ANKARA: Is the JDP Power Being Shaken?

Zaman Online


03.14.2005 Monday – ISTANBUL 12:07

Is the JDP Power Being Shaken?

I believe the most penetrating analysis of the reasons for the Justice and
Development Party’s (AKP’s) success in the 2002 general and later in the
2004 local elections is the one provided by Professor Ziya Onis in his
article entitled “The Political Economy of Turkey’s Justice and Development
Party” dated November 2004.
The point underlined in this analysis is that AKP owes
its success mostly to its ability to bring together both the winners and
losers of the globalization of the Turkish economy, in a broad cross – class
electoral alliance. According to Onis, the AKP succeeded in raising among
broad segments of Turkish society the hope that in government it would be
able to utilize the positive aspects of globalization, consolidate freedoms
and alleviate social injustices.

Undoubtedly, external alliances also contributed a great deal to the ascent
of AKP until at least the end of year 2004. AKP government’s determination
to follow both the economic stability program and political reforms helped
relations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union
(EU) to develop in a positive direction. Relations with the United States,
strained due to the rejection in March 2003 of American troop deployment in
Turkey, were stabilized through the offer of 10 thousand Turkish troops to
be deployed in Iraq and other means. Since the beginning of 2005, however,
both the internal and external alliances of the AKP seem to suffer certain
jolts. The most problematic part in the chain of external alliances is the
relations with the United States. Ankara as a whole is upset by the Bush
administration’s Iraq policy: It is concerned with the fact that Americans
are allowing for the presence of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) in
Northern Iraq, and that an independent Kurdish state in Iraq under U.S.
occupation is in the making. The U.S., on the other hand, is not pleased
with Ankara’s distancing itself from Israel, its rapprochement with Syria
and Iran (which Washington keeps under the threat of “regime change”), and
its reluctance to meet the new American demands concerning the use of the
Incirlik air base.

Spokespersons for the neo-conservative clique have expressed Washington’s
dissatisfaction with Ankara through articles published in The Wall Street
Journal (“The Sick Man of Europe – Again”) and in the Middle East Quarterly
(“Green Money, Islamist Politics in Turkey”). In these articles, the AKP was
accused of “secret and insidious” Islamism and of being manipulated by Saudi
Arabia. An American friend of mine, who closely follows Turkish – US
relations, wrote the following comment in a letter he sent a few days ago:
“I wonder what the secret agenda of these articles is? My guess is that the
neo-cons are extremely disturbed by Turkey’s new independent – minded
foreign policy, and want to encourage the Bush administration to topple the
AKP government. Such an attempt by Bush would be extremely foolish, and yet
he might try it. If he does, he may find himself faced with a left Kemalist
and ethnic – nationalist government in Ankara.”

The other problematic part of AKP’s external alliances has to do with the
EU. A decision was made by the EU to start accession negotiations on October
3. The conditions set are, however, tough and discriminatory. Almost no
measures were taken towards lifting of the international isolation of the
Turkish Cypriots. France has decided to hold a referendum on Turkey’s
membership. [Nicholas] Sarkozy and [Angela] Merkel have been pressing for a
“privileged membership.” “Recognize the Armenian genocide!” pressures are
mounting. These developments, which threaten the pro-EU alliance in Turkey,
do not strengthen the AKP’s hand. With no incentives to move further, AKP’s
reform agenda has “laxed”.

The most important problem in AKP’s domestic alliances is the frustrations
experienced among the Islamic circles. Due to opposition by the
military-civilian bureaucracy, the AKP government has so far been unable to
take any measures to lift the headscarf ban in the universities or to
provide equal opportunities in the national university entrance examination
for vocational high school graduates, and among them the graduates of prayer
leader and preacher schools. Reports of the EU and verdicts of the European
Court of Human Rights augment disappointments. Surely the sheer luck factor
is no longer on AKP’s side, and it has become increasingly difficult to
manage the domestic and external political alliances. As long as AKP sticks
to the economic stability and political reform agenda, however, jolts in
alliances may not lead to serious consequences.

March 8, 2005


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