International,  Islamism

Turkish democracy and the AKP

I haven’t been following the recent political crisis in Turkey, but I think this op-ed piece by Aliza Marcus and Andrew Apostolou (who has been one of our readers) makes at lot of sense.

They write that Turkey’s Constitutional Court, backed by the country’s strongly secular military leaders, is preparing to bar Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan from politics and disband his Justice and Development Party (AKP) party on the grounds of anti-secularism.

Closure of the pro-Islamic AKP would be a tremendous setback for Turkish liberals, who have supported the party because of its active commitment to economic reform and European Union accession and its plans to lift repressive laws. It would also undermine U.S. efforts to convince religious Muslims that they can express themselves through the ballot box. The only winners will be Turkey’s military, which is threatened by the AKP’s policies and efforts to liberalize, and former political elites, whose hold on power was weakened because of their own incompetence and corruption.

While the AKP is an Islamic party (perhaps in the same way that European Christian Democratic parties are Christian), I’m not sure it’s accurate to call it Islamist, as Marcus and Apostolou do:

The true test of a party’s democratic credentials is its willingness to submit to free and fair elections. Prime Minister Erdogan did so twice last year, gaining 47 percent of the vote on a record turnout in the July 2007 parliamentary polls. By contrast, the AKP’s secular opponents, whose dismal record cost them the past two elections, are reduced to cheering the judicial coup on from the sidelines.

The critics are wrong: It is secularism that is failing the test of democracy in Turkey. The AKP’s brand of Islamism plays by democratic rules.

If a political party is prepared to play by the rules (including giving up power after losing an election), it apparently puts a higher priority on democracy than it does on promoting Islam. Or maybe “Islamism” has been so discredited by its more extreme proponents.

There are, I am sure, plenty of sensible reasons for Turks to oppose the AKP. But as long as the democratic option is open, they should do it that way.

Anyway I’d be interested in any informed comments on the situation in Turkey.