The Ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is celebrating its 19th anniversary, leaving almost two decades behind with a series of victorious elections as well as the fight against military tutelage and terrorism.
Founded on Aug. 14, 2001, under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from within the "righteous movement," the AK Party has become the most successful political party in modern Turkey’s democratic history with its successive election victories and has led reforms that developed the country’s democracy and economy.
Having millions of members, the party’s voter base includes millions of people from different political backgrounds. Since winning the majority of votes in its first election, the AK Party sequentially increased its voters in all subsequent elections.
In fact, the party is known for its dynamic structure that revives itself when necessary. Erdoğan has led a rejuvenation process in the party back in late 2017, repeatedly speaking of “metal fatigue” within the party.
The journey of the AK Party gained momentum on Nov. 3, 2002, only one year after its foundation, as it achieved enormous success in the first general elections, garnering 34.3% of the vote and earning 363 seats in Parliament.
Since then, the party has participated in six general elections – in 2002, 2007, 2011 and June 2015, and the snap elections of November 2015 and 2018 – and won them all.
As a result, in the last 19 years, two presidents and four prime ministers were elected from the AK Party. In the presidential election of 2018, Erdoğan, who is also currently the head of the AK Party, became the first democratically elected president in Turkey’s new system of a presidential government.
2007: Protests, legal challanges
Despite having a successful record of elections with a strong group of leaders, the 19-year-long journey of the party was, in fact, filled with struggles.
In 2007, one of the founders of the party, Abdullah Gül, became the only candidate from within the Parliament to become the president. However, he immediately faced a challenge from the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Despite receiving the votes of 357 out of 361 deputies, since he failed to receive 367 votes, the number of the deputies to be present in Parliament for an election to begin, CHP claimed that his victory was null and void and brought the issue to the Constitutional Court. The court accepted the CHP’s appeal, triggering a series of movements in the country, known as the “Republic Rallies,” against the AK Party. Gül eventually was elected as the president a few months later by meeting all of the necessary conditions. Turkish electorate also displayed their discontent with this process by handing a major victory to the AK Party in the general elections in July by more than 46% of the votes.
The military tutelage system has been yet another struggle, marked by April 27, 2007, “e-memorandum” of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), during which the military released a statement online, focused on secularism, against the AK Party. The move received major reactions from the AK Party, which underlined that it was “undemocratic” to have such a stance against the government.
The AK Party was also put under great pressure by a closure case in 2008, which eventually failed. On March 14, 2008, a case to shut down the party and forbid 71 party authorities, including Erdoğan, from participating in politics for five years was presented to the Constitutional Court. On July 30, 2008, the case was dismissed because the necessary majority to approve such a decision was not met among the judges of the high court.
Public support proceeds
Despite all these struggles, the AK Party continued to receive strong support from the Turkish public, proven by a 2010 referendum to make certain changes to the constitution, which received a “yes” vote from 57.88% of the people.
However, yet another difficulty was around the corner as the Gezi events erupted on May 28, 2013, costing the country $50 billion (TL 102 billion) in financial losses.
Soon after, the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) revealed its true face with its first large-scale plot against the government. On Dec. 17, 2013, the so-called “corruption inquiry” was launched by FETÖ in a judicial operation against the government. In the operation, investigations were launched against the children of various state officials, including Erdoğan’s son, Bilal Erdoğan. Still, the operation was handled with minimum harm to the government, and on Aug. 10, 2014, Erdoğan became the first president of the country elected through a popular vote, while then Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu became the head of the AK Party.
However, on May 22, 2016, the head of the party changed once again when one of the founders of the party, Binali Yıldırım, was elected as the chairman and became the last prime minister of the country before the transition to the presidential system.
Coup attempt: Biggest challange
On July 15, 2016, the AK Party had to overcome arguably one of its biggest challenges, as FETÖ organized a bloody coup attempt. Killing 251 people, the attempt was doomed to failure by the people, who flooded to the streets to defend the government.
Following the coup attempt, the country entered a transition period to the presidential system. Turkish voters narrowly endorsed an executive presidency on April 16, 2017 referendum with 51.4% of the votes. The official transition to the new system took place when Erdoğan took the oath as president in Parliament after the June 24, 2018, general elections, in which he won 52.6% of the votes.
Domestically, ever since the establishment of the modern Turkish Republic in 1923, Ankara has hosted different governments, including coalition and military administrations. Unfortunately, Turkey had been the victim of daily internal political rivalries between political parties in most of its modern history from 1950 to up until 2002. It seemed that each government brought its own plans, policies, initiatives and so on. Hence, Turkey could not break the chains holding it back from becoming a true regional and global influencer due to discontinuity, inconsistency and incoherence in both domestic and foreign policies with other countries.
In the last 18 years under the AK Party administration, however, this cycle has been broken as Turkey has witnessed rapid development in many areas including economy, democracy, individual liberties and rights, health and educational services in a stable political environment.
Please click to read our informative text prepared pursuant to the Law on the Protection of Personal Data No. 6698 and to get information about the cookies used on our website in accordance with the relevant legislation.
6698 sayılı Kişisel Verilerin Korunması Kanunu uyarınca hazırlanmış aydınlatma metnimizi okumak ve sitemizde ilgili mevzuata uygun olarak kullanılan çerezlerle ilgili bilgi almak için lütfen tıklayınız.