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The Interlinking of Turkey's Domestic and Foreign Policy in the AKP's Third Term

The Interlinking of Turkey's Domestic and Foreign Policy in the AKP's Third Term

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This policy brief argues that Turkey now must prove it is able to transcend its long tradition of "democracy without democrats" both internally and externally.
This policy brief argues that Turkey now must prove it is able to transcend its long tradition of "democracy without democrats" both internally and externally.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Aug 29, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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 The Interlinking of Turkey’s Domestic andForeign Policy in the AKP’s Third Term
by Joshua W. Walker 
August 10, 2011
, DC
: In the wake of theAKP’s victory and the resigna- tion of Turkey’s top militarycommanders six weeks later, there is no longer any doubt whohas exclusive control over foreignpolicy. Turkey now must prove itis able to transcend its long tradi- tion of “democracy without demo-crats” both internally and exter-nally. The AKP government haswon a mandate in its third term to write a new social contractand be a true inspiration for itsregion. Having spent the last two terms demanding a global rolefor Turkey, the AKP now has itswish in the “Arab Spring,” butmust deliver if it wants to be seena credible mediator rather thansimply a rhetorically bombasticand ineffective regional power.Without a harmonic and symbi-otic voice, Turkey risks losing 
 the inuence it has carefully
cultivated over the last decade.Managing the interdependencybetween a democratizing andfractious domestic political scenewith an ambitious foreign policyvision in Ankara for the AKP willbe of critical importance.
urkey’s global rise over the courseo the last decade is well-documentedand being studied by many countriesand commentators who ocus on theincumbent Justice and DevelopmentParty’s (AKP) stewardship o a “new”urkish oreign policy. Tis is only logical given that the re-orientationo urkey’s 21
century oreign policy coincided with the emergence o thesel-condent Prime Minister Recepayyip Erdoğan and his AKP. Electedin 2002 with 34 percent o the popular vote against the backdrop o corruptincumbent parties and re-electedagain in 2007 with 47 percent, underthe cloud o military intererence ande-proclamations, the AKP success-ully navigated and conquered urkishpolitics to become a predominant orceeven beore the June 12, 2011, elec-tions.In the wake o the AKP’s victory withclose to hal o the popular vote, andthe resignation o urkey’s top military commanders six weeks later, there isno longer any doubt who has exclusivecontrol over oreign policy in a way unprecedented or civilian leadersand a single party in modern urkishhistory. urkey now must prove it isable to transcend its long tradition o “democracy without democrats,” inwhich one group within the heteroge-neous, polarized polity – most recently,the AKP – captures the state, only toenact policies and rules that enableit to monopolize power and governwithout compromise.
Turkey Today
urkey today is simultaneously moredemocratic and more engaged inthe world than at any time since theoundation o the urkish Republic in1923. Yet at the same time, it has moretensions with its Western allies thansince its 1974 operation in Cyprus.Further progress hinges on a serieso remaining domestic challenges,most importantly the writing o anew constitution, that is complicatedby its current oreign policy posture.Unlike during the Cold War, whenurkey’s overriding national interestswere ocused on internal enemiesand the larger threat o the SovietUnion, urkish oreign policy today is complicated and inter-related withits own internal developments as animportant capitalist, Muslim-majority,secular democracy, which is beingcareully watched amidst the backdropo historic regional changes. Te “new”
Turkey nds itself in the
uncomfortable situation of being 
a ip-opping regional power,
confronting accusations it used to lob at the West for its doublestandards and hypocrisy in theregion.
oreign policy o urkey championed by the three-termruling AKP has brought with it a realignment and re-eval-uation o Ankara’s traditional positioning in world politics.No longer simply a bridge or instrument “o” or “rom”the West, urkey has established its own agency in the lasttwo terms o the AKP through a pro-active oreign policy that seeks to balance its pragmatic interests and principles.Whether or not this will continue to be possible in theAKP’s third term remains to be seen.urkey’s domestic political transormation and its democ-ratization under the AKP have played an important role inthe expansion o urkey’s international relations. Despitethe traditional hostility o urkey’s secular
elitetowards its Muslim and Soviet neighborhood in avor o amore comprehensive partnership with the more powerulWest, the popular sentiment o most urks remains skep-tical towards the West
as evidenced by polling done by Pew.Consequently, in periods o democratically elected civiliangovernments, urkey has pursued closer relations with itsneighborhood. Tis is most clearly demonstrated by theoreign policy initiatives o Prime Ministers Menderes andÖzal, long beore the AKP.
Regional Dynamism
Te rise o the AKP and the “Anatolian igers,” repre-senting the new business elites o the urkish heartland inKayseri, Konya, or Gaziantep rather than the traditionalWestern centers o the Marmaris, has redened the oncedominant narrative o urkey’s heartland being economi-cally backwards and too religiously conservative, as the
elites and military once propagated. oday, urkey under the AKP operates according to a new vision o thecountry’s long-term economic and geopolitical objectives,turning away rom its once exclusively Western orientationand instead towards its own regional neighborhood. Tisre-orientation is marked by the concepts o “zero problemswith neighbors” and “strategic depth,” as explained by thecurrent Minister o Foreign Aairs Ahmet Davutoğlu. Tedirect impact this has had on business and trade is a reo-cusing o attention and energy within rather than beyondurkey’s immediate neighborhood.
This has been seen in polling most recently completed by the Pew Global AttitudesProject http://www.pewtrusts.org/our_work_report_detail.aspx?id=85899362116
Despite the initial successes o urkish oreign policy inopening new markets and expanding into its neighbor-hood, throughout the Arab Spring, Ankara has been orcedto conront the new realities o the Middle East. Havinginitially inspired great admiration in both the Arab worldand the West or its early embrace o changes in unisia andEgypt, urkey misjudged Libya by initially rejecting sanc-tions and even opposing NAO’s involvement, losing muchcredibility beore changing course. Now with the ongoingprotests and brutal repression by the AKP leadership’s“brother” Bashar Assad, Ankara has only reluctantly spokenout as Syrians poured across the border and continue tobe killed during protests every day. Syria has been theshowcase o AKP’s policy o engagement in the MiddleEast thereore the time it has taken or them to “run outo patience” with Assad will be consequential or urkey’suture role in the region. urkey nds itsel in the uncom-ortable situation o being a ip-opping regional power,conronting accusations it used to lob at the West or itsdouble standards and hypocrisy in the region. Now the EU,urkey, and the United States nd themselves in the sameboat without any tangible benets.Unlike previous oreign ministers such as Abdullah Guland Ali Babacan that spoke soly and in unison with theprime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu’s tenure has been raughtwith domestic disagreements over important oreign policy issues such as Armenia, Cyprus, and Israel to name only the most recent instances. Te voice o the prime ministerhas typically drowned out the work and voice o the oreign
Perhaps the greatest foreignpolicy challenge for the AKP inits third term will be balancing its historically close “strategicalliance” with America and itsongoing membership associationwith the EU amidst the neweconomic realities of Westerncrisis and a newly assertive foreignpolicy with its neighbors.
ministry that has tried to navigate these treacherous waterswithout awakening populist nationalism within domesticpolitics. Without a harmonic and symbiotic voice, urkey risks losing the inuence it has careully cultivated overthe last decade. urkey’s so power that is oen extolled inits active diplomacy as a regional leader is no longer justabout trade and diplomacy. It also calls or active supportor democracy, human rights, and the rule o law. Addition-ally, having zero-problems with the people and regimes o the region is becoming increasingly impossible. As regimessuch as Syria kill their own people, ractions within Ankaradisagree over undamental urkish responses, causingurther conusion.
Balancing Turkish Foreign Policy in the AKP’s Third Term
Te perceived decline o the West versus the rise o the Eastin the 21
century, has animated the AKP to strategically pursue its own sense o urkey’s destiny with its 360 degreeso “strategic depth” with great success. Having spent thelast two terms demanding a global role or urkey, the AKPnow has its wish, but must deliver i it wants to be seen acredible global mediator rather than simply a rhetorically bombastic but ineective regional power. Beneting romurkey’s economic and regional dynamism, the AKP seemspoised to continue to prioritize its Anatolian roots ratherthan the traditional Western business community that hasbeen unable to politically challenge them. Te outstandingquestion now is whether the AKP will perpetuate the oldpattern o enshrining its own preerences at the expense o others in urkey’s deeply divided polity and the eect thiswill have in its international behavior.Perhaps the greatest oreign policy challenge or the AKP inits third term will be balancing its historically close “stra-tegic alliance” with America and its ongoing membershipassociation with the EU amidst the new economic realitieso Western crisis and a newly assertive oreign policy withits neighbors that could lead to urther tensions betweenthe country’s perceived interests and principles. Managingthe interdependency between a democratizing and stabledomestic political scene and ambitious oreign policy visionin Ankara or the AKP will be o critical importance.A new challenge or the West will be to actively engageurkey and encourage the AKP’s activism to live up to theprinciples set orth in its ambitious oreign policies o therst two terms. rying to bully urkey into cutting o rela-tions with Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, or any actor willonly generate backlash against the West that it can ill-aordrom one o the most important democracies and econo-mies in the region. Divergent interests will sometimes leadto disagreements, which can be minimized by emphasizingthe overriding common interest in a democratizing, ree-market Middle East that looks to the transatlantic commu-nity or assistance in the short-run.
Creating a New Social Contract for Turkey
urkey needs constitutional reorm, and the AKP has inter-preted its electoral victory as giving it a popular mandateto create a new social contract or the country. Te primeminister’s desire to turn urkey into a presidential ratherthan a parliamentary system may have to wait, as he rstmust address the perennial Kurdish issue. However, only a new constitution can create the necessary space or apolitical solution that still seems a long way o. Te newsocial contract cannot simply be an alliance o convenience

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