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SEMİH İDİZ

SEMİH İDİZ > Support for AKP strong despite mounting problems

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Turkey is going through a period of traumatic experiences for the public, both domestically and in terms of foreign policy. Clearly, the government is not the only one to blame here. Turkey has problems that have been left unresolved for decades.

But the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power emphasizing its aim would not be to try and maintain the status quo. This was taken as a sign that new approaches would be brought to old and seemingly intractable problems.

Despite this often-repeated claim, however, we see a government that is unable or unwilling to take the bold steps required to resolve serious problems despite its landslide victory in the last general election, which should have enabled it to act freely.

It is relying more and more, instead, on traditional approaches that have always represented the status quo in this country. Attempts to push the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) out of the political domain and into the criminal one, due to its friendly approach to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), is just one example.

One would have expected a wiser approach from the AKP, given that the BDP is a democratically elected party. It is also odd that the AKP should now be trying to close down a political party given that it, too, is a party that others have tried to close down in the past on the grounds of endangering the Republic.

Regardless of all this, however, support for the AKP remains strong. As the latest poll by the “Haberturk-Konsesus” group indicates, this party would win another landslide victory if elections were held tomorrow despite increasing social problems.

This is no a surprise for those familiar with the works of Kemal Karpat, one of Turkey’s leading historians. Karpat has shown that if there is one element the predominantly conservative and religious Anatolian masses have come to despise over the years, it is the elitists who ran the country for decades after the Republic was founded.

Turkish Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk said something similar in a recent interview, where he correctly indicated that Turkey’s bourgeoisie has traditionally looked on the Anatolian masses the way white South Africans looked on their black compatriots in the past.

It was inevitable that this should, in time, feed deep resentments among ordinary Turks. The bottom line here is that support for the AKP continues despite serious social problems because of an almost blind team spirit. As matters stand, one often meets people in daily life who are committed followers of the AKP in a religious sense, rather than being voters whose decide on the basis of a real awareness of what is transpiring.

As a corollary to this, it is clear that the traditional bourgeoisie in Turkey was never democratic in the true sense of the word, relying always, like Hosni Mubarak’s bourgeoisie in Egypt, on state power and the military to maintain its privileged position.

While the elitism of an established order that is waning today has always been reprehensible, it is nevertheless true that some of the key reforms enacted under the Republic made Turkey leap forward in time and modernize itself in a way no Islamic society has achieved to date.

What we see now, however, is an ongoing process where these gains are being watered down due to historic resentments, and in the name of conservatism, and the “religious generation” that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has openly said he wants to see in Turkey.

One can conclude, therefore, that the AKP is receiving strong support not to take the country forward, but to take it backward due to the resentments that have accumulated over time among the conservative masses.

There is, however, not much those who are unhappy with this state of affairs but believe in democracy can do, given that the AKP is also democratically elected. It seems some societies are doomed to learn the hard way.

September/11/2012

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