Before the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power in 2002, Turkey was in turmoil. The country was recovering from the post-modern coup of Feb. 28, the failure of the coalition government that had come to power after the fall of the Refah-Yol government and an economy that was in a full-fledged crisis during the ensuing interregnum. The crisis had been felt in many areas, from politics to the economy.
In contrast to all other political parties that had been on the political stage for the last two decades, the AK Party, which emerged following the closure of the Virtue Party (FP), was the only political party that was reassuring the Turkish electorate with its reformist stance. Since coming to power in 2002, the AK Party has been governing the country for 17 years.
In Turkey, all military interventions were succeeded by the founding of successful civilian governments that, in turn, concluded with waves of liberalization and democratization. These civilian governments also managed the population flux from rural to urban areas. Such processes of rapid urbanization, which were managed by leftist political parties in the 1970s, have been led by conservative political parties after the military intervention of 1980.
As a catch-all political party, the AK Party has risen on the invaluable political experience of the Welfare Party (RP) and the FP, and by inheriting its qualified cadres and its extensive organizational capacity. Resembling the liberal political parties in the United States and the United Kingdom, the AK Party also demonstrated its communicative skills in conveying its political messages to the Turkish electorate.
When the AK Party came to power, Turkey was wrestling with long-standing problems at all social levels, from transportation and employment to education and health. Therefore, the AK Party prioritized the immense need for infrastructural investments in its political agenda.
The AK Party has been as strong and successful in local governance as it has been in national governance. Rapidly realizing unprecedented investments, the AK Party succeeded in mending the main infrastructural deficiencies throughout the country.
Although Turkey's transition to a liberal economy began during the presidency of Turgut Özal, the liberal economy was consolidated during the AK Party period. Thanks to Turkey's growing economy, Turkish people have enjoyed higher living standards. In other words, the AK Party's political power facilitated the consolidation of economic liberalization and the rise of individualization.
Therefore, the Turkish electorate's demands for the resolution infrastructural deficiencies that were rising due to rapid urbanization have largely been satisfied. In the end, a much more complex and fastidious type of electorate has emerged. Since then, Turkish voters have been much more individualistic.
During the AK Party governments, immense infrastructural investments were realized, especially in the areas of transportation, social security, education, and health. From the foundation of high-tech hospitals and schools to the extension of social security rights and the construction of dams, the AK Party succeeded in resolving Turkey's main infrastructural problems.
The AK Party has never lost its electoral support due to the criticism of opposition political parties. Thanks to its organizational capacity and the aforementioned infrastructural investments, the AK Party has succeeded in acquiring the support of at least 40 percent of the Turkish electorate. Whenever economic parameters rose and improved, electoral support for the AK Party's political power even reached 50 percent.
For the upcoming local elections, the AK Party's supporters appear to be a little more cautious and fastidious. They constitute a much more individualized electorate who prioritize everyday issues.
After managing the country for almost two decades, the AK Party has substantially changed the sociology of Turkey. I believe the upcoming local elections will demonstrate that the AK Party successfully reinterprets the changing sociology of the Turkish electorate.