Saturday, April 18, 2009

Who is the real AKP?

I had an enthralling conversation with some Turkish friends last night. The theme of the conversation was a favourite among Istanbulites - domestic politics.

Standing on the high-rise terrace of a posh nightclub overlooking a glittering Bosphorus, we spoke late into the night. A drink here, a drink there and before we knew it we were determined to answer the burning questions afflicting modern Turkish politics. Hearing us, you might have mistaken us for bourgeois intellectuals debating the ills and perils of 19th century Europe.

Yet our historical focus was not on the past, but on the present and the future. Specifically, on the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP) and its legitimacy (or lack thereof in the opinion of my friends.) We bounced ideas and arguments back and forth regarding the AKP's Islamic leanings, its ability to govern and the supposed 'American role' behind its rise to power nearly 8 years ago.

As interesting and rewarding as the conversation was for me - as any conversation of the sort should be - I was left with more questions than answers; chief among them, who is the real AKP and what kind of a Turkey does it ultimately strive for?

Is the AKP good for the country at the onset of the 21st century? Or, does it risk undermining what many see as Turkey's 'rise' in the era of modern globalization? Is its self-professed 'soft Islam' to be welcomed as a democratic and peaceful reflection of the country's organic identity and geographic position in the world (an identity that AKP supporters claim has been artificially suppressed by the guardians of Kemalist secularism for over 50 years)? Or, is the AKP seeking authoritarian control of the palace by pulling a Hitler and using legal electoral mechanisms to conduct a 'takeover from within' and implement its own idea of an Islamic state a la Khoumeini?

Personally, I choose to keep my own opinions off the record at this point.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

There's a great book by Yavuz Hakan called "The Emergence of a New Turkey". It Explains the implications of the AKP for the Future of Turkish politics, and the EU trajectory.

One thing is for sure, EU aspirations come first, and the NSC- the fundamental embodiment of Kemalism -is taking one of the first beatings. The AKP has been progressive with its reforms so far in my opinion.