since the beginning of its rule in 2002 AKP government has been playing two different and contrast roles. On the one hand, as a first role, it has been utilizing democratization, social justice and to be fair to the different social groups in its discourses. On the other hand, as a second role, it has been pursuing an aggressive economic and political attack against, who has the different political and world view, especially the working sections of the population. Additionally, especially after the 2007 General Election in which the AKP won a landslide victory and its attempts to tame the Turkish Armed Forces leadership in a protracted inter-oligarchic rivalry proved to be successful, AKP embraced even more aggressive policies against the larger sections of the society. Nonetheless, after 2007 AKP has been giving up the European Union process slowly as a first turning point. In this respect it has been beginning to lose distinction of discursive democracy. However that there were several logical arguments both from the world and the Turkey’s public opinions like AKP’s hard governance and policy methods (Parla, 2007: 117). After this period, mostly post-2007, AKP gradually began to harden and manage to monopolize the political power with all the relevant institutions, its attack started to be felt by the larger sections of the society. 2011 when another general election was a second turning point: In the same time with the Arab revolutions, the government’s policy of incremental change through economic cooperation took a heavy blow, while it created the basis for Erdogan’s recasting as model leader for the fledgling democracies of the Arab world. It was at this point, that the Prime Minister’s conservative rhetoric began to spiral out of control and increasingly resembled that of an autocrat, who was lecturing his domestic and international interlocutors about the straight path ahead, increasingly resorting to religious rhetoric and symbolism.

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