Why the AK Party became 'Authoritarian'

Published 16.07.2014 01:06

There is a common political idea that many are repeating lately. The AK Party demonstrated a reformist attitude in the first eight years of its 12 years in power. Yet, after the referendum in 2010, not only did the reforms stop, but the government started to make authoritarian interventions in politics.

At this point, the following comment is being made: If the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) had truly been interested in reforms, it would have sped up the democratic process right after being elected. In reality, the opposite happened.

In this case, the AK Party was compulsorily reformist in the first years, but upon gaining absolute power, its true intentions began to surface. There is a false point in this argument because the government did not stop reforms after 2010. The democratic packages are obvious proof of this.

However, the government did not hesitate to interfere openly in matters of jurisdiction, which damaged the principle of separation of powers. So, something happened, and the AK Party was driven away from democratic practice -even if it did not lose its will to make reforms. The question that remains is what is that "something?"

Observers, whom are mostly from the West, tend to answer this question superficially. According to them, the problem is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's personality. Upon the ridding of military domination, Erdoğan decided that there was nothing to stop him, and he attempted to be a dictator. Presumably, he always wanted to be a dictator, but he got the chance after 2010.

This perspective presumes that the prime minister is powerful enough to do whatever he wishes. Yet, it cannot explain how he has not yet been able to convince his parliamentary group for a presidential system. Furthermore, the same perspective does not address why Erdoğan has not pushed for a legislation regarding abortion, for instance, even though he frequently declares that he is against it. In truth, the AK Party is not a party that follows its leader blindly; indeed, AK Party voters are not blinded with the light of their leader.

A case study was created with the representatives of the "Islamic middle class" early this year. The result clearly showed that roughly half of the AK Party voters did not approve of the prime minister's attitude towards Gezi protests. They even thought that Erdoğan should have apologized. On the other hand, if Erdoğan really wanted to be a dictator, he could not craft a better alternative than the current parliamentary system.

By having the majority in the Parliament, Erdoğan has almost limitless power. In most typical presidential systems, Erdoğan would not have that kind of power. Regardless, even if Erdoğan really wanted to be a dictator, he could not control his own party members.

Upon re-examination of the aforementioned question, the genuine issue at hand is, "Why has the authoritarian attitude of the AK Party government been brought into light?" The answer can only be explained through the changing of the political climate after 2010. If the AK Party had given up the reconciliation process about the Kurdish "problem," and the democratic process had stopped, it may have invited reasonable questioning of the intentions of the government.

However, the AK Party currently shows conflicting attitude in politics. Today, there is a government that advocates for the continuation of the democratic process, as well as pushes for authoritarian and polarized politics - an attitude that is both of peacemaker and warrior in public sphere. The answer to the question lies in the perception of threat, and the justifications of it. The aftermath of 2010 meant war for the AK Party. Therefore, the government and the AK Party voter base saw what happened as an attempted coup. They still think that they are right, and becoming authoritarian was one of the government's tools for this fight.

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