by Soner Cagaptay
I am often asked these days why
The AKP's snub follows harsh anti-Israeli rhetoric by party leadership, and an incendiary television series on
The AKP was born out of the Welfare Party (RP), the motherboard of Turkish Islamists since the 1980s. Islamism in
When RP came to power in a coalition government in 1996 it attempted to implement this Turkish Muslim Brotherhood agenda, but was opposed by a secular, pro-western bloc, which included various media outlets, opposition parties, NGOs, businesses and the military. When massive demonstrations and a well-coordinated public relations campaign brought the party down in 1997, the EU and the
The Islamists drew a valuable lesson from this experience as they rebranded themselves, turning away from the six-pronged Muslim Brotherhood agenda to become more likeable and gain popular support. The AKP emerged out of this rebranding in 2001 as it declared that it had jettisoned the six elements of the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood ideology.
In 2002, when the AKP came to power, the world and Turks alike celebrated the victory as a first instance of the Islamists' moderation. But far from harboring a genuine desire to moderate, the Turkish Islamists simply caved to external pressures, including the courts, media outlets, businesses and the military, as well as the US and EU, which forced the AKP to abandon the Muslim Brotherhood ideology.
Yet the AKP did not forget its roots: once in power, it followed a two-pronged strategy to eliminate the domestic and external pressures that drove the RP from power in 1997. The party promoted EU accession while simultaneously cracking down on internal checks and balances, and maintained good ties with the West while nurturing anti-Western sentiments at home.
In due course the party successfully neutered the domestic forces that had forced its predecessor to step down from power. It used legal loopholes to pass the media into the hands of its supporters, resulting in half of the Turkish media falling into the hands of pro-AKP businesses and the rest facing massive putative tax fines. Large, secular Turkish businesses fear the AKP's financial police and tax audits, while judges and generals have been targeted in the Ergenekon case for allegedly planning a coup against the AKP government. Illegal and legal wiretaps are now common, justified as necessary for collecting evidence for the Ergenekon case. Whether there was actually a coup plot,
Just as it has nearly eliminated domestic checks, the AKP has also paralyzed external checks to its power. Although the party maintained amiable ties with
Fast forward to the Anatolian Eagle incident. After paralyzing domestic opposition and planting the seeds of anti-western sentiments in Turkish society, the AKP now feels free from the checks and balances that have traditionally forced
We are witnessing the Muslim Brotherhood's take on foreign policy, highlighted by its approach to Turkish-Israeli ties. After seven years of vehement anti-Israeli rhetoric, the Turkish public has now embraced the AKP's position against
Soner Cagaptay is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the author of "Islam, Secularism and Nationalism in Modern Turkey: Who Is a Turk?"
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