News from Turkey indicates that the Turkish people’s experiment with ‘soft political Islam’ as represented by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), is becoming an unmitigated disaster. To be sure the AKP has presided over a period of impressive Turkish growth and development, but much of the foundations of this economic miracle pre-dates the AKP’s political victory back in 2002. Erdogan’s growing autocratic streak stems from his confidence in his ability to tap the wellspring of political Islam throughout rural Turkey. Having purged the senior military ranks of Kemalists (2011), officers sworn to uphold Turkey’s secular constitution, Erdogan and the AKP believe, perhaps rightly so, that they could stage massive pro-government rallies to rival the spate of anti-government protests spreading from Istanbul to other areas of the country. Let us hope that he is not put to the test. The level of anti-government anger on the streets of Turkey is dangerous and the threat of staging pro-government rallies amidst these protests will likely lead Turkey down the path to revolution or civil war. There are enough players within the Turkish body politic eagre to see the removal of the AKP in its entirety – through violence if necessary. While presently the opposition can be considered a minority among the urban elites, (much of the AKP’s popularity resides in the countryside), careful management of social media by protesters may over time change this equation. They need only to look through the pages of the Arab Spring playbook. Erdogan’s confidence in discrediting and crushing dissent against his rule will depend on his abilities to co-opt and persuade the bulk of his opposition to accept his vision for Turkey – unfettered inner city development with no apparent love nor appreciation for Turkey’s long, heterogeneous cultural heritage. The more time passes with no clear change in Erdogan’s dismissive attitude towards the concern of the people, the more likely that he might unwittingly dismantle his political success and that of his party, which may in turn put a halt to Turkey’s stunning economic progress in recent years.
P.S. 03/06/2013 Turkey’s stock market plunged 10.5 percent as a consequence of anti-government rioting, leading the Turkish government to apologise for the use of excessive force 05/06/2013.
By Dr. John Bruni, Director SAGE International