By Toni Alaranta
December 1, 2016
The debate on political Islam under the incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP) needs to fully acknowledge the crucial importance of nationalism as the enduring element of any relevant form of mass politics in Turkey. In the Turkish case, it makes no sense to speak about political Islam distinct from nationalism as an overriding ideological component of modern politics. Just as much as the AKP’s political Islam utilizes religious texts, symbols and traditions, it also utilizes the familiar discourse of nationalism. This process was underway before the failed coup, but it has become more pronounced in its wake.
Nuray Mert in Cumhuriyet writes that the opposition circles dangerously put their faith in chaos to get rid of the government. It is dangerous to hope that chaos is going to weaken the regime, instead of engaging in a serious struggle for democracy. Not only is an international isolation of Turkey not the solution that the opposition circles think; it will also provoke more extreme reactions from the regime. Which country has so far fared good after its leader was declared a “dictator?” We see what end that has befallen these countries. In such situations, the whole country crumbles together with the regime. None of the paths of the opposition offers any hope for the future: not the extreme nationalism of MHP, with its hostility to the Kurds; not the Kurdish movement, which is only provoking the regime to be more repressive and Turkish nationalist; not the democrats and liberals who simply put faith in anything that they think is going to weaken the regime.
Etyen Mahçupyan in Akşam writes that AKP’s historical mission, simply put, was to bring those who had been excluded to power. This meant democratization, and the reconstruction of the center by the periphery. It is clear that the Kurdish issue and the solution process had a crucial function. What solution means is that what is “new” advances one more step, that one more strike is dealt at the resistance of the “old.” Lack of a solution, meanwhile, will be the harbinger of the failure of what is “new,” a sign that it is about to surrender to the “old.” For the AKP, making the advance toward a solution required distancing itself from the statist, “Turkish” nationalism, and the AKP’s understanding of religiosity supplied a suitable social and ideological basis for the new orientation. The best way of derailing the AKP’s reformism is to end the solution process. What will be the choice of the AKP in a situation when everyone else either wants to have the “old” back or – as in the case of HDP – has no influence left? Hang on to the “old?” Or carry the “new” itself?
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.