How Erdogan Fell From Grace

June 4, 2013 Topic: Domestic PoliticsPolitics Region: Turkey

How Erdogan Fell From Grace

Turkey's prime minister and his AK Party alienated many citizens. Where will they go from here? 

Such conspiracy theories, well known in Turkey, should be greeted with contempt. Indeed, it would be ironic if AKP were to adopt such a discourse, since previous governments under the domination of the Turkish military and state bureaucracy have traditionally used it. This was a time that allowed scarce public space for minorities that failed to adopt a narrow interpretation of Turkish nationalism and secularism. The only difference this time: the target would be those who do not share the conservative values of today’s governing elite.

This type of repressive politics has little tolerance for criticism, let alone dissent. It is difficult to see how, under these circumstances, Turkey would be able to finally resolve the thorny Kurdish issue, continue to keep the economy growing, maintain Turkey as a major attraction for tourism, raise new generations of youth capable of keeping up with the challenges of globalization and—maybe most importantly—manage the Syrian crisis in a manner that does not engulf Turkey.

But the former path would revitalize Turkey’s democratic transition and credentials as a model capable of reconciling Western liberal values with a religiously conservative society. Indeed, such a Turkey would regain its constructive role in its neighborhood and revitalize its relationship with the EU. The latter path, on the other hand, may well drag Turkey into turmoil and the kind of instability and polarization that has previously been seen. Paradoxically, such a Turkey in transition would risk looking more like the post-Arab Spring Middle East in a state of turmoil—rather than an inspiration for pluralist democracy, consensus building and tolerance.

Kemal Kirişci is the TUSIAD Senior Fellow in the foreign policy program at Brookings.

Image: Wikimedia Commons/Ozdemura. CC BY-SA 3.0.