The polarization in Turkey and the lack of democratic progress remains a major concern for many commentators. The decision, announced by the minister of education, that the private test-prep classes are going to be shut down, was taken as evidence that the AKP government is now openly targeting the movement of Fethullah Gülen. Ekrem Dumanlı, writing in the daily Zaman, warned that the decision, if implemented, will open deep wounds between the movement and the ruling party that will “take decades to heal.” Taner Akçam, writing in the daily Taraf, drew a historical parallel with the failed Ottoman reform process in the nineteenth century and the lack of democratic progress today, pointing out that the idea of the “dominant nation” still remains a point of reference, which guarantees that no equality will be instituted between Turks and Kurds and between Sunnis and Alevis.
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.
by Richard Weits (vol. 6, no. 7 of the Turkey Analyst)
Turkey has been using its energy and economic links with Russia and Iran to manage their political differences. Turkey’s relations with Russia improved considerably during the past decade, but those with Iran saw only a modest upturn due to enduring differences over regional security and religious-ideological principles. But in the past year, Turkey’s diverging response to the Arab Spring and especially the Syrian Civil War has strained both partnerships. No one talks anymore of an emerging Turkey-Iran-Russia axis in the heart of Eurasia.
by Richard Weitz (vol. 6, no. 5 of the Turkey Analyst)
After years of stalemate, recent months have seen renewed efforts to secure Turkey’s accession to the EU. French President François Hollande has adopted a more favorable position regarding accession than his predecessor. Following his election in 2012, Hollande’s administration advocated opening some of the eight chapters of the accession talks that were closed. Other EU officials have expressed concerns about the EU needing Turkey more than vice-versa. German officials have also adopted a more positive attitude towards Turkey’s accession drive. Meanwhile, Turkish officials are making moves, such as threatening to abandon the EU and seek membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, presumably to give Ankara more leverage in the accession negotiations.
by Halil M. Karaveli (vol. 6, no. 04 of the Turkey Analyst)
A settlement of Turkey’s Kurdish issue requires that the Kurds are satisfied and that the Turks are persuaded. Satisfying the demands of the Kurds will necessarily bring about a redefinition of the identity of Turkey. It will above all reverse the traditional role of the Turkish state, which historically has sought to regiment society; it would enshrine a whole new principle, making it the duty of the state to respect societal diversity and uphold societal freedom. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may consider deleting references to Turkishness from the constitution, and to allow the Kurdish identity a greater space, but it is less clear that he would also agree to dilute the state’s and his own power.
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.