AKP: From democratic conservative to nationalist conservative

AKP: From democratic conservative to nationalist conservative

When the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in late 2002, they had sought to try to defuse the concerns sparked in the West by defining their political movement as “democratic conservative” and advocate of universal human rights values as well as fundamental freedoms. 

So many things have changed in Turkey and in the world in the last 15 years, for sure, but the AKP has always been in power with consecutive election victories; parliamentary, municipal or presidential. However, at the point we have arrived after 15 years, it can be argued that the AKP’s political line has shifted to a rather “nationalist conservative” stance at the expense of ignoring its promises to upgrade the level of the Turkish democracy. 

A brief analysis on what has happened in the last two weeks would unquestionably prove this change. The elected co-mayors of Diyarbakır, Gültan Kışanak and Fırat Anlı, have been arrested, Murat Sabuncu, the editor-in-chief of opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, and its more than a dozen writers have been detained with fears that a trustee will be appointed to the newspaper management, 12 lawmakers, including co-leaders Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) have been detained over terror links. Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ were arrested late on Nov. 4.

The government continued to use excessive authorities granted by the state of emergency and dismissed thousands of civil servants through a decree law. However, the same decree law stipulated the closure of 16 pro-Kurdish media outlets and authorized President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to directly appoint university rectors. The state of emergency will likely be in place longer than thought; meaning more governmental actions deemed to be undemocratic could be in the pipeline. 

The joint assessment of the European Union ambassadors who convened at an urgent meeting after the news broke about the HDP lawmakers was that President Erdoğan and the AKP government were ready to deliver what’s needed for the adoption of an executive presidency. 

The recent rapprochement between the AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is seen as part of this strategy, causing even more concern on the EU side especially after the two party leaders signaled cooperation to reinstate the death penalty. The EU categorizes the reinstatement of the death penalty as a move to freeze negotiation talks, which could eventually isolate Turkey from the modern world.

There will be not many surprises in the upcoming Progress Report to be released by the European Commission next Wednesday as a deterioration in the field of fundamental freedoms, democracy and human rights will largely be addressed. It’s also foreseeable that the Turkish government will denounce the report and fire back by recalling EU’s too late and too weak support in the aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt. 

However, what we all observe in our country is first and foremost about us and our common future. Peace, stability and prosperity are the common targets of all Turkey’s people, of regardless their political leanings. The only way to fulfill these targets is to stick to democracy, freedoms and universal human rights. This requires the supremacy of a democratic regime and not the one we are being exposed to. Both President Erdoğan and AKP officials had better return to their “democratic conservative” agenda in order to save the democratic future of the Turkish people.