Summary: As Turkey’sConstitutional Court prepares toact on the closure case pending against the governing Justiceand Development Party (AKP),Turks across the ideologicalspectrum are watching and wait-ing. Predictions and preferencesabound; active responses arelimited. Caution and inertiaappear to be the order of theday, even for those mostexposed to the consequences of political and economic turmoil. Yet this crisis, more than others of recent years, could have dramaticconsequences for the evolutionof Turkish society and foreignpolicy. Turkey’s EU candidacymay be irreparably damaged,nationalist tendencies reinforced,and relations with the UnitedStates, already troubled, couldbe further compromised. Turkeycould emerge from its current travails as a less credible and lesscapable actor on the internationalscene.
Foreign Policy Program
One o the striking aspects o Turkey’slatest political crisis is its detached, slow-motion quality. As Turkey’s ConstitutionalCourt prepares to act on the closure casepending against the governing Justice andDevelopment Party (AKP), Turks acrossthe ideological spectrum are watchingand waiting. Predictions and preerencesabound; active responses are limited.Caution and inertia appear to be the ordero the day, even or those most exposed tothe consequences o political andeconomic turmoil.Yet this crisis, more than others o recent years, could have dramatic consequencesor the evolution o Turkish society andoreign policy. Indeed, the Turkishtalent or survival and adjustment, andthe proven resilience o the Turkish state,suggest that the most signicantconsequences o this crisis may beexternal rather than internal. Turks may adjust to what some observers are callingan impending “judicial coup.” But Turkey’sEU candidacy may be irreparably damaged, nationalist tendenciesreinorced, and relations with the UnitedStates, already troubled, could be urthercompromised. Turkey could emergerom its current travails as a less credibleand less capable actor on the internationalscene.
The prevailing view among inormedobservers is that the Constitutional Courtwill close down the AKP and ban leadinggures in the party (a separate closurecase has been launched against the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, DTP).The pending indictment accuses some70 individuals in the AKP o seeking toundermine Turkish secularism. Roughly hal are members o parliament, the restare party activists and advisors. I banned,these individuals could be barred rompolitics or ve years. Many would losetheir parliamentary immunity, opening theway or urther prosecution on a variety o charges. A decision in the closure caseis likely within the next six months. Thetiming is signicant. Even i the AKP isclosed, with leading gures barred rompolitics, the party group would retain amajority in parliament and would be ina position to re-emerge under a dierentname. But i the closure occurs toward theend o 2008 or later, the party will havelittle opportunity to regroup prior to localelections in the spring o 2009.Many observers stress that the staunchly secular elements pressing or closure o the AKP are, above all, angling to removePrime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkey’s Travails: Outlook and StrategicConsequences
by Dr. Ian Lesser, Senior Transatlantic Fellow,The German Marshall Fund of the United States
1744 R Street NWWashington, DC 20009T 1 202 745 3950F 1 202 265 1662E firstname.lastname@example.org
This policy brief reects the author’s conversations in Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey, in April 2008.