By Richard Weitz (vol. 4, no. 14 of the Turkey Analyst)
Foreign and defense policies did not figure prominently in the recent general election in Turkey. Most Turks seem satisfied with the more assertive role that their government has assumed in recent years, while Turkey’s weak opposition parties have yet to offer a coherent foreign policy alternative to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Still, Turkish leaders will not be able to escape foreign and defense issues given Turkey’s dependence on its foreign economic ties and its location as a “front-line” state bordering the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Balkans. The situation in Syria is the most sensitive one for Turkey, and it could notably disrupt Turkey’s otherwise harmonious relations with Iran. Another crucial question is how much pull NATO will exercise over Ankara’s foreign and defense policies.
By Gareth H. Jenkins (vol. 4, no. 13 of the Turkey Analyst)
In the general election of June 12, 2011, candidates backed by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) won 36 seats in Turkey’s 550-member unicameral parliament. On June 21, 2011, the Supreme Electoral Board (YSK) stripped Hatip Dicle, one of the successful BDP candidates, of his seat on procedural grounds. On June 23, the BDP announced that it would boycott parliament unless Dicle was reinstated. Over the days that followed, courts in the city of Diyarbakır blocked the release of another five successful BDP candidates. The decisions infuriated the BDP and further antagonized Turkey’s already deeply alienated Kurdish minority. Unless the Turkish government acts quickly, both the BDP’s civil disobedience campaign and the violent insurgency of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) appear likely to escalate; with potentially devastating repercussions for Turkey’s social and political stability.
By Kadri Gürsel (vol. 4, no. 13 of the Turkey Analyst)
Polarizing the society over religious and cultural identities has been the power tactic of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) almost all along. That tactic once again worked to the benefit of the AKP in the recent general election. But the daunting constitutional challenge that Turkey now faces requires an ability to reach across divides of identity. The new, difficult parliamentary arithmetic in a highly divided political terrain heralds tough times as the new Turkey searches for its soul.
By M. K. Kaya (vol. 4, no. 12 of the Turkey Analyst)
The June 12 general election was historic as it was the first general election in Turkey over which the shadow of the military and the other institutions of tutelage did not fall. Yet the ruling party’s tactics ensured that the election campaign still took place in an environment whose atmosphere was all but democratic. The elections underlined Turkey’s traditional split between a rightist majority and a leftist minority; it also showed that the AKP and the Kurdish BDP – the election’s main winner – both benefited from the polarized electoral environment; further, the main opposition CHP’s impossibly eclectic crop of candidates had too little of a common denominator to challenge the AKP. It will now be up to the new parliament to put the divisive campaign behind it and achieve a new constitution through compromise. Whether that is at all likely nevertheless remains doubtful.
By Andrew Finkel (vol. 4, no. 12 of the Turkey Analyst)
At 12 June’s general election, Turkey’s governing Justice and Development party (AKP) pulled off a rare political hat trick, securing a third consecutive parliamentary majority and doing so with an ever-increasing share of the popular vote. The result is a clear endorsement of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose style and personality continues to dominate Turkish politics. It is also his answer to a growing chorus of critics at home but also abroad who accuse him of having abandoned his party’s EU-oriented reform agenda in favour of an increasingly centralised and autocratic style of rule. The AKP is now the party of the new urban middle class. The party is literally building its own constituency, a process in which the opposition finds it hard to engage.
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.