September 20, 2010

EVEN W COULDN'T ACCEPT THE FACT THAT THE ISLAMISTS ARE OUR ALLIES:

Toward the Second Turkish Republic (MUSTAFA AKYOL, September 17, 2010, Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review)
Despite the challenges, Turkey is heading toward the abolition of the semi-democracy that the military and its allies in the judiciary have imposed since 1960

This political system, these intellectuals argued, aimed at “modernizing” Turkey, but did this with very authoritarian methods. Besides, certain segments of society, such as conservative Muslims, Kurds and non-Muslims, were excluded by the state, and even defined as threats. The county needs a new political system, they argued, with a social contract based on liberty and equality.

And people just laughed at those liberals. Such a colossal transformation looked like a silly dream then. In the early 90s, only Turgut Özal, the most liberal-minded leader the country has seen in the 20th century, was pushing for change. When he died in 1993, the Second Republicanists, as they had become known, lost their political hopes. Some of them founded a party called the New Democracy Movement in 1994, which got only 0.5 percent of the votes in the next year’s elections. Liberal ideas, some concluded, would never triumph in this country.

But that disappointment was based on a miscalculation: the naïve hope that liberalism as such, as an idealist intellectual vision, would find millions of followers. That is hardly the case in most countries, for most people care about their own problems rather than abstract political principles. The real question, therefore, was whether there were enough people in Turkey who would need liberal ideas for their own good.

The answer came in the new century: It was religious conservatives, who made at least one-third of society, that needed change, and thus supported the liberal agenda. This is what lies beneath the interesting story of the AKP, the incumbent Justice and Development Party. This “Islamic” party proved to be more dedicated to the EU cause than its secular rivals, because its Muslim base had suffered a lot under the status quo.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 20, 2010 6:08 AM
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