ArticlePDF Available

The future of Erdoğan and the AKP

  • Portland State University & TransResearch Consortium


Turkish politics is complex and, at times, comes close to being bizarre. When the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi [AKP]) came to power it embarked on ambitious economic and political reforms that at last promised to bring embedded democracy to Turkey. Yet, since 2007, most of the initial reforms have regressed, deepening societal cleavages that threaten the stability of the country, and a popularly elected president threatens to change the parliamentary democratic system with an autocratic presidential order. While the AKP can celebrate in its unprecedented four election victories since 2002, its recent actions should give concern to anyone who cares about the future of Turkey.
Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at
Download by: [Portland State University] Date: 26 February 2016, At: 14:02
Turkish Studies
ISSN: 1468-3849 (Print) 1743-9663 (Online) Journal homepage:
The future of Erdoğan and the AKP
Birol A. Yeşilada
To cite this article: Birol A. Yeşilada (2016) The future of Erdoğan and the AKP, Turkish Studies,
17:1, 19-30, DOI: 10.1080/14683849.2015.1136089
To link to this article:
Published online: 26 Feb 2016.
Submit your article to this journal
View related articles
View Crossmark data
The future of Erdoğan and the AKP
Birol A. Yeşilada
Mark O. Hateld School of Government, Portland State University, Portland, OR, USA
Turkish politics is complex and, at times, comes close to being bizarre. When the
Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi [AKP]) came to power
it embarked on ambitious economic and political reforms that at last promised
to bring embedded democracy to Turkey. Yet, since 2007, most of the initial
reforms have regressed, deepening societal cleavages that threaten the
stability of the country, and a popularly elected president threatens to change
the parliamentary democratic system with an autocratic presidential order.
While the AKP can celebrate in its unprecedented four election victories since
2002, its recent actions should give concern to anyone who cares about the
future of Turkey.
ARTICLE HISTORY Received 12 December 2015; Revised 18 December 2015; Accepted 22 December
KEYWORDS Turkish politics; democratization; Turkish elections; AKP; Erdogan
Once again, Turkey is standing at crossroads of political development. What
seemed to be a promising reform movement that started during the early
2000s that closely followed accession requirements of the European Union
(EU) has been replaced by a grim picture of illiberal political developments
that are characterized by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğans power grab,
loss of judicial independence, and electoral manipulations to achieve the
desired election outcome that favored Erdoğan and the Justice and Develop-
ment Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi [AKP]) in November 2015. Turkeys
democratic future hinges on how the current relationship between President
Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will play out. The apparent
choice is between establishing a popularly elected imperial president on the
one hand and establishing a more representative parliamentary body on the
other. This brief commentary looks back as well as forward, examining the
factors behind the rise to power of AKP and assessing the future of
© 2016 Taylor & Francis
CONTACT Birol A. Yeşilada Mark O. Hateld School of Government, Portland
State University, Portland
OR 97207-0751, USA
VOL. 17, NO. 1, 1930
Downloaded by [Portland State University] at 14:02 26 February 2016
Erdoğan and AKP as key stakeholders that will undoubtedly shape the future
political scene of Turkey.
Rise of the AKP and Erdoğan
The rise of Islamist-oriented political parties in Turkey is a success story in
party adaptation, because despite constant attacks from the secular establish-
ment, especially the military, they keep returning to the political scene, albeit
under new names. Political parties, of course, play a signicant role in conso-
lidation of democracy where they serve as vehicles of public voice and action.
According to Eldersveld and Walton, functioning democracies need political
parties to fulll a number of important tasks that include organizing public
participation in politics; control and recruitment of elites; conict manage-
ment; competition management; policy innovation; and most signicantly,
socializing the public to system consensus and constitutional order of the
Given the central role parties play in modern democracies it is crucial to
note that their survival depends on the ability of party elites to successfully
adapt to changing environments and voter realignment. In other words,
party adaptation and realignment are at the heart of how and why some
parties succeed and others fail. As individual citizens attitudes, beliefs, and
values change, their participation in the political process reects these
changes. For successful party adaptation, leadership and organization are
very important. Leaders ought to recognize not only the policy needs of the
country but also see the changes in the partys support base and implement
reforms that reect these changes within the party structure. Leaders char-
isma and party organization are also important attributes for expanding the
partys electoral base.
The AKP, while being a new party, capitalized on its predecessors (Refah
and Fazilet parties) massive societal infrastructure and entered the political
scene in 200102 as a fully functional political party. Three crucial develop-
ments aided its founders in this effort. First was the break up of the Fazilet
(Virtue) Party and split among its leadership between the old guard tradition-
alists (gelenekçiler) and the new reformists (yenilikçiler). The reformists
formed the AKP and succeeded in getting the support of most of the
former Fazilet representatives while the traditionalists formed the Felicity
(Saadet) Party, which became a minor player on the political scene. The
AKP leadership met every aspect of political party adaptation (choice of
able leaders, dynamic party organization, adapting an ideological line and
direction of the party to match public opinion shifts, choice clear strategies
and tactics, and recruitment of party activists who work relentlessly to
expand the partys social base) and also seemed to satisfy the main roles of
political parties in functioning democracies. The leadership of the new
Downloaded by [Portland State University] at 14:02 26 February 2016
party included individuals who were charismatic and broke rank with the old-
guard. It was of mixed ideological orientation. The AKP promised extensive
political and economic reforms, membership in the EU, and solving the
Cyprus problem. It called for a new type of political party to attract
support from both liberal and conservative circles.
The second factor behind the rise of AKP was the inability of the center-
right political parties, Motherland Party (Anavatan Partisi) and the True
Path Party (Doğru Yol Partisi), to meet requirements of adaptation, thus
leaving a vacuum on the political center-right. As shown by Kalaycıoğlu
(Justice and Development Party at the Helm, 2944) there was signicant
voter realignment during the mid-1990s in Turkey where the entire voter
bloc moved toward the political right, collapsing the center and giving
steady rise in to the political right.
Another signicant factor behind this
shift was the rising religiosity in Turkey since 1994.
Additional research on
social values in Turkey further sheds light on why the conservative AKP is
able to attract support from a large segment of the Turkish electorate. Using
the World Values Survey (19912011) Yesilada and Noordijk found Turkish
society to be more traditional and religious than other European countries
and that the trend was toward more traditional/religious value orientation.
Findings on voter realignment and societal values thus clearly show the prefer-
ence of the electorate for conservative/traditional political parties.
The third factor behind the AKPs success was the nancial crisis of 2001
when the electorate held old secular parties responsible. In February 2001, the
Central Bank of Turkey abandoned the ination targeting xed exchange rate
regime ve months prematurely, under less than optimal circumstances. The
IMF engineered stabilization plan, put into play in December 1999 after a year
of abysmal economic performance, was to control ination but collapsed in
November 2000.
Despite a massive injection of $7.5 billion in IMF funding
in December 2000, the coalition government was forced to devalue the
Turkish lira on February 22, 2001. The cost of the crisis and economic restruc-
turing for the Turkish economy was signicant. GNP fell by 8.5 percent in
2001 while ination rose to 86 percent, and the public sector borrowing
requirement jumped to 19.6 percent of GDP. In the eyes of the public, the
old guard was guilty of profound mismanagement.
Voters took out their frustration at the national elections of 2002. The only
other party that managed to clear the 10 percent national election threshold
was the social democratic Republican Peoples Party (Cumhuriyet Halk
Partisi) which was not part of the previous coalition government. Since
2002, the AKP won four more national election victoriesa success that is
unprecedented in contemporary Turkish politics. It received 34.3 percent of
the vote and 363 seats in 2002; 46.6 percent and 341 seats in 2007; 49.9
percent and 326 seats in 2011; 40.9 percent 258 seats in June 2015; and
49.5 percent and 317 seats in November 2015.
Downloaded by [Portland State University] at 14:02 26 February 2016
The last election highlighted (now President) Erdoğans ambition to obtain
a qualied majority (60 percent) for AKP to engineer constitutional changes
to his liking. When the June 2015 elections failed to give AKP the majority of
seats in the National Assembly, Erdoğan did everything he could to prevent
the formation of a coalition government and pushed for early elections in
November. During that time, Erdoğan violated his constitutional powers
and campaigned in favor of AKP, criticized other political parties, and
launched a massive campaign against the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party)
which resulted in increased terrorist campaign by the latter. Furthermore,
he permitted the USA to use the Incirlik airbase to bomb ISIS positions in
Syria and Iraq which, in turn, resulted in ISIS bombings in Suruç and
Ankara. The net result, as documented in the lead-in piece by Mehmet Bar-
dakçı, was loss of voter support for two smaller parties, the Kurdish-oriented
Peoples Democracy Party (Halklarıin Demokratik Partisi [HDP}) and the
Nationalist Action Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi [MHP]) and a net gain
for the AKP.
The rise of AKP to power in Turkey has been hotly debated among aca-
demic and policy circles.
One the one hand, liberal-oriented scholars and
writers hailed it as a turning point in Turkish history in which a group of poli-
ticians with Islamist roots could form a Christian-democratic-style political
party that would nally end the tug of war between Islamists and laïcists
(secularists) and ll the gap on the center-right of the political spectrum.
They also argued that the reformists, led by Erdoğan and Abdullah Gül,
would lead Turkey on a path that would break down the old deep state
and bring about socioeconomic and political progress. Others held a more
cautious view and warned about quick judgment on the AKPs impact on
Turkeys socioeconomic and political future and called attention to the Isla-
mist roots of partys leadership and a possible hidden Islamist agenda.
There is no doubt that the last 13 years of AKP rule in Turkey has been
lled with signicant economic accomplishments, as well as debacles that
would make observers heads spin. Under Erdoğans leadership, early AKP
governments managed to make signicant progress in the EU harmonization
process that resulted in tremendous economic growth, diversication of
Turkeys foreign trade regime, increase in foreign investment, and securing
agreements for more energy pipelines to pass through the country. Data
obtained from the World Bank show that GDP/capita adjusted purchasing
power parity by year was $8158 (2000); $10,030 (2006); and $11,632
Moreover, during the recent global nancial crisis, the Turkish
economy contracted 5.7 percent but quickly recovered to grow by 3.8
percent in 2010.
On the political front, initial reforms undertaken by the AKP signicantly
improved Turkeys democratic status and led to the opening of accession talks
with the EU in 2005. Perhaps the most signicant among these reform
Downloaded by [Portland State University] at 14:02 26 February 2016
measures were those on civil-military relations that delegated the once-power-
ful National Security Council to an advisory role and gradually put the armed
forces under civilian authority. Other reforms included the right of civil ser-
vants to collective bargaining, elimination of legal barriers against political
strikes, lockouts, and solidarity strikes and lockouts; and reinforcement of
the principle of privacy of personal matters and information. However,
other aspects of various reform packages that revised separation of power
between Turkeys executive and judiciary raised serious concerns about the
concentration of powers in the hands of the executive branch. Furthermore,
whereas some reforms strengthened individuals right to privacy, in actual
daily practice the AKP government increased its surveillance activities in
pursuit of those who were suspected of plotting coups against the government.
These latter concerns raised questions about the nature and intent of
reforms. These became clearer soon after the 2007 presidential elections
when Erdoğan started to advocate for a presidential system with extensive
decision-making powers. While he did not succeed in changing the political
system, Erdoğan increasingly became autocratic and used excessive force to
silence any and all opposition. Examples include the Gezi Park events of
May/June 2013, systematic arrest of scores of journalists who dared to cri-
ticize or insult him, spying on ordinary people and passing of new law that
empowers the intelligence agency to collect private data without the need
for a court order. Perhaps the most signicant of his purge was against
the Turkish militaryan institution that always viewed the slightest Islamist
policies as threat to the state. Through trumped up charges, still unclear
whether mutually designed between Erdoğan and networks aligned to
Fethullah Gülen or made single-handedly by the latter, 300 active and
retired high ranking ofcers were sent to prison through conspiracy cases
like Balyoz and Ergenekon. Yet, interestingly enough, after Erdoğan and
Gülen had a falling out in December 2013, most of the accused were
ordered released from prison on June 19, 2014 and many were later
acquitted on March 31, 2015. Other cases have been sent to the Yargitay
(Supreme Court) for reevaluation.
Following accusations of corruption
against Erdoğan, his family, and cabinet ministers of corruption and
bribery, Erdoğan swiftly moved to crush Gülens power base in Turkey
and purged several thousand police ofcers and prosecutors and judges
allegedly aligned with Gülen, accusing them of plotting to bring down
the government. He then accused Gülen of treason and of attempting a
coup by establishing a parallel structure within the state. Erdoğan did
achieve his ambition of becoming president through popular elections in
August 2014, but he did not succeed in creating his desired presidential
system. Since 2014, he has focused much energy on how to gain a sufcient
majority in the National Assembly to make constitutional reforms to estab-
lish a presidential system.
Downloaded by [Portland State University] at 14:02 26 February 2016
On the foreign policy front, the AKP and Erdoğan attempted to reorient
Turkeys focus toward the Middle East while maintaining sufcient ties to
the Western alliance. Their main ambition of zero problems with neighbors
was based on a mixture of cultural/historical neo-Ottomanism with notions of
strategic depth. While the goals were ambitious, by 2015 this policy was in
shambles, causing serious problems with many of Turkeys neighbors.
Perhaps this is nowhere better demonstrated than in current military cam-
paign in Syria where Turkey has found itself at odds with not only Assads
allies, Iran and Russia, but also with the USA and other Western allies,
whose top priority (unlike Ankaras) is destroying ISIS. Furthermore,
Erdoğan and the AKPs emphasis on sectarian policies alienated not only
the Alevis within Turkey but Shia Turkomans in Syria and Iraq.
Whats next for the AKP and Erdoğan?
The Turkish experiment in democratic politics is complex and, at times,
comes close to being bizarre. When the AKP came to power it embarked
on such ambitious economic and political reforms that many followers of
Turkish politics viewed the new political elite as God sent. Yet, since
2007, this picture began to change and took a turn to the worse as of 2010.
Most of the initial gains provided in the reforms were reversed. For all prac-
tical purposes, power has become concentrated in the hands of the president,
even if this is unconstitutional. Turkey is at a true crossroads. As Kalaycıoğlu
the choice is between establishing a popularly elected authoritarian despot as
president on the one hand and legislative supremacy (establishing a more
representative election rule and a more contemporary parliamentary body,
and operating within the law to practi ce liberal representative democracy) on
the other.
If Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu were to rally sufcient support from AKP
parliamentarians and tell Erdoğan to mind his own business within his con-
stitutionally dened powers, there would be hope of moving forward with a
liberal representative parliamentary system that would bring Turkey closer
to the Western democracies. Yet, Davutoğlu, who was handpicked by
Erdoğan to succeed him as prime minister, has neither the charisma nor
the support network his boss enjoys. In fact, Davutoğlu seems more
worried about being replaced by another Erdoğan-picked candidate at a
future AKP Congress and looks unwilling to challenge the Presidents auth-
ority. Given recent election results, the choice of political system facing
Turkey is between electoral authoritarianism of a Turkish style Presidential
system (Türk tipi Başkanlık) and a parliamentary democracy. The Turkish
style presidential system is dened by Erdoğan as one where there are very
Downloaded by [Portland State University] at 14:02 26 February 2016
limited checks and balances.
He clearly favors the concept of popularly
elected president who is only accountable to the electorate. This is a very
dangerous notion as it signals a majoritarian view of democracy, in contrast
to a liberal view that seeks to limit state power and uphold individual
rights. As yet, no one within the AKP ranks is willing to confront Erdoğan
to prevent this slide into uncharted waters. What is really disturbing is that
while Erdoğan failed to attain the necessary 330 seats for AKP to enable
him to change the Constitution through a referendum, he and his loyal fol-
lowers within the party have many it quite clear that the president will be
the one calling the shots for the government with or without such
One possibility is that Erdoğan might succeed to convincing
other members of other political parties, potentially from MHP, to support
AKP for a new constitution. Prime Minister Davutoğlu seems to have
accepted Erdogans control of AKPs rank and le but seems somewhat
uncomfortable with the current dual executive arrangement between the
two. When asked about the transition to a presidential system, Davutoğlu
response was that it is not healthy to keep bringing up this subject day
and night, we need to make the best of the current system dual executive
roles have always existed.
How is it possible for Erdoğan to keep such a rm grip over the AKP?
There is no denial that he is proud and self-condent, often arrogant and vin-
dictive. He enjoys immense popularity among a large sector Turkish society
by projecting the image of a strong leader. They call him Reis (captain or
leader of the country). This attribute is dangerously valued among most of
the Turkish society regardless of their political leanings.
As Harold Lasswell
noted many years ago about powerful leaders, Erdoğan is equally successful to
display his personal motives on public objects and to rationalize them in
terms of public interest.
He is able to reach and touch those who are
from lower classes and manipulate their feelings by frequent referrals to
Ottoman past greatness and Islamic values. With respect to the latter, he is
keen on promoting sectarian Sunni values and institutions that would
spread Islamic principles as true values of society as opposed to Kemalist
laicism. He views his role as the legitimate leader of the faithful and
expect all who are below him to bow to his preferences. This is typical of a
former mürid (faithful follower) mentality and explains, in part, why he is
unwilling to step aside and be an impartial president. Erdoğan was a mürid
under the late Necmettin Erbakan dating back to 1970s as a youth leader of
the National Salvation Party. His rise to the helm of AKP is an impressive
story of political intrigues that deserve in-depth analysis which is beyond
the scope of this paper. As far as he is concerned, he has paid his dues to
reach this position and is likely to insist on becoming the Türk tipi Başkan.
In short, for the immediate future there seems no apparent political actor
or coalition that is capable of stopping Erdoğan from achieving his ambitions.
Downloaded by [Portland State University] at 14:02 26 February 2016
However, policies of AKP governments have led to deepening of two
serious societal cleavages in Turkey that have the potential of destroying
both Erdoğan and the party. These are the Islamist-Laïcist and Turkish-
Kurdish nationalism cleavages. As previously noted, one role political
parties should play in a functioning democracy is socializing the public
toward system consensus. In this area one can conclude that AKP has been
a failure. It has become apparent that the AKP has been implementing Erdo-
gans steady promotion of Islam throughout Turkeys bureaucracies and in
public schools to raise what he calls a new religious generation and
promote a more religious/traditional Turkey with the goal of revoking
laïcité. Given the fact that this is one of the founding pillars of Turkish Repub-
lic, the organized attempt to change it and socialize individuals to be hostile to
the concept of laïcité can be viewed as being less than system-oriented if not
counterrevolutionary. Continued push for Islamist-based socialization in
public schools, Imam Hatip schools, and Koran schools with such a political
agenda is further deepening the Islamist-Laïcist cleavage in the country. If the
AKP and läicist camps were come to a common agreement on a Turkish
version of this principle of separation of state and religious affairs, resolution
could be made. That might have been possible before 2011 when more secular
minded politicians were present among AKP members in parliament. It seems
less likely in the near future and could degenerate into violent confrontations
between the followers of each camp.
The second societal cleavage is increasingly becoming violent and spills
over to Turkish relations with her southern neighbors, Syria and Iraq.
Initially, Erdoğans policy for a solution to the Kurdish problem was wel-
comed by almost all except the ultranationalist MHP. However, as the
Kurdish Political Party (HDP) became a serious challenger in the June 2015
elections, Erdoğan made a 180 degree turn and simultaneously launched an
attack, one verbal and the other armed, on HDP and PKK, and accused
Kurdish politicians of openly supporting the terrorists. At the time of
writing, hostilities between Turkish security forces and PKK terrorists con-
tinue in southeastern Turkey with a rising death toll that includes civilians.
Under these conditions it is highly unlikely that a just and lasting solution
can be found for Turkeys Kurdish problem. A more likely scenario is inten-
sied ghting that will see increased cross-border incursions by Turkish air
force and army.
Additionally, Erdoğan and Davutoğlu have failed miserably in regional
foreign and security policies. Not only have they not achieved the desired
goal of zero problems with neighbors they have placed Turkey in crossre
of great powers. Bilateral problems with every neighbor remain steady, if not
intensied. Key failures include relations with the EU, Israel and Syria. With
the EU, relations steadily soured following the failure of the Annan Plan in
Cyprus in 2004 and election of anti-Turkish leaders in some European
Downloaded by [Portland State University] at 14:02 26 February 2016
countries like Austria, France and Germany. The AKP leadership also chose
to look to relations with the Middle East and only paid lip service to improv-
ing relations with Europe. In this respect, one could note that earlier EU-led
political reforms enabled the AKP to remove the threat of the military and
weakened the hand of the secular establishment. As Erdogan consolidated
his power over the state, he no longer needed the EU to counter any potential
threat from the military. As a result, EU accession talks came to a halt and did
not regain any momentum until the refugee crisis in Europe necessitated a
more conciliatory approach to Turkey by the EU. On December 14, 2015,
the EU nally agreed to open another chapter (Chapter 17 on Economic
and Monetary Policy) in accession talks. During the previous two years no
new chapter was opened. The likelihood of the EU speeding the accession
process in a substantial way is unlikely given the nature of criticism the
latest 2015 Commission Report that outlines regressive developments along
democratic requirements.
That is, as long as AKP submits to Erdoğans
ambition for imperial presidency, there is no way Turkey will satisfy the
democratic acquis of the EU.
As for Israel, the AKPs anti-Israeli rhetoric, the 2010 Mavi Marmara inci-
dent, and Turkeys support to Hamas and other enemies of Israel destroyed
the strategic alliance between the two countries. This move not only resulted
in a loss of important partnership in industrial and technological cooperation.
It presented Israel as an ally to Turkeys arch rivals in the Eastern Mediterra-
nean, Cyprus and Greece, something that leaders of these two countries could
not have previously imagined as possible. However, energy politics in the
Eastern Mediterranean might lead to some degree of rapprochement
between Israel and Turkey for transferring Israels natural gas to EU
markets through a Turkish pipeline.
Syria, on the other hand, exposed how inexperienced and dangerous
Erdoğan and his advisors are in foreign security matters. Their uncontrollable
desire to bring down Syrian President Bashir al-Assad led them to support
radical Islamist groups like al-Nusra and, according to some news reports,
ISIS, which puts Turkey in an awkward position with her NATO allies.
Given Erdoğans previous conicting signals on other matters (i.e. Chinese
missiles, Israel, desire to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and
hesitation to join the NATO campaign in Libya) US leaders began to question
Turkeys reliability as an ally. Moreover, Russias military assistance to Syria
now stands in the way of Erdoğans regional goals. The downing of a
Russian warplane by Turkish ghters in November 2015 has led to war of
words followed by Russian economic sanctions on Turkish imports. Relations
between the two countries continue to be tense as President Putin of Russia
authorized deployment of 7000 Russian troops to a base in Armenia across
from the Turkish border and stationed in Syria advanced S-400 anti-aircraft
missiles and more aircraft with advanced ghting capabilities as well as more
Downloaded by [Portland State University] at 14:02 26 February 2016
naval ships. It can be concluded that numerous erroneous policies have
resulted in problems with neighboring countries that will require many
years of mending. And Erdoğans personal ambition are squarely behind
these failures. Unless he is checked by the AKP government, a similar incident
like the Russian aircraft could very well may result in far worse outcome.
On the domestic front, the immediate political future of Turkey does not
look promising either. Once a model for other countries for democratic devel-
opment with a Muslim population, Turkey is rapidly sinking into political
quagmire characterized by deep societal cleavages, intolerance, loss of judicial
independence, loss of individual civil and political rights, and emergent des-
potic leadership of an individual who is skilled in political and economic
patronage. However, given the nature of the scandals surrounding Erdoğan,
his family, and many of his associates, it is questionable how long he could
maintain control. So far he has managed too well but as Erdoğan faces increas-
ing challenges from traditional secular parties coupled with mounting crisis
with the Kurds and neighboring countries, the rank and le of AKP is
likely to start looking for a safe next chapter for the party. What that next
chapter be, remain intact or split up or with Erdoğan or not, only time will
show. What is clear is that these are disturbing times for the Turkey and
while the AKP can celebrate its election victory, those who care about
Turkish democracy should remain deeply concerned.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the author.
1. Eldersveld, Political Parties; Michels, Political Parties; Schattschneider, Party
Government;Yeşilada, Relignment and Party Adaptation.
2. Eldersveld and Walton, Political Parties, 38790.
3. AKP, 2002 Genel Seçimleri Şeçim Beyannamesi.
4. Kalaycıoğlu, Justice and Development Party.
5. Kalaycıoğlu and Carkoğlu, The Rising Tide of Conservatism.
6. Yeşilada and Noordijk, Religiosity and Political Values.
7. Akyuz and Boratav, The Making of the Turkish Financial Crisis.
8. There is a vast literature on this topic. See, for example, Çarkoğlu, The Nature;
Eligur, The Mobilization of Political Islam; Kalayc ioğlu, Justice and Develop-
ment Party; Kubicek, Grassroots Democratization; Toprak, Being Different
in Turkey;Yeşilada, The Virtue Party; and Yeşilada and Rubin, Islamization
of Turkey .
9. Data retrieved from on-line databank at
10. Barclays Capital, Global Outlook.
11. Ergenekon Yargıtay da, Sözcü, October 6, 2015, available at http://www.sozcu.
15/gundem/ergenekon-yargitayda-951878/, accessed December 21,
Downloaded by [Portland State University] at 14:02 26 February 2016
12. Kalaycıoğlu, The Challenge of à la Turca Presidentialism,3.
13. For more on this concept, see Boyunsuz, The AKPs Proposal, in this issue.
14. It is crucial to note that before and after the recent elections, Erdoğan made
numerous suggestions that Turkey can only reach its potential as an economic
and political power with a presidential system. He also made it quite clear that
he will remain in charge of policy priorities. During the entire time, Prime Min-
ister Davutoğlu deferred to President Erdoğan on key policy decisions and did
not object to Erdoğan deciding the candidate list for AKP before the elections
or the subsequent list of cabinet members. Erdoğan is the one who speaks on
all policy matters and the government follows in his footsteps. He is also the
one who meets other heads of governments often prior to Davutoğlu. For
example, see Erdoğandan başkanlık sistemi ıklaması, Sözcü, November
18, 2015, available at
baskanlik-sistemi-aciklamasi-989489/, accessed December 21, 2015.
15. Davutoğlundan Erdoğana İ lginç Başkanlık Sistemi Mesajı , Aktif Haber,
December 17, 2015, available at http://www.aktifhabe
erdogana-ilginc-baskanlik-sistemi-mesaji-1275797h.htm, accessed December
21, 2015.
16. Yeşilada and Noordijk, Religiosity and Political Values in Turkey.
17. Lasswell, Psychopathology and Politics.
18. See EU Commission Staff Working Document, Turkey 2015 Report, available at ments/2015/20151110_report_
turkey.pdf, accessed December 17, 2015.
Note on the contributor
Birol A. Yeşilada is Profe ssor of Political Science and International Studies and
holder of the endowed chair in Contemporary Turkish Studies at Portland State Uni-
versity, where he also serves as Director of the Center for Turkish Studies and the
Middle East Studies Center. His recent publications include an edited volume (with
Barry Rubin) Islamization of Turkey under the AKP Rule (Routledge 2010); EU-
Turkey Relations in the 21st Century (Routledge, 2013); and Consequences of Rever-
sing European Union Integration (with Jacek Kugler and Ali Fisunoglu) Foreign
Policy Analysis 11 (2015): 4567. His current research includes works on power tran-
sition theory, political culture, the European Union, and political economy of Turkey.
Akyuz, Yilmaz, and Korkut Boratav. The Making of the Turkish Financial Crisis.
World Development 31, no. 9 (2003): 15491566.
AK Parti. Secim Beyannamesi, TBMM [Grand National Assembly of Turkey]. Ankara:
Library Archives, 2002.
Barclays Capital. Global Outlook: Still in the Sweet Spot. London: Barclays Capital,
Boyunsuz, Şule Özsoy. The AKPs Proposal for a Turkish Type of Presidentialism in
Comparative Context. Turkish Studies, 17, no. 1 (2016): 6890.
Carkoğlu, Ali. The Nature of the Left-Right Ideological Self-Placement in the Turkish
Context. Turkish Studies 8, no. 2 (2007): 253271.
Downloaded by [Portland State University] at 14:02 26 February 2016
Eldersveld, Samuel J. Political Parties in American Society. New York: Basic Books,
Eldersveld, Samuel, and Hanes Walton. Political Parties in American Society. 2nd ed.
New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2000.
Eligur, Banu. The Mobilization of Political Islam in Turkey. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2010.
Kalaycıoğlu, Ersin. The Challenge of à la Turca Presidentialism in Turkey. Istanbul:
Istanbul Pol icy Center, Sabanci University, 2014.
Kalaycıoğlu, Ersin. Justice and Development Party at the Helm: Resurgence of Islam
or Restitution of the Right-of-Center Predominant Party? Turkish Studies 11, no. 1
(2010): 2944.
Kalaycıoğlu, Ersin, and Ali Carkoğlu. The Rising Tide of Conservatism in Turkey.
New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
Kubicek, Paul. The European Union and Grassroots Democratization in Turkey.
Turkish Studies 6(2005): 361377.
Lasswell, Harold . Psychopathology and Politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
Michels, Robert. Political Parties: A Sociologic al Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies in
Modern Democracies. New York: Dover, 1911 and 1959.
Schattschneider, Elmer. Party Government. New York: Holt, Reinhart and Winston,
Toprak, Binnaz. Being Different in Turkey. Istanbul: Open Society Foundation, 2010.
Yeşilada, Birol. Realignment and Party Adaptation: The Case of Refah and Fazilet
Parties. In Politics, Parties and Elections in Turkey, edited by Sabri Sayarı and
Yilmaz Esmer, 157177. Boulder: Lynne Reinner,
Birol A. The Virtue Party. Turkish Studies 3, no. 1 (2002): 6281.
Yeşilada, Birol, and Peter Noordijk. Religiosity and Political Values in Turkey. In
Democratic Consolidation in Turkey: Micro and Macro Challenges, edited by
Cengiz Erisen and Paul Kubicek. London: Routledge, 2016.
Yeşilada, Birol, and Barry Rubin, eds. Islamization of Turkey under the AKP Rule.
London: Routledge, 2010.
Downloaded by [Portland State University] at 14:02 26 February 2016
... Next, the claim that the JDP embraced Western values was driven by the party's interest to struggle for Turkey's EU membership (Altınordu, 2016;Ceran, 2019;Kassem, 2013) and to assimilate itself into the Western global order (Moudouros, 2014). For some scholars, the JDP's embracement of Western values is motivated more by pragmatic and opportunistic reasons compared to the EU membership factor (Öniş, 2015;Yeşilada, 2016). EU membership will benefit Turkey by enhancing domestic reforms and widening economic opportunities. ...
... Lately, however, the JDP's efforts for Turkey's EU membership agenda seems weakening, which leads to the commitment on the EU to be questioned. For those who hold the view that the JDP is a pro-religious party, they argued that this scenario reflects the party's tendency to re-image itself away from Western-liberal identity and approaching pro-Islamism sentiment (Yeşilada, 2016). Contrary to this view, the authors argue that the JDP's tendency, either towards Islamism or otherwise, cannot be measured by its commitment to the Western values since it is not driven by ideological means, but motivated opportunistically by the party's interests and needs. ...
Full-text available
This paper aims to study the Islamism identity of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (JDP). To date, the question regarding the JDP’s identity has been widely debated. The JDP has frequently been labelled as an Islamist party due to its historical background, while other perspectives perceive the JDP as a non-Islamist party. Contradiction among scholars regarding the identity of the party has resulted in several debates in the existing literature. Therefore, this study attempts to review previous studies related to the discussion on the JDP’s identity. Methodologically, Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) was adopted to review related studies by utilizing two journal databases, namely the Web of Science and Scopus, with support by other databases. The searching process retrieved 24 sources that can be analyzed systematically. As a result of the thematic analysis, three main themes have been developed that represent arguments on the JDP’s identity, namely the JDP as an Islamist party, the JDP as a non-Islamist party, and the JDP as a party that undergoes a shift in identity. Finally, the present study offers some recommendations that can be considered for future studies.
... Реформите са придружени със значителен икономически растеж и това става повод Турция да бъде посочена като модел за останалите страни от региона, който свидетелства за съвместимостта между религията, пазарната икономика и демокрацията. Като резултат от демонстрираната воля за решаването на основните въпроси ЕС започва преговори за пълноправно членство с Турция през 2005 г. (Sarfati, 2017;Yesilada, 2016). ...
... Many, however, saw this as part of a 'war of manoeuvre', 47 designed to cement the AKP permanently in power: 'What seemed to be a promising reform movement [was] replaced by a grim picture of illiberal political developments that are characterized by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's power grab, loss of judicial independence, and electoral manipulations'. 48 The reform proposals signalled a transformation of the AKP from a party functioning on collective processes to one dominated by a single person (i.e., Erdoğan). 49 Overall, they were also more about vanquishing the Kemalist elite and quashing the Kurdish movement than genuine moves to promote pluralistic citizenship or strengthen civil rights. ...
Cyprus has featured prominently on Turkey’s foreign policy agenda in recent years. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has weaved this long-standing issue into a broader narrative of ‘geographical imagination’. Cyprus policy has thus reflected the AKP’s socio-political vision of a ‘Yeni Türkiye’ (New Turkey), first articulated nearly a decade ago, in which well-entrenched narratives about national identity and the Cyprus conflict are central. Against this backdrop, Cyprus has been leveraged in the twin interests of AKP survival (boosting incumbency through nationalist appeals) and Turkey’s regional power aspirations. The present article offers a timely survey of Turkey’s Cyprus policy over a 15-year period from 2002 (when the AKP rose to power) until the failure of the negotiation talks on Cyprus in Crans-Montana, Switzerland in July 2017. In so doing, the article charts the important continuities as well as the key markers of transition in Ankara’s policy towards Cyprus under the AKP.
... In today's Turkey, Erdogan is using religious language openly for political gain, using the government's Directorate of Religious Affairs as a political instrument, and labeling observant Muslim groups who are not aligned with his party as traitors. By manipulating and misinterpreting Islam and its key concepts the AKP has obtained a massive political power and justified its authoritarianism and antidemocratic approaches in the state (Yeşilada, 2016). ...
Full-text available
Since 2016, there has been a new migration wave of educated Muslim people to western countries: Followers of the Hizmet Movement of Turkish origin. Hizmet (The Service) is a civil society movement shaped by Fethullah Gülen’s views. Gülen is a Turkish Muslim scholar, opinion leader and peace advocate. He is one of the world’s most influential Muslim scholars, the inspiration behind a major transnational civil society movement.
Full-text available
Microcelebrity involvement in politics has recently gained some attention in academic research but the emphasis is mainly on the microcelebrities that exist in settings where freedom of speech is protected. Whereas in settings like Turkey where explicit dissent is criminalised and denied public attention, digital spaces maintained by microcelebrities constitute an important site for dissident narratives gaining much needed visibility. At the same time, their visibility and reach put these accounts at a considerable risk of being detected and penalised by the authorities. In this thesis, I explore the ways Twitter microcelebrities partake in anti-government political talk on Turkish Twitter through an analysis of 97 microcelebrity accounts in the 3 months leading up to the 2018 presidential and parliamentary elections. This election period is particularly important as it took place under a state of emergency and during which the opposition parties were denied access to mass media, which meant that a large portion of political discourse was confined to online spaces. I find that despite the staggering risks, Twitter microcelebrities consistently framed partaking in anti-government political talk during elections as a duty for all microcelebrity accounts due to their ability to command public attention. In doing so, they distanced themselves from specific political parties and created narratives that appeal to a politically diverse audience by placing the emphasis on their common aim of replacing the AKP government. In fulfilling this demanding task, to mitigate the risk of lending visibility to potentially incriminating content, these accounts disguised their criticisms behind a creative language relying on their internet culture literacy and the vernacular of the oppositional subcultures in Turkey. I argue that while microcelebrity accounts promote a politics of recognition among politically diverse audiences and create a space for strategic unity, these evasion strategies that increasingly inform the conventions of political talk in online spaces, inevitably create a divide by giving political agency exclusively to those who are “in on” these online conventions.
Recent debates on financialization in emerging market economies highlight the terms of unequal exchange that they are embedded in, where international capital flows steered by powerful financial actors and transnationalized banks have a major impact on economic growth performance. As a result, many of the small open economies in the Global South have become increasingly sensitive to international market volatilities, as the post-2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) episode has shown. Yet, we know much less about the political implications of these interactions. How do unequal financial relations influence political trajectories in emerging market economies? Using process tracing and based on original evidence from Turkey, we find that when GDP growth is dependent on financial inflows under a credit-led growth model, the constraints on the domestic policy space following an economic crisis allowed the ruling party to instrumentalize monetary and regulatory institutions as financial agents of political repression.
Drawing on social movements and gender studies, the article aims at exploring repertoires of action articulated by LGBTQ communities in Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey during and after the 2011 and 2013 protests. The aim is to disentangle how LGBTQ individuals mobilized in the MENA region and which role civil society organizations and digital technologies played in the development of such mobilizations. State repression ofn mobilizing structures, the relevance of digital networks in mobilization strategies, involving LGBTQ activists and individuals in the three countries, will be discussed. The empirical analysis draws on 44 semi-structured interviews carried out in Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey between 2011 and 2020 focusing on repressive contexts, civil society activism, and digital networks. By doing so, the analysis aims also to shed light on the roles played by both meso-level organizations and digital technologies in triggering a range of diverse repertoires of action. If in the three countries LGBTQ communities have been disproportionally targeted by state and non-state repressive campaigns, in Egypt LGBTQ activists challenged repression thanks to the use of social networks as alternative venues for socialization, while in Tunisia and Turkey, LGBTQ activists, drawing upon more established meso-level mobilizing structures, built-up new strategies with the aim to increase their cooperation with other political challengers.
Turkey is a critical actor in multiple regions including Europe, Middle East, and Central Asia. As a relatively new region of reference, Eastern Mediterranean is no exception. Turkey, under the leadership of President Tayyip Erdoğan, has been pursuing an aggressive foreign policy that aims to capitalize on the newly discovered natural gas resources and the potential opportunities these resources will provide to the region’s countries. This foreign policy has caused tensions with Greece and other countries that are party to the existing formal and informal arrangements in the region. This chapter provides a background to Turkey’s ambitions in the region and ties the regional endeavors of Turkey to internal and external sources of insecurity for Turkey and Erdoğan, including economic indicators, changing demographics, the rise of the opposition in domestic politics, the challenges associated with the EU membership process, and concerns about other regional conflicts.
Η διατριβή εξετάζει τις διμερείς σχέσεις μεταξύ της Τουρκίας και του Ισραήλ και παράλληλα τις τοποθετεί στο ευρύτερο πλαίσιο της Μέσης Ανατολής. Προς εξυπηρέτηση του στόχου αυτού καθίσταται απαραίτητη η ενασχόληση με την ιστορία των σχέσεων των δύο κρατών προ της δεκαετίας του 1990 αλλά και των ιδιαίτερων εσωτερικών και εξωτερικών συνθηκών της Τουρκίας και του Ισραήλ. Η ιδιαίτερη ιστορία του Ισραήλ και της Τουρκίας έχει οδηγήσει τα δύο κράτη να συμπεριφέρονται με έναν συγκεκριμένο τρόπο, τον οποίο δεν εντοπίζουμε στη συμπεριφορά άλλων κρατών της περιοχής. Γι’ αυτόν τον λόγο, κρίνεται καθοριστική η ενασχόληση τόσο με τα στοιχεία τα οποία όριζαν την κατεύθυνση της ισραηλινής μεσανατολικής εξωτερικής πολιτικής, όπως το «Δόγμα Εξωτερικής Περιφέρειας», όσο και τα εν γένει χαρακτηριστικά του εσωτερικού πολιτικού βίου της Τουρκίας, όπως η προσήλωση στο «Σύνδρομο των Σεβρών» αλλά και η θέσπιση καταλόγου εχθρικών κρατών από το τουρκικό Συμβούλιο Εθνικής Ασφάλειας.\r\nΗ έρευνα αναπτύσσεται σε τρία μέρη. Στο πρώτο μέρος παρουσιάζονται και αναλύονται τα αίτια και οι παράγοντες διαμόρφωσης των σχέσεων μεταξύ των δύο κρατών. Στο δεύτερο μέρος παρουσιάζονται και αναλύονται οι συνθήκες οι οποίες οδήγησαν στη μεταστροφή της τουρκικής στάσης έναντι του Ισραήλ και η αντίδραση σε αυτήν. Στο τρίτο μέρος παρουσιάζεται και αναλύεται η ρήξη των τουρκο-ισραηλινών σχέσεων με σημείο αναφοράς το επεισόδιο Μαβί Μαρμαρά, και οι άμεσες συνέπειές του κατά τα έτη που ακολούθησαν μέχρι την «Αραβική Άνοιξη».\r\nΗ διατριβή αποτελεί μία επανεκτίμηση των εξελίξεων στις σχέσεις των δύο κρατών, μια συνοπτική μελέτη των τουρκο-ισραηλινών σχέσεων σε αντιπαράθεση με το σύνολο των εξελίξεων τόσο στο εσωτερικό όσο και στο εξωτερικό των δύο κρατών. Με άλλα λόγια, επιχειρήθηκε να αναλυθεί ο άξονας Τουρκίας-Ισραήλ ως περιστρεφόμενος γύρω από τη Μέση Ανατολή, αντί της Μέσης Ανατολής περιστρεφόμενης γύρω από τον άξονα Τουρκίας-Ισραήλ. Η οπτική αυτή δεν περιορίζεται στους διμερείς δεσμούς των δύο κρατών αλλά επεκτείνεται στο ευρύτερό τους πεδίο, αναδεικνύοντας πτυχές οι οποίες περιθωριοποιούνται σε προσεγγίσεις που εστιάζουν την προσοχή τους στις διμερείς σχέσεις Τουρκίας-Ισραήλ.
In recent decades, prominent national leaders like Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez gained power through democratic institutions, only to undermine those institutions once in office as part of a broader effort to consolidate authoritarian power. Yet attempts at “executive aggrandizement” have failed in other countries, with varying consequences for democratic institutions. We develop an agency-based perspective to enhance the understanding of aggrandizement and to explain when it results in democratic breakdown. Relying on comparative case studies of five countries—Bolivia, Ecuador, Thailand, Turkey, and Venezuela—our analysis suggests that the contingent decisions of opposition actors during the process of aggrandizement have a significant effect on regime outcomes. Irregular opposition attempts to remove incumbents from office, which are especially likely after electoral defeats, contribute to democratic breakdown. More moderate responses to aggrandizement, on the other hand, help the opposition actors to buy time until the next election, hence offering the possibility for democratic survival.
Full-text available
This contribution examines the Virtue Party (FP) and attempts to answer two questions: what seems to explain the relative success of Islamist political parties in Turkey, and to what extent have religiously-oriented parties become system-oriented and thus contributed to the consolidation of democracy in Turkey? The analysis covers the history of the Virtue Party, elite-mass linkages, Virtue's organizational structure and other support bases, intra-elite rivalries, and the reasons behind the recent split into two rival political parties.
The Mobilization of Political Islam in Turkey explains why political Islam, which has been part of Turkish politics since the 1970s but on the rise only since the 1990s, has now achieved governing power. Drawing on social movement theory, the book focuses on the dominant form of Islamist activism in Turkey by analyzing the increasing electoral strength of four successive Islamist political parties: the Welfare Party; its successor, the Virtue Party; and the successors of the Virtue Party: the Felicity Party and the Justice and Development Party. This book, which is based on extensive primary and secondary sources as well as in-depth interviews, provides the most comprehensive analysis currently available of the Islamist political mobilization in Turkey.
In this comprehensive introduction to political parties, two of the country's foremost scholars combine the traditional PIE, PIG, PO approach with unique chapters on such issues as race and campaign finance. Throughout the book, the authors argue strongly in favor of the continued relevance of parties in the American political system and provide strong evidence that parties have adapted to the changing American political scene.
This book analyzes the development and impact of conservatism on Turkish politics in the post-Cold War era. Exploring the impact of international system change on Turkey over the course of recent events, this book covers the emerging tension and stress in Turkey’s political culture, economy, and democratic institutions.
President Recep T. Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party have proposed a presidential system with a very strong single executive with very little or no constitutional constraints, called “the Turkish Type of Presidential System.” They campaigned for it from 2013 through the 2015 parliamentary election. Even though this proposal has not been enacted, it has shaped Turkish politics considerably by generating strong opposition as well as stalwart defenders. This article examines the constitutional institutions of the proposed presidential model, compares it with other known examples of presidential systems, and argues that it is a form of hyper-presidentialism.
Without question, the decision of the European Union to consider Turkey’s membership application has spurred Turkish political reform. Is this, however, entirely an externally driven process? Are Turks responding merely to the material incentives of conditionality, or are some Turkish actors advocating reforms for their own sake? This essay examines these questions by looking at the role of Turkish civil society and public opinion in the reform process. It argues that support ‘from below’ within Turkey will be essential for the consolidation for reform. It finds that although there is evidence of Euroskepticism within the public at large, there is broad support in the abstract for democratic principles and human rights and that very visible actors within Turkey are working with the EU to further the reform project.