There is a common misconception of Turkish politics. It is thought that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government is the only actor determining the transformation Turkey is going through. Such an opinion is normal as political figures from the AK Party take and implement new decisions. Many politicians from the AK Party, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, endeavor to create this impression, and they achieve it. Through this, politics turns into a struggle between the AK Party and its opponents, the public gets polarized and the ruling party maintains nearly 50 percent of the popular vote.
However, one can miss the opportunity to understand the political dynamics in Turkey as it is assumed that the AK Party receives this percentage of the vote only because of this polarization. In order to constantly receive almost 50 percent of the vote, the AK Party shows great effort to take the pulse of society. Erdoğan's arguments, which create wide controversy but are not inspected further, generally answer the psychological needs this pulse indicates. On the other hand, the arguments Erdoğan makes based on his own standards of judgment can be put aside if they do not appeal to the Islamic base. The most outstanding example of this was experienced in the topic of abortion. Erdoğan had said that abortion must be prohibited, and he probably still thinks so. However, a case study conducted only a week after his remarks demonstrated that high rates of devout Muslim women supported abortion. This rate was even far above 50 percent among urban and educated segments of society. Since that day, we have not heard a single word about abortion from any AK Party member.
It can be inferred from here that the AK Party avoids constraining the choices of its own base and is content with maintaining a change that is acceptable by the public rather than a change it imagines on its own. Consequently, the answer to the question, "Where is Turkey going?" has to be studied in the sociological transformation of the Sunni community. The recent debate of "Lizard" sets another example in terms of understanding at which phase of this change we are in. "Kertenkele" (Lizard) is the name of a series broadcasted on ATV. The drama portrays the adventures and internal conflicts of a thief nicknamed Lizard. At the beginning of the series, while Lizard is cared for at a hospital under the surveillance of police, an imam lies on a bed next to him. The conversation between the two shows that Lizard is not influenced by the imam at all. Then the thief escapes from the hospital by dressing up in the imam's clothes and acts as if he is an imam by profession to elude the police. Meanwhile, he also preaches sermons by making use of the notes he found in the imam's pockets.
The series depict a criminal facing morals and righteousness. But at this point of the story, the associations belonging to the imams in Turkey have showed an expected reaction to the series on the grounds that it undermines the perception of them. Not resisting the pressures upon it, the Presidency of Religious Affairs (DİB) also implied the necessity of prohibiting the series on the grounds that it affronts imams. And at this very point an interesting thing happened. Representatives from the Islamic segment society from the 35 to 45 age group, who have influence over the public, objected to the DİB and blamed the institution of being archaic and statist. They contextualized the series in a universal discussion of morals with examples and references from the West.
At last, silence prevailed after all these controversies. The DİB did not answer back and did not repeat its former opinion either. The associations representing imams also kept silent. Lizard went on his journey. This debate is an interesting indicator for those who wonder about to which direction Turkey is going.