Unintended consequences of AKP’s 13-year rule

Unintended consequences of AKP’s 13-year rule

The Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) nearly 13 years in government will be put to the test once more through the ballot box next month.

Of course, all the votes that will be cast for the AKP cannot be counted as “full satisfaction” with the ruling party’s performance. Some vote for it simply because they are not convinced that alterative parties will do any better.

But the fact remains that although half of the country supports the AKP, the other half “hates it” as Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesperson Bülent Arınç has said. Indeed, a great majority of those supporting the AKP do not want to hear any criticism about the ruling party, while a great majority of the AKP’s opponents will never admit that positive developments have taken place during the AKP’s time in power.

Turning a blind eye to the AKP’s wrongdoings, as well as to some of its positive work, is wrong. Obviously, volumes will be written about the AKP’s overall balance sheet. 

While the AKP’s rapid evolution to authoritarian rule under the insistence of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan remains extremely alarming, I still believe there have been some unintended consequences of the AKP’s governance that will in the end turn out to be positive on the fate of Turkey. Obviously, they are highly open to debate, but here are just a few:

*The former “other Turkey” that felt excluded can no longer complain that they were treated as “second class” citizens. The concept of the “other Turkey” is of course difficult to describe. But they were mostly the religious conservatives who thought they were looked down upon by Turkey’s privileged secular classes. 

*Big capital and economic activity is no longer limited in the hands of the few, but has been spread to what are called Anatolian entrepreneurs, contributing to the widening of the middle classes in Turkey.

*The new generations, particularly those who received their educational formation in the first half of the 2000s, when impressive democratic reforms were taken and important taboos were broken, have gotten the taste of “liberal democracy.” They are much more democratic compared to their parents, especially those who claim to be very “modern/Western.” We saw them during the Gezi protests of 2013.

*The breaking of taboos (like broadcasting in Kurdish), as well as the advent of youth with more democratic reflexes, has facilitated a reconciliation process on the Kurdish issue. The AKP is the party in government that openly and directly started negotiations with representatives of an organization that is still legally considered a terrorist organization. The “negotiations” have come to a halt, but no matter which party comes to power after the election - even a government that includes the nationalists - the process will continue.

*Although it unfortunately came at the expense of huge unfair imprisonments that cost innocent lives; the army came under civilian control during the AKP’s time in power. This is not due to the legal cases opened against soldiers accused of trying to topple the government. By now, we know that these cases were a vengeance plot led by the Gülen group. The end of military tutelage came on the day when the government defied the e-coup attempt in 2007. This is when the military issued a warning through its website against the government’s decision to nominate Abdullah Gül as president. In response to the memorandum, the AKP called elections and was re-elected.  

Other items could be added to this list: The improvement of the rights of non–Muslim minorities, the messages of condolence for Armenians who lost their lives in the 1915 deportations, the rise of Turkish Airlines as a global company, etc. 

The problem is that some of the steps taken by the AKP had counter effects. For instance, the conservatives’ feeling of inclusiveness came at the expense of alienating the secularists. Worse, the AKP started to take so many wrong turns that the negatives now already far outweigh the positives.