CEFTUS Westminster Debate ‘New Turkey: Democratisation Process and Challenges’
6 November 2014, House of Commons
Keynote speaker of the CEFTUS Westminster Debate series entitled ‘New Turkey’ was Prof. Dr. Yasin Aktay, AK Party Vice Chairman in charge of Foreign Affairs.
Hosted by former EU Minister Keith Vaz Labour MP for Leicester, Prof Aktay analysed Turkey’s transformation over the last decade in its endeavours to further democratise the country and challenges that it has encountered on the way. Parliamentary Candidate for Aberavon and Managing Director of Xynteo, Mr Stephen Kinnock chaired the debate.
Prof. Dr. Yasin Aktay began his talk by emphasising the unprecedented electoral successes of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which, Prof. Aktay claimed that, has increased its share of the vote in every election since it was first voted into office in 2002. Prof. Aktay asserted that the AKP was a unique case, as no other democratic countries have an example of a party that has ruled for as long as the AKP has while maintaining its majority. Calling this phenomenon a “silent revolution”, he emphasised that the AKP had achieved a political reformation inside Turkey.
Prof. Aktay provided explanations for the AKP’s unparalleled success. He argued that pre-AKP governments had alienated the people by imposing their values on the people, citing the ban on the Kurdish language and the exclusion of Muslims from participation in the state as examples. Prof. Aktay pointed out that previous Turkish governments had seized billions of dollars worth of property from non-Muslim citizens, and that the AKP had returned about $2bn to its rightful owners.
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The pluralistic achievements of the AKP are the cornerstone of its success and longevity, Prof. Aktay continued. The AKP has far more legitimacy than some previous governments, he asserted, mentioning the history of military coups in Turkey and referencing the alleged 2002 coup plot to topple the then just elected AKP. Prof. Aktay pointed to the more than twenty year period of single party rule in Turkey, again emphasising that no other party has held power for so long when democratic elections and opposition parties allowed. And while the AKP has greatly advanced conditions for real democracy in Turkey, Prof. Aktay said, Turkey still had changes to make in order to bring it into the 21st century.
Prof. Aktay concluded by summarising the achievements of the AKP in higher education, pointing to the huge increase in the number of universities in Turkey since 2002.
Prof. Aktay’s speech was followed by a Q&A session in the packed committee room.