Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies Vol. 16, No.

3, 289–301, Fall 2007

Turkish Paradox: Progressive Islamists versus Reactionary Secularists
MICHAEL M. GUNTER* & M. HAKAN YAVUZ**
*Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, TN, USA **University of Utah, Salt Lake, UT, USA

¨ Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (d. 1938) founded the modern Republic of Turkey as a secular republic in 1923.1 Since that time, his followers, the Kemalists, and the military have successfully maintained that a secular Turkey is the only road to progress, reform, and modernization; today, to be modern is seen by many Turks as membership in the EU. The Kemalists have always painted Islamists as reactionary impediments to their vision of a modern progressive Turkey. Nevertheless, it has not been easy for Kemalists to dismiss lightly the nation’s Islamic heritage.2 Since the beginnings of multiparty democracy in the elections of 1950, Turkey’s Islamic roots have proven important and even decisive in the evolution of Turkish politics. Both the ruling Democrat Party of Adnan Menderes in ¨ the 1950s and the Justice Party of Suleyman Demirel in the 1960s and 1970s depended on latent Islamic support. What is more, the various Islamic parties headed by Necmettin Erbakan beginning in the 1960s boldly espoused an Islamic agenda. In 1996, Erbakan’s Refah Partisi (RP or Welfare Party) briefly even came to power until it was forced to resign as a result of military pressure in 1997.3 Both the Refah Party and its successor, Fazilet (Virtue), subsequently were banned by Turkey’s Constitutional Court. However, ˘ from the roots of this Islamic debacle, Recep Tayyip Erdogan founded a new moderate successor Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP or Justice and Development Party) in August 2001, and this party won a majority of seats in Turkey’s parliament in November 2002, enabling it to form Turkey’s first majority government since the 1980s.4 After a brief

Correspondence Address: Michael M. Gunter, Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, TN 38505, USA. Email: MGunter@tntech.edu 1 A good introductory history is Eric Zurcher, Turkey: A Modern History, 2nd ed. (London: I. B. Tauris, 1997). 2 See further Serif Mardin, Religion, Society, and Modernity in Turkey (New York: Syracuse University Press, 2006); and Jenny B. White, Islamist Mobilization in Turkey: A Study in Vernacular Politics (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002). 3 See further Michael M. Gunter, ‘The silent coup: the secularist-Islamist struggle in Turkey,’ Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, 21 (Spring 1998), pp. 1– 12. 4 See further M. Hakan Yavuz, Ed., The Emergence of a New Turkey: Democracy and the AK Parti (Salt Lake City: The University of Utah Press, 2006). AK not only is the acronym for the party, but also the adjective ak in Turkish means white, clean, or honest. ISSN 1066-9922 Print/1473-9666 Online/07/030289-13 q 2007 Editors of Critique DOI: 10.1080/10669920701616633

as a ˘ teenager. 2. 16 April 2007. an Islamic clerical training institute ironically made available by the Turkish military after its coup in 1980 in an attempt 5 6 7 8 9 ˘ ‘Strong warning to Erdogan by secular establishment. Erdogan became Prime Minister in 2003. The secularist opposition in the parliament ¨ then managed to block Gul’s election simply by boycotting sessions and thus denying that body the necessary two-thirds quorum. 16 April 2007. however. p. Foreign Minister ¨ Abdullah Gul. These developments set the stage for a paradoxical switching of roles: progressive Islamists versus Reactionary Secularists. helped to organize these protests and brandished slogans against the AKP. massive public protests against the AKP had begun in Turkey’s major cities of Ankara on 14 April. The secular opposition. . EU. ‘Turkish court blocks Islamist candidate. with memberships comprised of many retired military officers. Yavuz ˘ interlude. 2 May 2007. Gunter & M. seized upon this moment to block what it saw as the loss ¨ ¨ of one of its last bastions of power. Istanbul on 29 April. Istanbul.tsk. but spent his childhood in the Black Sea town of Rize. the military urged a ‘reflex action en masse against these terrorist acts’ in a June web site message. This policy. the military posted on its web site. Denizli. ˘ however. ˘ Erdogan’s AKP committed itself to pursuing Turkish membership in the EU. H. was quickly upheld by the secularist-controlled Constitutional Court. the Turkish ¸ military’s Chief of Staff. Turkey’s political regime has never been under this much threat’ and that ‘both domestic and foreign forces seek Turkey to become a conservative Islamic model. and Izmir on 13 May. Pro-secular associations. On 13 April. a so-called e-memorandum (e-muhtıra) warning against the threat posed by some groups aiming to destroy Turkey’s secular system under the cover of religion. called a rare press conference in which he declared that he hoped that the next president would not simply pay lip service to Turkey’s secular constitution but genuinely respect it.9 ˘ Embodiment of New Turkey: Erdogan ˘ Recep Tayyip Erdogan was born on 26 February 1954 in Kasimpasa. a questionable tactic whose constitutionality. p. ‘The text of the general staff press release. Marmaris. When he was 13.5 Then just before midnight on 27 April. 14. less than 200 miles from his family’s ancestral homeland in Georgia. He was educated at an Imam Hatip school.000 each also occurred in Canakkale. each attracted over one million participants.’ Briefing. his family returned to Istanbul and. The inherent struggle came to a head in April 2007 when the AKP nominated one of its own.’ Briefing (Ankara).tr ‘Sezer’s farewell speech: the republican regime has never been under this much threat.8 Erdogan was thus forced to call early parliamentary elections in an attempt to break the deadlock.’ Briefing. M. General Yasar Buyukanıt. Sabrina Tavernise. See the Turkish military’s web site: http://www. 3. Secular women’s groups were also prominent. p. Erdogan sold lemonade and sesame buns on the streets of Istanbul to help his family. Since the AKP possessed the necessary ¨ majority in the parliament to elect him.6 Outgoing secularist President Ahmet Necdet Sezer had already claimed that ‘since the foundation of the Republic. In an apparent effort to influence the voting against the AK. of course.290 M. Smaller but still impressive anti-AKP protests of over 100.mil. 11 June 2007.’7 At the same time. and globalization. and Manisa. Gul’s victory seemed a foregone conclusion. to be the new President of Turkey. entailed liberal political and economic reforms that challenged the privileged position of the Kemalist secularists and the military.’ International Herald Tribune.

pp. According to Yavuz. and farmer’s party to one that demands full integration into the global market and seeks to reduce role for the state in the economy. market-oriented. Erdogan ran afoul of the article in the Turkish penal code that banned ‘incitement to religious hatred’ when he publicly read a poem originally written by the Turkish ¨ nationalist theoretician. he was banned from politics and sentenced to 10 months in prison. For example. 10 11 12 M.11 They have two sons and two daughters. 213.Turkish Paradox 291 ˘ to preempt leftist and separatist movements. the RP became the largest ˘ party in Turkey and Erdogan was elected mayor of Greater Istanbul. Istanbul’s municipal transport company. . ˘ During the late 1970s. pp. the NSP was banned and Erdogan himself briefly brought before a military court. Yavuz. It was this criminal conviction that prevented him from immediately becoming prime minister following the victory of his AKP on 3 November 2002. Islamic Political Identity in Turkey (New York: Oxford University Press.10 Erdogan graduated with a degree in management from Marmara University’s Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences. Hakan Yavuz. He was elected to the Turkish parliament in 1991 when the RP finally managed to cross the 10 percent barrier. Ziya Gokalp: ‘Turkey’s mosques will be our barracks. see Edibe Sozen. p. 268–270. however. He also served his mandatory military ˘ service in 1982 as a commissioned officer.) The Emergence of a New Turkey: Democracy and the AK Parti (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. On 4 July 1978. secularists have heaped negative comment upon him. . small merchant.’ in: M. It is in this position that he first drew national attention as a populist and effective administrator for helping to reconstruct the city’s infrastructure and transportation network without being tainted by corruption. when Erbakan founded the Refah Party (RP) in 1983. 2006). Erdogan worked for the IETT. and became active in Erbakan’s Milli Selamet Partisi (National Salvation Party ˘ or NSP). and the faithful our soldiers. ˘ Erdogan gave fuel to his secularist opponents when he declared that New Year’s celebrations were a habit practiced by secularists and not a legitimate cause for him to mark. . ˘ ¨ On Emine Erdogan. he married Emine Gulbaran who was born in Siirt (Turkey’s Kurdish area) but is of Arabic ancestry. Hakan Yavuz. M. Because his wife wears the traditional Islamic headscarf. the RP-led Islamic movement shifted from being an anti-global. but was disqualified by the High Electoral Committee due to technical voting rules. Erdogan reentered politics. four of which he actually served. ‘Gender politics of the JDP. 2003). In his spare time. he played semi-professional soccer ¨ for 16 years. During the elections of 27 March 1994. Islamic Political Identity. H. 122–128.12 ˘ During the local elections of 1985. After the military coup in September 1980. the nature of Turkish Islamic politics was already beginning to reflect modern imperatives: The Islamism of the 1980s differed from the Islamic movements of the 1960s and 1970s in its social basis. the minarets our bayonets. . Then on 12 December ˘ 1997. where he first met Erbakan. (Ed. and impact. He also said that he shook hands only with the opposite sex so as not to upset and damage discussions but afterward he prayed to God for forgiveness.’ For this transgression. the domes our helmets. nature. Erdogan became the chair of the RP branch in ˘ Istanbul province and ran unsuccessfully for mayor of the Beyoglu district.

pp. rather than an Islamic one. they try to associate Erdogan and his current associates with Erbakan and question the reasons why they left Erbakan’s party to form the AKP.15 Such stunning economic achievements can be expected to benefit the masses in terms of higher employment opportunities. M.’ Today’s Zaman. are unable to distinguish the differences in ideology and tone ˘ ˘ between Erdogan and Erbakan. H. still is saying. Having apparently learned a lesson ˘ from his earlier political experiences. Erdogan’s policies demonstrate that he understands the necessity for openness. he has established a can-do reputation of clean government instituting democratic reforms necessary to achieve eventual EU membership. esp.) The Emergence of a New Turkey. and improved educational opportunities. Erbakan continues to give speeches about Western and Zionist conspiracies against Islam. 2007). ‘The roots of the AK party’s strength. Accordingly. 18 May 2007. and initiate a host of political reforms to harmonize Turkish and EU law. Yavuz ˘ Erdogan became the leader of the AKP when it was established on 14 August 2001. 12 July 2007. many secularists are unable to comprehend that the AKP program has transcended its Islamic roots and is committed to pursuing Turkey’s destiny 13 14 15 16 For background. Unlike Erdogan.’ Neue Zurcher Zeitung (Zurich). and transparency in government and for Turkey’s future. among others.000-plus point high on the Istanbul Stock Exchange. provide necessary services.5 percent in annual growth. and a record 50. . Gunter & M. Under ˘ Erdogan. (Ed. and Yavuz.16 Many analysts would agree that further democratization of the Turkish political system is essential not only to help resolve the ethnic issue but also to further the goal of Turkey’s integration ˘ with the EU. NY: Prometheus Books. attract foreign capital. the AKP has assumed a position as a center-right party. pursue privatization and a liberal market economy. Even his opponents admit that ˘ ˘ Turkey’s economy has done very well under Erdogan.292 M. more social spending. who tend to view all religious persons as backward. In this ˘ respect. while the conservatives of the now banned RP created the Saadet Partisi (SP) or Felicity Party. and 438. Muammer Kaylan.13 Increasingly. the longtime Islamic leader and Erdogan’s ˘ earlier mentor. 1–2. 412. Some analysts have seen an analogy between the AKP and Europe’s postWorld War II progressive conservative Christian Democratic parties as well as the modern ˘ West’s catchall parties. Erdogan addressed the long-taboo subject of the country’s ethnic Kurdish minority. Turkey has enjoyed an average of 7. In August 2005. For that reason. ‘The sun also rises in the south east. it would ˘ be useful to compare it with what Erbakan. He successfully endeavored to market Turkey abroad. ‘Das Sakulare Gesicht der Turkei Bewahren. one may argue that secularists owe a huge debt of gratitude to Erdogan and the AKP for their reforms that actually have bolstered secularism within the context of Turkey’s cultural heritage. stating publicly that Turkey had a ‘Kurdish problem’ and needed more democracy to solve it. 15 August 2005. 410. annual export volumes of almost $100 billion. ˘ To appreciate how far Erdogan has transformed his original Islamic position. Between Islam and State: The Politics of Engagement (Stanford. 134 –150. CA: Stanford University Press. see Berna Turam.14 In power. pp. tolerance. Ihsan Dagi. Erdogan repeatedly has stressed that the AKP is committed to democracy and Turkey’s secular identity. pp. Secularists. by the more moderate members of the former RP. greater tax revenues. 2005).’ Briefing. The Kemalists: Islamic Revival and the Fate of Secular Turkey (Amherst. Erdogan specifically declared that the AKP did not have a religious agenda and would work within the secular democratic framework. an inflation rate below 10 percent. $20 billion in direct foreign investment.

. Cited in Omer Erbil.’ Islamic World Report 1. pp. and on both the Qadiris and Naqshbandis.’ Milliyet (Istanbul).21 Secularists Like the Islamists. 179–205. . 151–178. the Gulen movement’s media outlets (daily Zaman. ‘The Naksibendi order in Republican Turkey. 17 18 19 20 21 On the Naqshbandis. Shaikh and State: The Social and Political Structure of Kurdistan (London: Zed Books. You must wait until such time as you have gotten all the state power. .17 while the Nur movement of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (1876 – 1960)18 and its neo-Nur ¨ offshoot headed by Fethullah Gulen19 represent more modern.’ Studia Islamica 44 (1976). On Said Nursi. Cited in Rod Dreher. a clash of civilizations. they accuse Fethullah Gulen’s movement of establishing an international reach that includes hundreds of schools indoctrinating youths with intensive Islamist training in keeping with the teachings of Nursi and also creating a hierarchy of activists in municipalities and businesses.’ Dallas News. and consequently Gulen was acquitted. for example. he maintains close relations with these openly Islamic groups and has a secret ¨ Islamic agenda for Turkey. until you reach all the power centers . when the AKP government modified the criminal code provisions pertaining to public speech (in response to EU pressures for Turkey to ¨ democratize its legal system). idem. in the 2007 ¨ ¨ elections. scientifically inclined Islamic movements. Bugun. Later. the AKP’s democratic and economic reforms have made it all but ˘ impossible to establish an Islamic state in Turkey. as well as toward the military. see ibid. Sufi orders such as the Naqshbandis and Qadiris. see Hamid Algar. Who then would be the Islamists if the AKP members are not? Turkey’s Islamists do not constitute a cohesive movement but rather are comprised of diverse groups. According to Erdogan’s secular opponents. 15 July 2007. 10–14 July 2007. 51 –67. pp. pp. ‘Sects. Islamic Political Identity in Turkey. Indeed. Even history may judge Erdogan to be ¨ ¨ modern Turkey’s most successful leader only after Ataturk himself and the late Turgut Ozal. .Turkish Paradox 293 in the EU. see Yavuz. . Secularists cite ¨ also a statement of Gulen as evidence: You must move in the arteries of the system. pp.20 Secularists prone to believe in conspiracy theories found further evidence of a presumed ˘ ¨ Erdogan – Gulen alliance in May 2006. pp. constitute more traditional Islamists. secularists say that Gulen was indicted in 1999 for his activities. 1992). Agha. ‘The Naksibendi order: a preliminary survey of its history and significance. In particular. and TV stations) all supported the AKP government and adopted a hostile attitude toward the opposition parties. 123–152. documented with film in which he allegedly reveals his aspirations for an Islamist Turkey ruled by the sharia and calls for clandestine means to achieve such a goal. and the 22 July [Elections]. until the conditions are ripe. without anyone noticing your existence. Turkey’s secularists have also evolved in terms of their attitudes and political positions. Turkish secularism has been synonymous with Kemalism. . ‘For Turkey. 3 (1996). On Fethullah Gulen. religious communities. the SP represents the more conservative elements of ˘ Erbakan’s now defunct Refah Party (banned in 1998). see Martin van Bruinessen. 216– 265. Although pretending to be ¨ moderate and apolitical. In addition. Historically.

secularism. 1971. while nationalism came to view any sort of Kurdish identity as a mortal threat to Turkey’s survival. has implicitly opposed Turkey’s EU candidacy on the grounds that it is ‘creating minorities in Turkey.25 Indeed. 29 June 2007. and Joost Lagendijk (Cochair of the Turkey–EU Joint Parliamentary Commission). Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. the military has intervened to remove civilian governments four times (1960. democracy is not one of these essential principles.e.24 Buyukanıt’s views are relevant because the Turkish military thinks of itself not just as the ultimate guardian of the Turkish state but also as the ultimate interpreter of what is Kemalism. Turkey’s highest administrative court. the Council of State. Pressures from the EU for Turkey to be more accommodative of its Kurdish minority have thus prompted some secularists to question ¨ ¨ the goal of EU membership. nationalism. Kemalists have pursued two of these principles with ideological fervor: secularism. The military’s insistence on its unique role in interpreting and defending Kemalism not only contradicts democratic ideals but also presents serious problems for Turkey’s EU candidacy. For example. Secularism opposed any sort of Islamic orientation. The prominent Turkish journal Nokta was forced to close down in April 2007 after publishing apparent details of the attempted coup. ‘Is the military in favor of EU accession?’ Today’s Zaman (Istanbul). General Yasar Buyukanıt. and 1997) and seriously considered yet another coup in 2004. according to Turkey. ‘Crisis in Turkey: just another bump on the road to Europe?’ Occasional Paper No. Yavuz ¨ an often flexible ideology named for modern Turkey’s founder.294 M. Gunter & M.’23 He also implied that the United States was part of the problem because of its support for the autonomy of Iraqi Kurds. 22 23 24 25 26 The Kurdish problem in Turkey is beyond the scope of this article. populism. Secular nationalists. ‘Ready for an anti-western coup?’ Today’s Zaman. Revealingly. . For background. who based his original and ultimate power on his role as the supreme military commander in Turkey’s epic War of Independence during the early 1920s. 1980. 28 June 2007. creating a nation state out of diverse ethnic groups. 17 May 2007. especially linguistically. ruled in June 2007 to dismiss Abdullah Demirbas. the military’s ¸ outspoken Chief of Staff.e. the latter. H. see Scott Peterson. M. refuse to expel members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)—a Turkish Kurdish guerrilla group—that has bases in the Qandil Mountains of northern ¨ ¨ Iraq.22 Despite legislative reforms to allow the usage of the Kurdish language.. tend to equate any expression of Kurdish ethnic identity with separatism and thus a threat to Turkey’s territorial integrity. 19 April 2007. i. and statism. For overviews of continuing problems involving the usage of the Kurdish language. and nationalism. i. p. however. because he had voted to provide public services in languages other than Turkish (an official survey had found that 72 percent of Sur’s population spoke Kurdish while only 24 percent spoke Turkish). Accommodating Kurdish culture. 2007). ‘Why Turkey’s Kurds are ever more edgy.’ Christian Science Monitor. See the detailed analysis in Walter Posch.’ Zaman (Istanbul). 18ff. 1994). 67 (Paris: Institute for Security Studies. ‘Kurdish: a different language. the mayor of the Sur district of Diyarbakir province.26 ¨ This attitude has historical roots going back to Ataturk. the control of Islam by the state and the disestablishment of religion from the public sphere. Kemalism consists of six principles: republicanism. is necessary for Turkey to pursue its application for membership in the EU. Turkish Politics and the Military (London and New York: Routledge. see William Hale. ˘ See Ihsan Dagı. revolution. ˘ See Ihsan Dagı.. Since the establishment of the republic.

27 Almost desperately. the military felt emboldened. Although understanding the role of the military is important. of course. Sabancı.Turkish Paradox 295 During the initial years of the AKP’s government. this older Kemalist ¨ middle class has been represented by the party Ataturk himself founded back in 1923. offered the disaffected Kurdish population little in the way of democratic promise. 14 June 2007.’ Today’s Zaman. ˘ Cited in ‘Election campaigns take a start. Also see Ihsan Dagı. the CHP questioned Turkey’s negotiations with the EU because it knew that it would be impossible to maintain a Kemalist state if Turkey joined ˘ the EU. organizations such as the Turkiye Emekli ˘ Subaylar Dernegi (Society of Retired Officers or TESUD). In its 2007 election manifesto. Since the beginning of multiparty politics in Turkey in 1950. CHP head Deniz Baykal has come to see his party’s future as closely tied to that of the military rather than to its supposed social democratic ideology. and this prospect alarmed the military. the former commander of the ¸ Gendarmerie. and politicians. Once skepticism about EU membership had set in. slowly losing support. headed by retired General Sener Eruygur. the CHP was the only other party that managed to pass the 10 percent threshold and enter parliament. Thus. For example. ‘The CHP and the military: what are they up to?’ Today’s Zaman. 28 June 2007. which is dominated by large holding ˙ Industrialists and Businessmen or TU companies such as Koc. between 2002 and 2007. rather than ¨ between Islamists and secularists. Turkey’s ‘EU-phoria’ disinclined the military from confronting its policies. ¨ however. ‘The CHP and MHP: a joint nationalist foreign policy front. it proved to be largely an ineffective opposition to the AKP.’ Briefing. represented by the Turk Sanayici ve Isadamları Dernegi (Turkish Association of ¨ SIAD). Politically. with the exception of blocking the election of an AKP as president in April 2007. 4. the current struggle for ultimate power in Turkey may be seen as more between the AKP and the military. This new middle class is represented by the AKP and challenges the long existing privileges of the older Kemalist middle class that largely consists of bureaucrats. . During the AKP’s sweep to power in the election of November 2002. and Eczacıbası. Such a position. and the Ataturkcu Dusunce Dernegi (Society for Kemalist thought or ADD). The country’s phenomenal economic growth has created a new socially conservative Anatolian middle class of urban migrants with strong Islamic roots who have become entrepreneurs. the Republican Peoples Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi or CHP).’28 These references were an attempt to paint the AKP as weak on the national security issue because it was unwilling to authorize a large-scale military intervention against the PKK in northern Iraq. the CHP established a tacit alliance with its theoretical 27 28 Ihsan Dagi. the CHP has largely been on the defensive. The AKP attempt to nominate Gul as President would have removed one of the last bastions of political power from the control of Kemalists. headed by retired Major˘ ¨ ¨ ¨¸¨ General Riza Kucukoglu. it is essential to appreciate that even the military is being influenced by the economic and social changes that have been occurring in Turkey since the early 1990s. is part of this new mix. intellectuals. p. albeit with less than 20 percent of the overall vote. 18 June 2007. ˙¸ ˘ ¨ Industry. and despite occasional revivals. played an important role in galvanizing the popular demonstrations against the AKP in April and May. Baykal declared that ‘Erdogan speaks with the language of terrorists and supports the view of (Iraqi Kurdish leader) Barzani. Although this was actually an improvement over its previous showing (in 1999) when the CHP failed to get enough votes to enter parliament. Furthermore.

the most important factor that determined people’s decision to vote for the AKP was the economic situation. The ruling AKP emerged the strongest party. Turkey achieved a 7. this offers great hope. rather than a struggle for legitimate democratic rights. For the national integration of Turkey. 43(5) (September 2007). M. including the AKP itself.4 percent of the vote in the November 2002 elections. antiglobalization rhetoric that accuses the AKP of submitting to the United States and the European Union. Up to 25 seats will go to independent candidates. The latter also sees the national security issue as its own special domain. Frustrated by Turkey’s EU ¸ candidacy. the Turkish currency was 29 On Turkey’s minorities and the EU. CHP. The AKP is the only party with dense social networks in every corner of the country. This total would give the AKP 341 seats in the 550-member parliament. it increased its total to 46.2 to $20 billion. Presently. see Suat Kolukırık and Sule Toktas. The AKP-led social welfare networks also played an important role in terms of reducing the negative consequences of the market economy. The secularist CHP and the nationalist MHP won an estimated 112 and 71 seats. That the AKP emerged as the number one party in the 2007 elections is not a surprise. as well as having a secret Islamic agenda. However.5 percent average annual growth. all these networks were mobilized for the party’s victory. MHP. along with municipal governments.’ Middle Eastern Studies. including 20 Kurdish representatives who are expected to merge under the pro-Kurdish Demokratik Toplum Partisi or Democratic Society Party. ‘Turkey’s Roma: political ¸ participation and organization. and. The CHP and MHP embrace a xenophobic. the AKP also received a major victory in these provinces. leads the MHP.296 M. and the inflation rate declined. Almost by default. Moreover. the openly nationalist Milliyetci Hareket Partisi (National Movement Party or MHP). Four parties—the AKP. Devlet Bahceli. Most political analysts expected it to win enough seats to form the government. a former economics professor. Despite the secularists’ verbal attacks. Gunter & M. There are two key reasons for the AKP’s landslide electoral victory: economic and political. . expected such a landslide victory. record foreign investments jumped from $1. and the pro-Kurdish DTP—achieved representation in the parliament. respectively. which it sees as a conspiracy against the very independence of the state.5 percent in the July 2007 elections. After receiving 34. very few. it is the only mainline party that plausibly has something positive to offer toward dealing intelligently with the economy and minority problems. 761–777. the AKP has clearly benefited from the incompetence and corruption of the other political parties. According to the public surveys. during the previous five years. pp. This was an increase of 12 percent for its second term. Due to the role of dominant religious networks in the Kurdish regions. Yavuz rival. the MHP also sees the Kurdish issue as one of terrorism and economic marginalization.29 The July 2007 Elections The national elections held on 22 July 2007 are likely to have a major impact on the future of Turkey. H. As already noted. One could argue that the only chance for ending the relentless and destructive Kurdish insurgency will come from the AKP since it is the only Turkish party that appeals to voters in Kurdish regions. This victory is a vote for the policies of the AKP and a vote against the crisis created by the secular – military establishment over the presidency.

Turkish Paradox 297 replaced with a new one that has maintained its value. The impact of the presidential election worked in favor of the AKP. When terrorist attacks increased two months before the elections. In other words. Is this the beginning of a new Kurdish politics in terms of supporting a center-right party rather than only a Kurdish-based party? Does this represent a change in the political landscape of Kurdish politics? Did many Kurds vote for the continuation of the AKP 30 ¨ On the mobilization of the Gulen networks in Kurdish provinces. The e-memorandum of the military created a sense of unity among the Kurds and the AKP that they all confront the same oppressive military and the Kemalist state. Many Kurds regard the AKP as an antiKemalist and antisystemic party that has been ‘suppressed’ by the same enemy as they have. especially the Gulen community. the AKP organized mass rallies in 58 provinces. neither identity nor ideology but rather services and improvements in living standards determined how people voted. people have access to private health care with the government’s support. The AKP had a Kurdish-first election platform in the region. ˘ ¨ In addition. The party also used municipalities to provide food.30 For instance. coal. the AKP presented this through its ‘local rumor channels. as the work of the ‘hawks’ within the military to militarize the region and even to intervene in northern Iraq. Gul became as significant as Erdogan in the 2007 elections because the AKP election platform was built largely around the Kemalist campaign against his presidency. ˘ As far as political factors are concerned. privatization of health care improved the situation at least in the short run. which has an ongoing conflict with the military. The AKP organized more meetings and carried its message to every corner of the country. Thus. Moreover.’ such as the coffeehouses. many people liked the counter memorandum of the AKP leadership against the military. This ‘framing’ of the crisis was very successful among ¨ the ordinary Turks. the model he presents. Under the new health-care reform. and the people regarded it as a way of de-Kemalizing the state and reconstructing a binational state with decentralization of the power under a new ‘civic constitution’ that the AKP promised to create. in favor of the AKP. whose election platform was very much based on the ‘mazlum’ (wronged one) and the exclusion of pious people from the public sphere by the ‘white Turks. Even though the AKP government did not propose any political solution to the Kurdish issue or put forward a regional economic development program. He always has been viewed as one of them in terms of his body language.’ The Kemalist establishment was framed as ‘white Turks’ and the supporters of the AKP as the ‘blacks Turks’ who have been marginalized by the system. Many religious Kurds believe that the AKP has a ‘hidden agenda’ to transform the Kemalist state through a new civic constitution. and especially health care through new reforms to millions of people. The AKP government also expanded the bureaucracy through new bureaucratic hires. . the most crucial one was Erdogan’s charisma as the populist leader of the conservative masses. 30 July 2007. the AKP deputies in the Kurdish region carried out a vocal campaign against the military threat to intervene in the affairs of northern Iraq. the Kurds voted for it. The framing mobilized Islamic networks. In short. There are three reasons for this situation. Moreover. whereas the CHP had them in only 20 provinces. people cared about their daily lives more than any supposed long-term ideological threat from the AKP. and his overall life style. see Altan Tan’s interview in Milliyet.

but who has renounced violence as the way to resolve Kurdish grievances. most DTP supporters are closer to the leadership of the AKP in terms of their moral values and piety. Yavuz policies or did they vote with the expectations of a new policy? The DTP was certainly taken aback by the AKP’s strength in the Kurdish areas of Turkey.’ Today’s Zaman. Although the independent DTP candidates did well in the Kurdish regions. falling short. freedom. . Aysel Tugluk ¸ (the cochair along with Ahmet Turk of the DTP) is calling upon the Kurds to understand the fear among Turks of the 1919 Treaty of Sevres (that had provided for a division of Anatolia but subsequently was abrogated in 1923) and embrace a new reconciliation. DTP decided to run its candidates as independents. M. It is believed. It has close ¨ ties with Abdullah Ocalan. and peace are concepts too abstract in the face of the immediate needs of the region. a majority of Kurds actually voted for the AKP due to three key reasons. the DTP candidates were not subject to the 10 percent threshold and managed to win seats in the parliament while the DEHAP was subject to the threshold and. These pro-DTP independents received a slightly smaller percentage of the popular vote than did their Demokratik Halkin Partisi (DEHAP) predecessors in the 2002 election. In short. ‘Pro-Kurdish politician Zana: time to divide Turkey into states. In order to get around the 10 percent (of total national votes) threshold for a political party to gain parliamentary representation. it has no policy for the regional development or distribution of the growing national ‘pie’ of Turkey. ‘Sevr Travması ve Kurtlerin Empatisi. Indeed. for example. that the AKP is not comfortable with the Kemalist state ideology and wants to transform it without openly saying so. did not win any seats. The ‘unspoken project’ of the AKP is to transform Turkey from a rigid nationstate into a new community of ethnic identities held together by their Muslim identity. the DTP rhetoric about the brotherhood of people. Third. Thus. It was created by Kurdish politicians with the goal of addressing the Kurdish issue in Turkey. Yet Kurds do not vote only on the basis of identity politics but also consider economic conditions. the AKP victory was a response against those who had an identity-based election platform and sought to separate Kurds from Turks further. there is very little bridge between the secular Kurdish leadership of the DTP and the conservative religious masses of the Kurds. different voices are emerging. the former PKK leader who has been in jail since 1999. H. Indeed. Gunter & M. the party supports ethnic and cultural rights for the Kurds and other minorities within the framework of conservative (religious) values. ˘ Within the Kurdish political landscape. Thus.31 whereas Leyla Zana called for the division of Turkey along new federal lines. None of the candidates explained to the Kurds how these concepts would improve their daily lives. Its different notion of political community is similar to that of the pre-Republican Ottoman millet system. 31 32 ˘ ¨ Aysel Tugluk. 21 July 2007. The smallest party to enter the parliament is the pro-Kurdish DTP. Through this maneuver.298 M. the DTP has no economic policy to give hope to the youth or emerging Kurdish bourgeoisie. Second. the AKP does not accept the Kemalist solution of homogenization (nation-building) to diversity but rather seeks to recognize diversity. 14 June 2007. First.’ Radikal.32 One may inquire whether the vote for the AKP in the Kurdish region is a vote for the current AKP policies on the Kurdish question or a vote on expectation that the AKP will deliver a new republic along the lines of a new civic constitution that might get rid of Kemalism and also open the door for a binational state solution.

Thus. Indeed. Conclusion On 22 July 2007. It remains the main Turkish nationalist party. as many Turks do not see the country at risk or in danger of fragmentation. Its aggressive leadership asked ¨ people to vote for the CHP as a vote for the reforms of Ataturk. Although many people expected the MHP to receive around 18 percent of the vote. 23 July 2007. it seemed possible to pursue a political solution to the 33 34 35 36 On the ups and downs of Turkey’s EU candidacy. the MHP is the third party to enter parliament with 71 seats. the politics of fear that was manipulated by the generals. Cited in ‘AK party wins big despite all odds. Its leader. Erdogan assured his opponents that ‘there will be no concession on the basic (secular) characteristics of the republic. 14 (Spring 2007). Baykal’s party failed to build bridges with the new emerging actors in the society. was a vote against the military’s interference in politics and. The people preferred that the army withdraw to its barracks in accordance with the EU standards. 24 July 2007. is skeptical about Turkey’s EU bid. pp.28 percent of the vote. securing an unparalleled 46. ‘Turkey’s floundering EU candidacy and its Kurdish problem. By receiving 14. especially.’ Middle East Policy. the CHP’s election platform was based on fear of Islam. After merging with the Democratic Leftist Party (DSP). 334 –348. Devlet Bahceli. is a divisive personality whose goal of remaining head of CHP is stronger than becoming prime minister. however.33 They also had voted against inward-looking nationalism. The main problem of the CHP is that it represents the ‘old order’ and is very much out of touch with the current socio-economic realities of the country.’ Orient. Cited in ‘Turkish PM vows to pursue reform. and supports a military incursion into northern Iraq to crack down on Kurdish rebels based there.’34 Gracious as well as ˘ prudent in victory. the AKP cruised to a landslide victory.’36 Although he vowed to continue the fight against the PKK. Furthermore. pp. it had to compete with the AKP in Anatolia. . an economist and a former Deputy Prime Minister. see Michael M. ‘Deep state: the arcane parallel state in Turkey. Deniz Baykal. The Turkish people had obviously opted for democratic and market economy reforms as well as for continuing their EU candidacy. and ultra-secular fears of a secret Islamic agenda—all characteristics of what many have termed Turkey’s ‘Deep State. although it has shifted from ethnic to civic Turkish nationalism. accuses the AKP government of being too soft on separatist Kurdish guerrillas. The CHP failed to translate the momentum of the pro-secular mass rallies into voter support. military interference in politics. Interestingly. 43(3) (2006). a political science professor and a former foreign minister. see Michael M. Its election platform was built on fear and the supposed threat to secularism. the MHP also has distanced itself from the military agenda and does not support military interference in politics. It was the first time in more than a half-century that an incumbent government actually had increased its share of the national vote.’ Today’s Zaman. 117– 123. For an analysis of this concept.5 percent of the vote.’ BBC.’35 He also promised to ‘press ahead with reforms and the economic development that we have been following so far’ and to ‘continue to work with determination to achieve our EU goal.Turkish Paradox 299 The CHP remains the largest opposition party in the parliament. Its leader. The result.9 percent of the vote and got 112 seats in the parliament. Gunter. Gunter. they received 20. the military received a rejection from the nation over its self-declared guardianship.

Despite its impressive victory. 2002 and 2007 Party AKP 2007 AKP 2002 CHP 2007 CHP 2002 MHP 2007 DTP/Independent Votes 15. (1994) Turkish Politics and the Military (London and New York: Routledge). Middle East Policy.36 20. pp. & Toktas.300 M. Indeed. 67 (Paris: Institute for Security Studies). Middle Eastern Studies. (1998) The Silent Coup: the secularist-Islamist struggle in Turkey.49 34. 21 (Spring). 1–12. Hale. 51– 67. 117 –123. Posch. Turkish Parliamentary Elections Results. 43(3). M. 14 (Spring). H.90 19. pp. M. the AKP’s seats in the parliament actually declined slightly because both the CHP and MHP passed the 10 percent threshold to enter parliament. Gul was finally elected on the third ballot. hopefully the electoral crisis of 2007 will result in a maturation of the Turkish political system and an increased respect for the democratic process on the part of all parties. 25 July 2007. pp.488 4. pp. (2007) Turkey’s Roma: political participation and organization.45 66. Gunter & M. This denied the AKP the extra seats it had taken in the election of 2002. (2007) Turkey’s floundering EU candidacy and its Kurdish problem. 44.641.45 4.096. (1996) The Naksibendi order in Republican Turkey. W. S. ‘Turkey raises hopes of peace with Kurds. 761–777.37 Indeed. ———. W. The Turkish President is important because he can hold up parliamentary legislation.91 Kurdish problem and oppose an invasion of northern Iraq.28 5. ———. References Algar. Islamic World Report. 37 Ian Traynor. (2007) Crisis in Turkey: just another bump on the road to Europe? Occasional Paper No. On 28 August 2007. (2006) Deep State: the arcane parallel state in Turkey. and must approve all the highest military appointments. 43(5) (September). Shaikh and State: The Social and Political Structure of Kurdistan (London: Zed Books).842.7 Seats 340 365 112 177 71 27 Percent 61. pp.974. pp.713. S.598 6. Although it remains to be seen what the future holds now for Turkey. Kolukirik. 123–152. the AKP further surprised analysts by winning 52 percent of the vote in Turkey’s ethnic Kurdish areas of the southeast. 334 –348. NY: Prometheus Books). Given its tremendous electoral victory and the resulting need to satisfy its constituency. 1(3). Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.804. M. ———. (2005) The Kemalists: Islamic Revival and the Fate of Secular Turkey (Amherst. Yavuz Table 1.’ Guardian (UK).382 10.42 14.18 32. the AKP decided to resubmit Abdullah Gul’s presidential candidacy to the new parliament. Kaylan. the AKP fell short winning of the two-thirds parliamentary majority to force through its presidential choice. choose members of the high courts and board of higher education. In addition. Gunter. M. Bruinessen. Orient.18 13. Studia Islamica. .769 Percent 46.024 1.41 20. 24 members of the DTP were able to circumvent the 10 percent threshold by winning as independents (Table 1). H. van (1992) Agha.458 6. M. (1976) The Naksibendi order: a preliminary survey of its history and significance.

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