Turkey has been cautiously watching the bitter exchange of words between the AKP and Fethullah Gulen’s Hizmet community over the last couple of months. Especially with the latest developments in the run-up to the elections and the attacks against the government gaining pace, Turkey is going through some hectic days. How is all this going to affect the elections?
Because Turkey is a democratic Muslim country, it has a special, leading role in the Middle East. The economic leap the country saw after the AKP took over in 2002, the admirable social developments and enviable foreign policy moves, has prompted the international community to aptly name and praise the Turkish leap as the ‘Turkish model’. This model is so successful because it combines human rights, democracy and liberties, the indispensable components of modern societies with the sublime values of the Qur’an such as love, justice and compassion.
One cannot ignore the undeniable success of the AKP government: Before 2002, Turkey’s GNP was around 230 million US dollars, but that skyrocketed to 830 million USD by 2014. The fact that this striking economic boom came at a time when the rest of the world is struggling with a deep recession makes it even more impressive. When the AKP took over, Turkey was the 26th biggest economy in the world, but after 12 years, managed to come in at 16th place. Export figures went up to 115 billion USD in 2010 from its previous 36 billion USD level. Furthermore, interest rates and taxes were significantly reduced during the AKP rule. The manufacturing industry got a fresh breath after the corporate tax was reduced to 20% from 33% and Turkish industries became more agile and competent in the international arena.
Surely, no matter where you go in the world, economics always play a big part in election results. It is not the economic success of the AKP that made is so popular though. There are far more important values that gave the party its staggering public support: according to a poll, 83% of the Turks define themselves as religious. In other words, in Turkey, which has a 99% Muslim population, a majority of the people are religious. It is important to note though that the religious sentiment in Turkey is not one of a radical or extremist kind; quite the opposite, the religious nature of the Turkish people is one of an embracing, loving and liberating kind that values science, art, approaches differences with respect and welcomes other religions with love and affection. This religious nature has had a positive effect on the political right wing. It is a known fact that since 1979, my friends and I have been engaged in an intense cultural effort to intellectually annihilate the ideological basis of the left through a thorough anti-communist, anti-materialist campaign across Turkey. After the left wing lost its intellectual basis, not being able to counter the ideological challenge, rightist parties naturally rose in the elections, once again emphasizing the outcome of the aforementioned intellectual efforts.
The civilization that Turkish people have built does not discriminate against Western culture. On the contrary, Turkish society has incorporated the enviable qualities of the Western world within its own culture. Therefore, secularism and democracy are crucial to Turkish society. The secularity in Turkey guarantees a model where everyone can freely speak their mind, be it a believer or unbeliever, with the utmost mutual respect and love and ensures that people can freely co-exist. This sentiment is championed by the center-right in Turkey; for this very reason, a center-right party in Turkey with this ideology will be fully supported both by religious and secular people, and will always have a great potential.
Fethullah Gulen’s Hizmet community is a useful movement for the Islamic world with its modern Islamic ways and schools they open all around the world. The Community is widely respected by academicians, bureaucrats and civil servants and has a sizable public influence with their media organs. As long as they continue their cultural efforts without being involved in political rivalries, their efficiency will no doubt increase.
It would be failing to see the big picture if one believed that the Community has single-handedly orchestrated the current developments against the government in the run-up to the elections. Surely, as a party that managed to win elections three times in a row, the AKP has an intense opposition. Indeed, this widespread sentiment of opposing the AKP has managed to bring many different groups together and gave rise to an alliance unprecedented for Turkey. This large group of AKP dissidents, with different backgrounds and views, most probably gets their support from outside the country and can be aptly named a ‘parallel opposition movement’.
Amidst all these factors, one thing that needs immediate attention is that it is not right to try to topple an elected government with anti-democratic means. The allegations against the AK Party and the Prime Minister can, and should, be investigated according to the laws. However, none of those allegations can justify the manipulation of Turkish politics by a ‘hidden hand’ with illegal methods such as tapes and videos. Such methods are not acceptable in modern, democratic countries. Opening doors to anti-democratic practices will push Turkey back into a past that it doesn’t deserve to be in.
Despite the outcry of the past three months, the Turkish people still show great support to the AKP and it is because of their desire to protect democracy. The Turkish people have witnessed too many coups and therefore greatly appreciate their democracy. The expectation of people from the AK Party is more democracy, more freedom, and faster development. They expect the government to investigate the claims of corruption, revise the party and introduce new reforms for further development. If these expectations are not met, it is the people that will hold the AKP accountable just as in all democracies, not some certain ‘hidden hands’.