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Turkey in Turmoil

Turkey in Turmoil

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The upcoming Turkish elections will shape the future of a key NATO ally.
The upcoming Turkish elections will shape the future of a key NATO ally.

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Published by: Center for American Progress on Mar 27, 2014
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1 Center for American Progress | Turkey in Turmoil
 Turkey in Turmoil
 The upcoming Turkish elections will shape the future of a key NATO ally.
By Michael Werz and Max Hoffman March 27, 2014
 A litle more han a decade ago, he urkish Jusice and Developmen Pary, or AKP, and is main proagonis, Recep ayyip Erdoğan, celebraed a hisoric elecoral vicory. Founded in 2001, he AKP mobilized a broad alliance󲀔consising o religious and social conservaives, members o he newly emergen Anaolian middle class, and liberal urks rusraed wih he coaliion governmen o he democraic lef and esablishmen naion-aliss󲀔o become he counry’s firs and only popular, broad-based naional pary.
1
 Recep ayyip Erdoğans biography exemplified he ransormaion wihin urkish soci-ey ha underpinned his poliical shif. Erdoğan immigraed o as-growing Isanbul a he age o 13 rom a rural province on urkey’s Black Sea coas.
2
 He laer buil a poliical career by connecing wih underprivileged, rural, and religious urks, who had been largely ignored by he radiional urkish poliical elie.  Afer is waershed vicory in he 2002 elecions, he AKP󲀔wih Prime Miniser Erdoğan a he helm󲀔oversaw a decade o srong economic growh, began imporan reorms o move urkey oward EU membership, and sofened he urkish sae’s radi-ionally harsh sance oward religious and ehnic minoriy groups.
3
 Alongside is broad popular suppor, he AKP buil a poen poliical machine based on awarding paron-age and governmen conracs o business leaders in exchange or financial suppor and posiive coverage rom media arms affiliaed wih hose business leaders.
4
 Building upon heir economic record and he suppor o religious and socially conservaive urks and powerul Anaolian business ineress, he AKP secured addiional decisive elecoral  vicories in 2007 and 2011.
A crucial test
urkey will head o he polls on March 30 or key local elecions or he firs ime since 2009. While voers will choose members o provincial and municipal councils, as well as mayors, across he counry, conrol o Isanbul󲀔home o nearly 20 percen o he urkish populaion
5
 and he launch pad or Prime Miniser Erdoğans own poliical
 
2 Center for American Progress | Turkey in Turmoil
career󲀔is he real prize. Conrol o he capial, Ankara, is also a sake, and he resul here will help shape he poliical narraive ollowing he elecions, alhough o a lesser exen han Isanbul. Addiionally, even hough hese local elecions are osensibly sup-posed o address local concerns, he major poliical paries and mos poliical observ-ers are raming he voe as a reerendum on he rule o Prime Minser Erdoğan and he  AKP. Te percenage o voes earned by each pary naionwide will carry grea poliical  weigh, helping define he popular will in advance o urkey’s firs-ever direc presiden-ial elecion in Augus 2014. Tese elecions are a crucial es o Prime Miniser Erdoğan’s legiimacy, which has  been eroded by years o suppression o dissen and revelaions o corrupion wihin his pary. I will be he firs opporuniy or urkish voers o express heir opinions in he wake o a series o poliical upheavals and scandals ha have considerably weak-ened he AKP’s brand. urkey was rocked by he Gezi Park proess and subsequen police crackdown on proesers and criical media voices in May 2013.
6
 Te draconian acics employed by he police and he divisive rheoric used by he prime miniser in response o he proess alienaed many urban and middle-class urks.
7
 Ten, a series o corrupion invesigaions ino he prime miniser’s close associaes were made public in December ollowing pre-dawn raids on several AKP salwars.
8
 Widespread media coverage o he cases has been soked by regularly leaked recordings o he prime miniser and his confidanes discussing bribes, kickbacks, and he use o he  judiciary o punish poliical rivals.
9
 Te AKP says he invesigaions are poliically moivaed󲀔orchesraed by exiled religious leader Fehullah Gülens ollowers in he police and he judiciary, reerred o as Güleniss󲀔and denounces he cases as an atemped coup.
10
 Te public alling ou  beween ormer allies o he AKP and supporers o he prime miniser has shatered he pary’s conservaive coaliion and hreaens is decade-long hegemony. Tis challenge has promped a srong backlash rom he prime miniser’s supporers inside and ouside o governmen, including he passage o conroversial laws graning greaer parliamen-ary auhoriy over he appoinmen o judges and prosecuors and a new law ighening governmen conrol over he Inerne.
11
 In shor, he elecions will demonsrae he exen o which urkish voers have urned on he prime miniser in ligh o his auocraic endencies and charges o wide-spread corrupion. Observers in Washingon and European capials will be waching he polls closely, as he resul will likely shape Prime Miniser Erdoğans course on a range o imporan issues surrounding he rule o law, reedom o he press, and he Kurdish peace process.
 
3 Center for American Progress | Turkey in Turmoil
Off the rails
Te pas wo years have shown ha he grea poliical srenghs ha gave he prime miniser such saying power󲀔his populism and he AKPs paronage sysem󲀔have  become liabiliies. Since assuming power in 2003, Erdoğan has shown himsel capable o speaking direcly o his supporers, bypassing he elie-led pary srucures ha had radiionally dominaed urkish poliics. He iniially used his approach o mobilize suppor or iniiaives, including democraic reorms aimed a EU membership and he exension o imporan righs o Kurdish and oher minoriies. In addiion, his pary delivered significan improvemens in economic sandards and imporan iniiaives o  broaden access o healh care.  Alongside hese angible effors, he prime miniser championed popular iniiaives designed o mobilize his conservaive and pious base, such as fighing o remove he  ban on headscarves or women in public educaion and governmen offices and picking diplomaic fighs wih Israel.
12
 Bu afer more han one decade in power, he has largely exhaused he populis policy iniiaives ha are available o him󲀔and ha he urkish sae can afford. Meanwhile, a worsening macroeconomic environmen characerized by sofening simulus rom he U.S. Federal Reserve and a $64 billion accoun defici has  brough greaer scruiny o he AKP’s economic record.
13
 Over he pas hree years, he prime miniser has relied on ever more divisive and con-roversial rerains o whip up suppor. Erdoğan’s rheoric has urned increasingly exclu-sive and hosile, ocused on demonizing his opponens raher han promoing uniy. Te abuse o he paronage sysem afer a decade in power conribued o he poliical rif  wih he Güleniss and he corrupion allegaions ha now hreaen his rule, promping urher angry ouburss rom he prime miniser. Te AKP’s effors o conrol criicism by exering conrol o he media
14
 hrough eco-nomic and poliical pressure on journaliss and owners have urher alienaed liberal urks who were iniially sympaheic o he parys pro-EU sance and have exacerbaed concerns abou he prime miniser’s auhoriarian urn. Erdoğan has become increas-ingly paranoid and hosile in he ace o legiimae criicism, and he and his inner circle have sough scapegoas, concocing elaborae conspiracy heories wih enemies includ-ing he airline Lufhansa, he
Financial imes
 , he Jews, elekinesis, and he Queen o England, o name jus a ew.
15
 Tis paranoia and desperaion is, a leas in par, he resul o he prime miniser’s ailure o embrace insiuional reorm and respec he rule o law. He has demonsraed ha he  believes he ballo box o be he sole source and arbier o legiimacy, dismissing crii-cism o corrupion or judicial malpracice and claiming he people󲀔“his people”󲀔will decide wha is accepable. Tis ormulaion has urher undermined he already ragile and poorly uncioning judicial sysem and he ree press. Addiionally, while Erdoğans

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