What will be the AKP’s undoing?

What will be the AKP’s undoing?

Seeing what appeared to be the unstoppable rise of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), analysts have been wondering what the source of this party’s undoing will be in the end. There was much speculation that the government’s Kurdish opening and its peace negotiations with the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) could do this. 

This argument was based on the fact that Turks are nationalistic and have been further agitated by the large number of conscripts killed by the PKK. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in particular played on this theme, and continues to accuse Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP of treason. 

However, the June 2011 elections, which returned the AKP to power with 50 percent of the vote, proved this speculation wrong. One of the results of the talks with the PKK was that conscript deaths dropped dramatically, something that was appreciated by large segments of society, giving the AKP more confidence to carry on with its peace process with the PKK.

Another strong point that worked to the benefit of the government has been that it kept the economy stable and growing since coming to power in 2002. Granted that, all it did in the end was to pursue the policies put in place by the previous government after the economic meltdown of 2001. But even that was to its credit.

Yet another strong point for the government was that it had raised Turkey’s international profile as a positive and neutral soft power in its region that could be a shining example with its democracy and economic model for underdeveloped Islamic countries. 

That was all then, however, and today we see a different picture emerging. The peace process with the PKK appears to be stalled now with accusations flying in both directions, indicating that the whole process could collapse unless it is re-energized. A bicycle analogy could be used here; if the pedals are not turned, not only will the bicycle not go anywhere, but it will also topple over. 

As far as the economy is concerned, Erdoğan’s big boast about the international financial crisis having just “skimmed Turkey,” leaving its economy still strong and growing no longer holds water. With the dollar rising at an unprecedented rate against the Turkish Lira, the interest rate increasing and the stock exchange experiencing turmoil, ordinary citizens are no longer confident about their future.

When we turn to the foreign policy domain, things are clearly not what they were a number of years ago in that area either. Starting with the falling out with Israel and taking new turns with policies toward Syria and Egypt, Turkey is no longer seen in a positive light as a regional soft power, but one that has a Sunni-dominated Islamic agenda, which has little to do with being neutral in regional disputes. 

This has resulted in the fact that Turkey is isolated in a contemporary Middle East where not everyone is enamored of it anymore, with some looking on it as an enemy, rather than a friend. Now Turkey is on the brink of a new and risky adventure with its keenness to participate in a “coalition of the willing,” which will not have U.N. authorization, to bomb Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

This prospect is fraught with risks for Turkey, including retaliatory attacks on its territory by pro-al-Assad groups like the deadly twin car bombings in Reyhanlı in May. The long and the short of it is that more and more Turks are questioning why Turkey was dragged into the Syrian crisis in this way.

Given the present configuration of local, regional and international factors concerning Syria, there is very little chance that an aerial bombing of Syria will be sufficient to end the civil war there. This will merely be a feel-good strike which will probably aggravate the situation further and leave Turkey facing new threats.

With all these negative developments, not to mention the Gezi Park protests, it seems that the undoing of the AKP will ultimately come from within the AKP itself, especially in the absence of any viable opposition.