What has changed in Turkey’s domestic politics?


Turkey’s extremely dynamic domestic policy stems from the turbulent fall of its predecessor, the Ottoman Empire. Turkish historian Ilber Ortaylı described the 19th century as the longest century of the Ottoman Empire. Even though the fall of the Ottomans was a multidimensional issue, the state bureaucrats were fully aware of the gravity of the situation due to the successive defeats of the Ottoman army.

Back to Ottomans

Thus, the political and intellectual elite of the 19th century Ottoman Empire focused their energy on the sacred goal of saving the empire. As new movements of ideas emerged, the state elites were divided among themselves to choose the best remedy for the fall of the empire. Westernism, Islamism and Turkish nationalism were the three main movements of ideas which predominated among the Ottoman elite.

From the first to the second constitutional eras, political power in the Ottoman Empire fluctuated between the Sultanate and the bureaucracy, known as the Sublime Porte. As the Ottoman Empire finally disintegrated, a new republic was founded on the remnants of the empire, which inherited almost all of the political differences and ideals of the 19th century. Despite the long-awaited transition to a multi-party system in 1950 that promised to resolve these controversies through civilian politics, a military tutelage system was founded in 1960, which interrupted the course of democratic politics with successive coups d’état.

One of the greatest achievements of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which came to political power in 2002, has been the abolition of long-standing military rule. As civilian politicians began to dominate decision-making, general and local elections became the center of Turkish politics.

New era, new parties

Since the AKP came to power, there has been no significant change in the political spectrum. During its two decades of political power, the AK party’s vote rate has been around 40%, while that of the main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), has hovered around 24%. The only significant change in the political spectrum is the emergence of a more secular nationalist political party (Good Party or IP) from within the cadre of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Taking into account the pro-PKK People’s Democratic Party (HDP), the voting rate for each of these three nationalist political parties is around 10%. With Turkish politics thus stabilized, the opposition parties began to adopt the harshest political rhetoric. However, their harsh political rhetoric alienates the middle-class electorate in the big cities, which expects a more cautious political stance from all political parties.

Even though harsh criticism from opposition parties has created an air of hesitation among AKP party opinion leaders, President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan has always been supported by much of the Turkish electorate. Due to President ErdoÄŸan’s unwavering popularity, opposition parties are struggling to forge new alliances with minor political parties.

Since the majority of the Turkish electorate continues to support ErdoÄŸan as Turkey’s political leader, the AKP party should start to focus on its institutionalization process over the next decade as I mentioned. in my previous column published last week in the journal Kriter.


About Wanda Reilly

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