By the Editors (vol. 1, no. 1 of the Turkey Analyst)
The Turkish Parliament’s landmark decision to change the constitution and lift the ban on Islamic headscarves in the universities represents a symbolic watershed in the history of the Turkish republic. It has polarized Turkey as perhaps never before and plunged the country into a crisis from which it will be extremely difficult to extricate without deep convulsions. Turkish intellectuals do not hesitate to issue warnings about civil war. Such warnings may be exaggerated; but Turkey could certainly be headed in a dangerous direction. Hence, conventional assumptions about Turkish political and ideological dynamics need to be revised.
By Kemal Kaya (vol. 7, no. 8 of the Turkey Analyst)
Redistribution through social services and welfare programs is a crucial source of electoral strength for the Justice and Development Party (AKP). However, this model for political success also strains the relation between the AKP and those societal segments that support the welfare programs with their taxes. The results of the March 30 elections demonstrate that support for the AKP is declining among the newly urbanized, conservative middle class, and show that the party faces a new challenge, not unlike the one that has been faced by European social democratic parties in government.
The Taksim/Gezi Park protests, and their violent dispersal by the police in May-June, continue to cast a deep shadow over the political life in Turkey, and the political commentaries reflect this fact. Notably, the protests and their handling by the AKP government has provided new ammunition in the ongoing power struggle between the ruling AKP and the movement of the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, deepening their mutual distrust. Mehmet Baransu in the daily Taraf reports that many in the leadership of the AKP think that the Gülen movement was behind the Gezi protests. Meanwhile, it is noted that the conservative business community in Anatolia, which has been instrumental in bringing the AKP to power, is concerned that the confrontational policies of the government – at home and abroad -- are going to harm the stability and economic development of Turkey. Commenting the verdicts in the Ergenekon trial, Murat Belge, a leading liberal intellectual, expresses doubts that the trial has touched anything but the “tip of the iceberg”, while Fuat Keyman, another liberal commentator, speculates that Prime Minister Erdoğan must in fact be deeply troubled by the verdicts that contribute to the perception abroad that democracy in Turkey is in retreat.
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.