WASHINGTON — The decision by Turkey’s constitutional court to warnand sanction, but not close the rulingJustice and Development Party (AKP),oers an opportunity to Turks andTurkey’s international partners. Ateralmost a year o distraction and disar-ray, Ankara may now be able to ocuson the most pressing problems acingthe country. Europe and the UnitedStates may now be able to treat Turkey as a “normal” country again. Muchwill depend on whether the court’sdecision ushers in a period o moderation or renewed polarization,and whether the AKP government usesits renewed reedom o action to thinkstrategically about external policy.
Interpreting the Decision
Admit it or not, most observers weresurprised by the verdict. Over thepast months, Turks on all sides, andTurkey’s international interlocutors,had prepared themselves or a party closure and, most likely, a ban on key AKP political fgures. In the event, thecourt stepped back rom this “nuclearoption,” leaving the current politicalconstellation in place. Some will spec-ulate that a quiet deal may have beenstruck between Prime Minister RecepTayyip Erdo
an, top generals, andothers in the secular establishment:AKP let in power, but with a promiseo moderation on headscarves,education policy, and other criticalissues in the secularism debate. Aslikely, and perhaps more importantor the longer term, diverse sectorsin Turkey may have judged thatthe costs o a party closure weresimply too high. The economy,already under pressure rom politicalrisk and troubles in global markets,would have been badly hurt. Turkey’sEU candidacy, already troubled,would have been dealt a urther blow.An outright suspension o accessionnegotiations could not be ruled outand, once suspended, Turkey’scandidacy would be difcult orimpossible to restart.Even or hard-line Kemalists eager tosee Erdo
an out o power and AKP’spolitical primacy brought to an end,it was never clear that a party closurewould bring the desired result. AKPwould likely have reorganized under adierent name, and perhaps securedan even larger mandate in newgeneral elections. In the worst case,AKP supporters and opponents mighthave gone to the streets, with unore-
Turkey After the Verdict: Back to Normal?
by Dr. Ian O. Lesser
Dr. Ian O. Lesser is a senior transatlantic fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF). The views expressedhere are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of GMF.
Summary: The decision by Turkey’sconstitutional court to warn andsanction, but not close the Justiceand Development Party (AKP),offers an opportunity to Turks andTurkey’s international partners.After almost a year of distractionand disarray, Ankara may now beable to focus on the most pressing problems facing the country. Europeand the United States may now beable to treat Turkey as a “normal”country again. Much will dependon whether the court’s decisionushers in a period of moderation orrenewed polarization, and whether the AKP government uses itsrenewed freedom of action to thinkstrategically about external policy.