Panel 3C

Examining the AKP Era in Turkey

16.15 – 18.15
Chair: Joakim Parslow, Institute of Cultural Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo

Exploring the Dynamics behind the Creation of Hegemonic Party Regime: AKP Era in Turkey

Ahmet Erdi Ozturk, University of Strasbourg

This study is informed by contemporary discussions on hegemonic party regimes and applied to Turkey’s long-lasting single-party government since the beginning of multi-party politics in Turkey. AKP’s political journey to become a hegemonic party in Turkey is critically examined on the basis of political, economic and organisational factors. This study has provided a comprehensive explanation of how the AKP established and accordingly maintains its hegemonic party position in three ways. Firstly, the party members and more particularly indisputable leader Erdo?an are malleable and has developed flexible political strategies to overcome obstacles. Secondly, by managing the public budget and retaining economic growth, the AK Party has gained and sustained appeal among economically disadvantaged citizens of Turkey, lifting them out of poverty in some cases. And thirdly, due to its multi-dimensional and interwoven party organisation, the AKP is much more competitive electorally as it permeates across Turkish society. AKP’s capacity and ability to maintain its hegemonic party status has a number of implications. It remains to be seen whether they will accomplish changing the Turkish governance system into a stronger Presidency, which would most certainly have long-term implications for both the party’s hegemonic party status, for Erdogan, and most importantly, for the future of Turkey’s democracy.

The Non-State Actor Factor in Turkish Foreign Policy Under the AKP

Emre Caliskan, University of Oxford

It was under the rule of the Adalet ve Kalk?nma Partisi, also known as the AK Party or the AKP, that the military’s influence over politics entered a period of decline. During the process that led to the end of military and bureaucratic tutelage, Turkey’s foreign policy became increasingly assertive and confident. Filling a void in the formulation of foreign policy, the role of non-state organisations such as Islamic charities, NGOs, interest and business groups, think-tanks and faith organisations also became increasingly significant. Their power emerged as a result of the vacuum left by the military. They are now a nascent force within Turkish politics, both domestic and foreign, but remain a wholly unknown collective. This paper will deconstruct, analyse, and advance scholarly understanding of the evolving influence of such groups in Turkish foreign policy-making. The study will relay largely on primary research, with analysis of Turkish foreign policy undertaken through the lens of Historical Sociology of International Relations. The empirical study was conducted in sub-Saharan Africa, where many Turkish religious groups operate and influence Turkish foreign policy in the region. This paper  will demonstrate that the pivotal driving force behind Turkey’s increasing assertiveness on the international stage derives from the activities of Islamic non-state actors on the ground in continents where Turkey seeks to spread its international presence

Turkey’s Diyanet under AKP rule: From Protector to Imposer of State Ideology?

Ahmet Erdi Ozturk, University of Strasbourg

This study focuses on the complex relations between Turkey’s Presidency of Religious Affairs (the Diyanet) and Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the last decade. It claims that the Diyanet, under AKP rule, has been transformed into a very convenient state apparatus to implement the political ideology of the ruling cadre, as an imposer. It aims to explore the recent transformation of the Diyanet and the ways in which this institution’s role has become synchronized with the ruling party’s discourses and actions, by giving examples from recent discussions on gender, social media, political economy and relations with other social groups. By doing this, first of all the study identifies Turkey’s understanding of laicite as the management of religion. Secondly, it scrutinises specific structures and functions of the Diyanet, with a particular focus on its activity, aims and areas of control. Finally, it analyses the Diyanet’s transformation under the AKP, with a discussion of key events that exemplify ways in which its ideological work has been recast in this time. This study conducts a multi-structural methodological frame. Firstly, it engages a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) which treats oral and written discourse as the principal social and political indicator. Secondly, the analysis supplements this written data with 15 in-depth, semi-structured, elite interviews with the Diyanet officials and the AKP’s member of parliaments. At last it employs secondary resources to frame the scope of the research project, by taking into account different historical, conceptual, and theoretical points of view regarding to main issue.

Lawyers against the Law: The Challenge of Turkish Lawyering Associations

Joakim Parslow, Institute of Cultural Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo

After a phrase of openness, the Turkish state now appears to be returning to a tradition of top-down legal engineering dominant since the 1920s. At the same time, however, the landscape of activist organizations run by lawyers is more crowded than ever. With over thirty lawyering associations pursuing issues ranging from a right-wing concern with defending the nation to a left-wing desire to overturn the capitalist order, it has also never been more diverse. Why would activist lawyers choose to “play the game” of law at a time when it is overwhelmingly apparent that the legal system itself is being undermined by executive authorities? This paper argues that the bewildering array of lawyering associations in Turkey results from contradictions in Turkey’s judiciary and in the strategies activists are consequently forced to adopt in order to effect change. In the 1970s, lawyers faced with draconian military and state security trials broke out of the confines of bar association bylaws and courtroom procedure to establish the Progressive Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD), which brought the struggle for rights into the streets. During the careful liberalization of the late 1990s and early 2000s, numerous other groups emerged across the political spectrum. Whether they oppose the AKP regime or support it, I argue, these groups are not merely extensions of the formal juridical order; they also constitute a grassroots engagement with the law that, in its modal and political multiplicity, refuses to conform to the categories, narratives, procedures, and ends of the state’s own legal institutions.