Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to have won another five-year term in elections on Sunday. But what does that mean for the future of Turkish democracy?, asks Aydogan Vatandas.
By Aydogan Vatandas
When the Justice and Development (AK) Party took office in 2002, many intellectuals in Turkey and abroad were convinced that the party’s commitment to democratization was promising. The first term of the AK Party rule, which is considered as a golden era, broadly extended from 2002 to 2007. This era was characterized by high, inclusive economic growth, coupled with significant democratic reforms, ranging from a radical reordering of civil-military relations to the recognition of minority rights, including language and cultural rights for Kurdish citizens.
This initial high performance created a certain level of trust in the AK Party rule among Turkish intellectuals, including the Gülen Movement, that in time the AK Party would eliminate all the undemocratic aspects of the Turkish governmental system. Between 2009 and 2011, the AK Party government successfully managed to create a legal framework that precluded Turkish military involvement in politics, which would prevent military interventions of the kind Turkey had suffered from in the past. The end result, however, was not a consolidated democracy as expected, but a highly personalized autocracy embodied in the figure of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
What went wrong with the AK Party and its leadership during the democratization of Turkey remains an important question. Was the performance of the party between 2002 and 2007 mere window dressing, with Erdogan and his close, oligarchic circle waiting for a convenient time to apply their secret, true agenda? Were they never democratic at all? Or was Erdogan obsessed with the idea that he had a messianic mission like being the ‘Caliph’ of the Muslim world?
Resilience of Kemalist Institutions
It is argued that the failure of the AK Party rule to develop a consolidated democracy is deeply rooted in the traditional tutelage of secular Kemalist institutions (continuing from Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey) over the Turkish political…