CEFTUS Westminster Debate ‘2013 Analysis of Democracy and Politics in Turkey’

Monday, 10 February 2014

Committee Room 9, House of Commons

Keynote speakers: Ms Zeynep Banu Dalaman, Director of the Centre for Studies on Turkey (CST) of Istanbul Aydin University, Mr Bill Park of King’s College, London University and Dr Kerem Oktem of the University of Oxford.

Chair: Siddik Bakir, Energy Analyst.

This CEFTUS debate was kindly hosted by Stuart Andrew Conservative MP for Pudsey.

The Centre for Turkey Studies held another timely debate on democracy and politics in Turkey with experts analysing the political events of 2013 as well as the corruption probe at the end of the year of 2013.

Highlights of Ms Zeynep Banu Dalaman’s speech:

  • 2013 was not a year of building ‘New Turkey’.
  • Western media had an orientalist way of broadcasting the Gezi protests.
  • AK Party came into power in 2002 with a discourse of freedoms for everyone and on every issue. 2011 general elections, however, began a period of steps towards building a Sunni Muslim Turkey.
  • Gezi was an Alevi movement which was opposing to PM Erdogan’s model of Sunni Muslim Turkey.
  • Democracies differ in each country and Turkey will have to find its own democracy.
  • 2010 referendum was the end of military tutelage.

Dalaman presented a political chronology of four political parties in the Turkish parliament.

She ended her presentation noting that democracy within AK Party does not exist and that lack of democracy within the party reflects on AKP politics throughout Turkey. Dalaman in Q&A responding to a question about the Gulen Movement argued that the movement is a civil society movement that Turkey needs and people of Turkey would not have found out about the alleged corruption scandal if it was not for them.

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Highlights of Dr Kerem Oktem’s speech:

  • Turkey is in a crisis, especially since 17 December. The question to keep in mind is whether Turkey’s democracy will survive this crisis or is this end of the story?
  • One of the root causes of this crisis is that Turkey applied a developmental model funded with international money. This model, despite positive prospects, led power of corrupt deals emerged under the shade of AKP.
  • Power struggle between ‘Milli Gorus’ (National View) which is ideologically closer to Muslim Brotherhood and the Gulen Movement which globally operates with businesses and schools is another reason for this crisis. 17 December marks the war between these two powers.
  • Investigations and police operations might have been politically motivated, but tapes leaked on internet following the graft probe are utterly shocking.
  • Turkey’s image is tarnished. It appears that Turkey has gone back to the 1990s corrupt country where rights were not protected.
  • PM Erdogan uses his power to restructure institutions for the benefit of his party. The longer AKP stays in power the higher price Turkey will pay and it seems that AKP will stay in power in the coming elections.

Highlights of Mr Bill Park’s speech:

  • The relationship between President Abdullah Gul and PM Erdogan is quite crucial in understanding the current politics in Turkey as the only real challenge to Erdogan will come from Gul. Gul might veto, although it is less likely, two very critical bills; one is the internet bill and the other one is the 2nd judiciary reform.
  • Popularity of AKP has decreased and the Turkish economy looks fragile which will make people question their votes during the elections.
  • AKP project has collapsed! There might be a breakdown within AKP as one party democracies tend to suffer from similar fates.
  • Is there really a war between the Gulen movement and AKP? There is certainly a crisis and both sides are getting severely damaged. However, the Gulen movement will survive this crisis one way or another, but might be left out of some institutions.
  • Another actor to keep in mind is that military has not completely disappeared as constitution-wise nothing has changed. One should not dismiss military presence in the Turkish politics.

Bill Park lastly stated that he used to be optimistic about democracy in Turkey and AK Party when he first started writing on Turkey. However, he added, he now feels very pessimistic as it is much worse than the early 2000s.

The debate continued with a lively question and answer session.