Rise of Turkey: Contributing Factors to its Position as Regional Power

| July 8, 2019

Question:

Research: The current AKP government was decisive factor of Turkey’s recent rise. However, Turkey should have stronger opposition parties for a better working democracy. It is only then that the recent rise could be sustained and further growth guaranteed.

Answer:

Title: Rise of Turkey: Factors Contributing to its Position as Regional Power

Abstract

This dissertation investigates the factors that have led Turkey to rise to the position of a regional power. The role that the AKP government played in the country’s rise as a regional power is addressed. The paper also addresses the contribution of opposition parties in these interesting developments. The researcher hypothesizes that opposition party structures in Turkey are weak, such that democratic platforms in the country need to be strengthened. Indeed, the paper’s main finding is that the opposition has not made significant contributions, in a proactive manner, to the shaping-up of the country’s foreign policy since the AKP government came into power. Any influence that has been discernible on the part of opposition has tended to lean on the parties’ participation in political Islam, both locally and internationally. For the regional growth to be maintained and sustained, Turkey’s mainstream opposition parties must be strengthened.

Contents

Abstract 2

Chapter 1: Introduction. 4

Background to the study. 4

Research aims and objectives. 5

Aims. 5

Objectives. 6

Research questions. 6

Research hypothesis. 7

Statement of the problem.. 7

Chapter 2: Literature review.. 9

AKP government’s role in Turkey’s rise as a regional power 11

The role of opposition in Turkey’s rise to regional power 17

Chapter 3: Methodology. 22

Chapter 4: Discussion of factors contributing to Turkey’s rise to become a regional power 24

Soft-power policies of the AKP government 24

The EU dimension. 25

Opposition parties and political Islam.. 25

Geo-political positioning in the Middle East, Mediterranean, Caucasus and Central Asia. 26

Chapter 5: Conclusion. 28

References. 29

Chapter 1: Introduction

Background to the study

In recent decades, Turkey has undergone tremendous socio-economic and political changes. This transformation has triggered a flurry of interest across the world. On the most part, particularly during the last decade, this change has occurred under the political rule of the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP). The AKP party, whose meaning in English is Justice and Development Party, has its ideology rooted in the Turkish Islamic movement[1]. The party is market-oriented and this could be a key factor for its strong political following across Turkey, particularly among the affluent middle class and the religiously conservative.

The AKP came into power in 2002. Since then, the Turkish government has been undertaking drastic reforms from the domestic front. At the international level, the AKP has become widely known for its assertive foreign policy. This policy has endeared the country to most of her Muslim neighbors, for instance Iran and Syria. On the other hand, this assertiveness has led to the slowing down of the trend towards alliances with the West. Indeed, many Western leaders are concerned that the ideology behind Turkey’s foreign policy has to do with political Islam. For others, the new policies of the AKP party are closely associated with the post-Ottoman era imperial ambitions, which have remained unfulfilled for ages[2]. However, to Middle-Eastern analysts, Turkey’s rise symbolizes the contemporary rise in Islamic power as well as a model for all the neighboring Muslim societies striving for influence and economic development.

The rise of Turkey cannot be attributed primarily to Islamist ideology. The AKP party must have played the bigger role in positioning the country as a regional power. The policies of the party may have had significant Islamic influenced by these influences have not been the main sources of impetus towards regional influence. This is largely because this influence has had more economic than political overtones. For instance, the economic efforts of the last 15 years have seen Turkey rise to position 16 in the global GDP index.  Moreover, at the same time, its growth rate has been maintained at 11% the world’s third highest.

Indeed, Turkey’s exemplary performance has attracted a lot of attention within scholarly circles. Specific interest has been directed towards the role played by the AKP party in these developments. Scholars are also motivated by the fact that by European standards, Turkey still remains very much a developing country. The main indicator of this fact is the country’s GDP per capita. Nevertheless, this low development-related ranking is currently being overshadowed by the great extent of improvement in the standards of living among the majority of the population. This even distribution of wealth across the country’s population is seen by many as one of the factors that enhance the acceptability of the AKP model of governance.

This paper sets out to contribute to the debate on the factors that have contributed Turkey rise as a regional power. On the one side, specific attention is on the AKP government as a decisive factor in Turkey’s recent rise. On the other side, the role of opposition parties in this development is analyzed, particularly in light of the need for a better working democracy. In this regard, the underlying interest is on the extent to which the current rise can be sustained in the long run and further economic growth guaranteed.

Research aims and objectives

Aims

  1. To analyze the rise of Turkey as a regional power.
  2. To explore the role of the AKP government and opposition parties in bringing about democracy, development, and regional influence.
  3. To investigate the probability of the current rise in Turkey’s status being sustained in the long run.
  4. To explore the antagonistic views of Turkey’s rise: as an example to be emulated vs. as a threat of reawakening of dormant neo-Ottoman imperial ambitions

Objectives

  1. To present a clear picture of Turkey’s political and economic rise in light of domestic, regional, and international politics.
  2. To explore various theoretical explanations for Turkey’s political positioning in the region and world.
  3. To compare the role of the AKP with that of the opposition in promoting democracy and economic growth.

Research questions

  1. Which factors have influenced Turkey’s rise into a regional power?
  2. What role has the AKP government played in transforming Turkey into a regional power?
  3. How has political Islam influenced Turkish politics, particularly with regard to the AKP government?
  4. What is the level of influence of opposition parties in Turkish domestic politics and foreign policy?
  5. How successful has Turkey been in promoting democracy, particularly in the face of regional and international growth in political Islam as well as radical transformation in Turkey’s foreign policy on both regional and international fronts?

Research hypothesis

The hypothesis of this paper is that the current AKP government has been a decisive factor in Turkey’s rise on the regional front in the recent past. However, there is a need for the country to create space for stronger opposition parties in efforts to promote democracy. This is the best way of sustaining the recent rise while guaranteeing further economic growth.

Statement of the problem

The Turkish society has in recent times been transformed on many fronts. The country’s economic growth has improved, there is rapid urbanization, and formal education is much more readily available. Evidently, this complex transformation was a key factor in the rise to power by AKP (the Justice and Development Party) in 2002. The party got 34% of the vote, while in 2007, it returned to power with a landslide victory of 47%[3].

As this political transformation was taking shape, a different dimension in the Turkish politics was being formed, that of political Islam. For a long time, political Islam was under active suppression by Kemalist elites who practiced secularism. With the coming to power of AKP, political Islam has acquired a new lease of life. Political Islam is conventionally viewed with keen interest as far as Turkey’s increased assertiveness internationally is concerned. Yet analysts are aware that sometimes the influence political Islam may not be easy to ascertain, especially in the face of exaggerated assessments by commentators.

For purposes of the present dissertation the question of opposition parties is dominant. Opposition parties are generally assumed to have a significant Islamic influence, considering that Turkey shares her borders with largely Islamic states. Nevertheless, the rise of opposition parties constitutes one of the factors that have made Turkey a relevant state as far regional and international politics are concerned.

This paper assesses the role that the AKP government has played in catapulting Turkey into regional glory both politically and economically. Special attention is on the role of opposition parties in facilitating this transformation. Moreover, it is worthwhile investigating whether the opposition parties are strong enough to continue stimulating further growth in the long run. There is no doubt that Turkey’s influence in the region will continue to grow, and with it the political-Islamic overtones. The dynamics of the AKP government will also undoubtedly play out in subtle ways in the future vis-à-vis the role played by the opposition. This is the main problem that this paper sets out to solve.

Chapter 2: Literature review

A dominant issue that emerges regarding Turkey is the country’s recent rise into a multi-regional power. In the post-Cold War Era, Turkey’s foreign policy has changed in a very dramatic way. However, the issue of multi-regionalism comes with its share of challenges and a crucial aspect of the debate on the country’s rise has centered on the accompanying challenges. In the debate, a dominant debate has been on the so-called ‘new activism’. In new activism, Turkish efforts have been described as both ‘daring’ and ‘cautious’ (Sayari 2000, p. 169). However AKP government, it appears has not yet abandoned aspects of moderation.

Onis (2001, p. 66) observes that in the post-Soviet era, Turkey’s regional influence has increased considerably. As a regional power, the country has been facing both potential and limits. The main areas of interests on this front have included Central Asian and post-Soviet Caucasus areas. In these areas, cooperation efforts have tended to generate conflicts. Additionally, they have also produced an idea on Turkey’s ability to use its internal capacity constructively as part of its crucial regional role.

The main issues that have been addressed include a weak domestic capacity, ambitious regional power roles over-activist foreign policy, and negotiations of accession into the EU. During the accession negotiations, the main issues that arose related to the Cyprus question, unresolved Aegean disputes, and Kurdish minority rights[4]. Indeed, the issue of Turkey’s accession turned out to be the most challenging for the EU.

Elsewhere in literature, focus has been on regional rise versus the rise of Turkish Islamist movement (Narli, 1999, p. 38). The main parties representing the Islamic course include Virtue, Welfare, National Salvation, and National Order. These parties have been influential in bringing about popular support for Islamism in Turkey. Each of these parties has been using this populism to propagate ideas on the Islamic course. However, apart from the issue of religion, much of the appeal of these parties has been founded on regional factors as well as socio-economic leanings. There are also elements of influence that relate to the strains caused by modernization[5].

The debate on the rise of the Turkish Islamist movement has been assessed closely in relation to the process through which the country’s party system has been evolving[6]. Similar assessments have been done in relation to the citizen’s voting behavior. Throughout the duration during which the AKP government has been in power, the Islamist movement has been a formidable outlet through which political dissatisfaction with the ruling elite is expressed. Specific social groups have tended to seize this opportunity to express their varied interests and grievances.

With regard to the politics of political Islam, various categories of relationships have been expressed, key among them class cleavages, center-periphery disagreements, regional conflicts, class antagonism, sectarian antagonism, and tension between Islamists and secularists[7]. In this regard, it is worthwhile noting that the AKP government has largely been of a secular nature. The main institutions of the central government are headed by senior bureaucrats, military officers, and industrialists. Those who belong to groups situated in peripheral regions have been kept away from power through both objective and subjective means. People belonging to these groups have been forced to back different parties in efforts to have their grievances addressed.

AKP government’s role in Turkey’s rise as a regional power

The AKP government has undeniably played a critical role in the country’s rise to the status of a regional power. Önişa (2009, p. 9), divides Turkish foreign policy after the Cold War into three phases[8]. The first one is the initial phase of activism on matters of foreign policy immediately after Cold War. The second one is foreign policy-related activism during the era of the AKP party, which strongly emphasized on Europeanization. Thirdly, there is the recent tension between Euro-Asianism and Europeanization.

Onişa (2009) argues that the AKP has maintained continuity regarding foreign policy activism plus the use of multilateral approaches during decision making. However, discontinuity started arising midstream in the course of AKP’s rule, whereby deep Europeanization was transformed into loose Europeanization. At the same time, a shift was happening towards Euro-Asianism. In light of this observation, Önişa (2009) concludes that a set of local and international priorities will determine the path Turkey’s foreign policy will take.

During the AKP era, a lot of focus has been on foreign policy activism. It is on this basis that the government emerged as a decisive factor in the country’s rise to regional dominance. The AKP put a lot of emphasis on democratization. It also relied on the use of soft power, a rather striking phenomenon in context of post-9/11 politics. During this era, Turkey was positioning herself globally as a champion of ‘secularization’[9]. This notion made the country to be viewed globally as a highly secular country.

The secularization process has been accelerated by an increase in challenges such as religious extremism, international terror, globalization, and increase in the number of threats posed by non-state actors. When compared to the brand of foreign policy activism that thrived during the 1990s, that of the early 2000s appeared distinct. Upon taking over power in 2002, the AKP started pursuing the goal of Europeanization with much more vigor.

On the Europeanization front, there were mutually interlinked areas where positive effects started manifesting themselves[10]. The first one was a rapid economic growth, one that had not been experienced at any other time in the country’s history. The anchorage into the EU stable brought about reforms that were critical in bringing about fiscal and monetary discipline. Moreover, it led to the introduction of regulatory reforms that triggered low inflation and accelerated economic growth. Moreover, Turkey started accessing an increased volume of foreign direct investments.

The second area of manifestation of positive effects in the so-called ‘golden age’ of AKP’s rule entailed drastic reforms in the realm of democratization[11]. Turkey managed to consolidate gains relating to democracy. These reforms were built on the initiatives that the earlier administration had already embarked on. Some of the main elements of such initiatives included elimination of the death penalty, and cracking down on persistent Kurdish conflicts. On the issue of the Kurdish problems, the initiatives entailed widening the democratic space by extending the language and cultural rights and freedoms of the Kurdish people[12].

The third element of change that affected the Europeanization process is about the way foreign policy was being conducted. Since the beginning of its reign, AKP signature style of foreign policy entails mainly the use of soft power and nurturing of cordial relations with all her neighbors. This is a deviation from traditional in which the country has been sticking on fixed policy standpoints. This deviation has manifested itself clearly in the dispute over Cyprus. During this conflict, the AKP government expressed its unwavering willingness to follow the resolution process suggested in the UN/Annan plan. The country hoped that the resolution arrived at would be find favor with the rest of the world.

A case in point of this changing trend in foreign policy is the case of Georgia. The relations with Georgia improved so much that the country allowed Turkey to use one of its main airports as a domestic airport. These relations also facilitated the development and eventual completion of the railway project connecting Baku, Tbilisi, and Kars.

The improving relations between Turkey and Syria have also been cited as a key indicator of changing foreign policy trends under the AKP government. This is in contrast with the animosity that existed between these countries throughout the 1990s on both economic and political fronts. During these years, Turkey was steadfast in accusing Syria of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in its ‘terror’ mission against the Turkish government.

The soft-power approach to foreign policy by Turkey was no doubt multidimensional in nature. Instead of relying solely on bilateral relations, the government embarked on highly interconnected processes that reinforced each other, promoting Turkey’s political and economic profile in the process. This approach was founded on the thought that for any strategic foreign policy approach to succeed, it has to be molded around both historical realities and geographical dynamics. The historical realities are necessary for the protection of the country’s unique cultural heritage with which the rest of the world identifies it. The geographical dynamics, on the other hand, are crucial in the understanding of the balance of relations between regional and global politics in relation to the domestic politics. In regard, the so-called strategic depth of Turkey’s foreign policy was reinforced by the interrelated mix of geo-political, cultural and economic factors.

From the point of view of geo-politics, Turkey is viewed as a centrally-positioned country that is the epicenter of the Afro-Eurasian region[13]. Within this location, Turkey enjoys an interesting multiplicity of regional identities, making the country easily identify in one aspect or the other with each of the neighboring regions. For this reason, the country is considered as much a part of Europe as it is viewed as being influential to the Caucasus, The Black Sea, Middle East, Central Asia, Mediterranean, Balkans, and The Caspian.

The AKP government has been steadfast in identifying this multiplicity of identities as a major strategic strength for the country. Instead of using the strength for parochial interests, the AKP government wisely opted use it to position the country as a trusted provider of stability and security for all the countries across the neighboring regions. From this perspective, one can easily understand the country’s ventures into Africa, Central Asia, and Europe. Similarly, one can understand the country’s bid to join the UN Security Council as well as an influential participant in regional politics, particularly in relation to energy-related interests[14].

The drive towards influence in all regions bordering the country has been evident in the manner in which Turkey has been able to maintain a Western orientation without abandoning a strong Middle Easter and Eurasian component[15]. This explains why the country has been pursuing friendly relations with all Arab countries. In the context of this pursuit of friendly relations, one easily understands Turkey’s efforts to participate as well as provide leadership within the OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference).

In the quest for leadership at the OIC and across the Arab world, the Islamic roots of the AKP have turned out to be a priceless asset. The value of this asset was further increased when the AKP government made the all-time crucial decision to deny the entry of US troop through Turkey during the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. This March 1 decision triggered immense interest, almost laden with admiration, across the Arab world. This heightened interest acted as a precursor to future interest in the Arab world when Turkey expressed interest in becoming a member of the EU. In the wake of interest from both the EU and the Arab world, the AKP government has chosen to adopt a pro-active approach on both fronts.

On the side of relations with the former Soviet Union, the AKP government’s policy has been equally decisive. One of the pragmatic efforts that the government has undertaken has been to attempt the revival of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) project. Improved relations with Russia have improved particularly in the reign of President Vladimir Putin. During Putin’s rule, Russia was steadfast in attempting to tap into Turkey’s energy resources. For Turkey, the main interest has been Russia’s natural gas. This cooperation has existed in an environment of competition between the two countries over which one is the best energy transit hub. This competition has triggered opposition to certain Turkish pipeline projects, some of which enjoyed wholehearted support of the United States.

The issue energy politics cannot be ignored considering that the continued increase in energy demand has triggered a global struggle over access to this vital natural resource. In this context, it should be noted that the Persian Gulf and the Caspian region, both are known to be home to more than two thirds of the globally-identified petroleum reserves in addition to 40% of the total global natural gas reserves. This endowment with natural resources has made these regions a strategic hotspot for virtually all major economies of the world.

For all the key players in the politics of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian region, the most critical issues include the amount of available energy reserves, resource ownership, and distribution routes, complete with an assessment on environmental costs[16]. The main regional actors in this area include Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Iran. On the other hand, the main global actors with major interests in the region include the EU, Russia, and the US. Other than participating in this competition, the actors have had to contend with the thorny issue of transportation, specifically the construction of pipelines that link up the land-locked region with the international marketplace. In this regard, the so-called ‘pipeline politics’ have become as indispensable as the politics of access to the natural resources.

The AKP government’s role in the pipeline politics of the region has been phenomenal. First, the country managed to enter into a full-fledged collaboration with Turkey, Georgia, the US, and Azerbaijan, creating one of the most formidable initiatives in these politics. Moreover, this government oversaw the completion of the flagship Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum natural gas pipeline project.

In general, it is during the AKP era that the global role of Turkey has been more inherent. It is also during this era that the country has taken the greatest advantage of its geopolitical positioning and historical heritage to increase her assertiveness on the global political platform. This role has been so significant that the country has even started playing the role of a bridge between Islamic and Christian worlds. This role has become critical at a time of heightened tensions that characterized the post-9/11 era. It is in the light of these efforts that the AKP government has continued projects such as the Alliance of Civilizations Initiative.

The role of opposition in Turkey’s rise to regional power

The rise of turkey towards regional power has come at a time when the opposition was also rising. This has led experts to attempt to assess the role that an increasingly assertive opposition has been playing in Turkey’s changing prospects. The AKP has been facing criticism from various sections of the Turkish society, particularly in the course of the last two decades. This criticism has mainly been emanating from the highly educated members of society, particularly those from urban regions.

The last few years have also seen a high extent of political dynamism, with the party being seen to be losing key constituencies. This loss has largely been triggered by a loss of faith in the way domestic and foreign policies are addressed. The way these issues have been addressed has indeed been an indicator of the general direction in which the country has been taking, hence the heightened interest.

When viewed from another perspective, the dissent has been a reaction to the erratic personality of the incumbent Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The opposition has started to express concerns that the AKP government has lost the steam in providing a reformist agenda that corrects the old political order largely blamed for Turkey’s perennial problems. Indeed, the problems of bankruptcy and corruption played a key role in propelling Erdogan to power.

In the run-up to the elections in 2011, the AKP faced growing popular opposition spearheaded by experienced politicians from the country’s main opposition parties: the CHP (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi) and MHP (Milyetchi Hareket Partisi)[17]. The former party is leftist while the latter is nationalist. During this time, the fiercest criticism was on the stance that the AKP government has adopted regarding country’s minorities, notably the Kurds.

Discontent was also expressed regarding the AKP’s activities that the opposition viewed as an attempt to start rolling back the Kemalist republic. In its original version, the Turkish republic as envisioned by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was essentially a grand nation-building project known as Kemalism. The project’s core tenets included a command economy, a centralized state, and a style of modernization modeled on Western principles. To promote Kemalism, minority national identities and ethnic groups had to be suppressed. These identities had to be remodeled into a single national identity, characterized by homogeneity in terms of heritage, language, and economic ambitions.

In the typical Kemalist state, multiculturalism is frowned upon because it is considered to have the potential to destroy the republic. This is especially the case regarding minority groups that have not been fully assimilated into the mainstream Turkish society. The list of these minority groups brings together names such as Gypsies, Kurds, Alevis, and non-Muslims. All these groups are generally considered a potential threat to Turkey’s national security by virtue of their unique heritages.

The policy of the Kemalist state was always to provide a coercive force that would make these minorities abandon their identities and ultimately integrate into the mainstream Turkish society. The first days of the AKP’s rule were characterized by an intensification of disputes between different ethnic identities. A dominant quarrel was between Kurds and Turks. In efforts to quell these tensions, the AKP government introduced new ways of reconciling the groups that remained dissatisfied with the mainstream Turkish society.

The decision by the AKP government to pacify the dissenting groups may have been necessitated by the political dimension that this issue took. This political pressure led in 2007 to the launch of the so-called ‘Opening policy’, under significant inspiration from the Infitah policy of ‘opening the door’, which was introduced in “Egypt in the 1970s by Anwar Sadat. Initially, the aim was to change the secular face of the Kemalist state by creating more room for religious freedom, particularly for Muslim groups.

However, in no time, the scope of this policy was stretched to cover efforts by the government to reconcile with discontented minority groups. This policy has made the AKP to be seen as a better performer compared to previous administrations with regard to efforts to propagate harmony by reaching out to minority groups. Some scholars attribute AKP government move to personal experiences, whereby the founding fathers of the party were subjected to discrimination by different ruling elites.

Nevertheless, a different motivating force for this policy stance has been the need to deal with the problem of growing violence strongly linked to the PKK, an underground Kurdish movement. In addressing the plight of these minorities, the AKP government has been hoping to win the political support of Kurdish population.

Despite these efforts, though, AKP has not escaped the perception that it does not intend to make any significant progress on the issue of minorities in the long run. To make matters worse, a major setback was presented in 2009 when the AKP government declared DTP, the main Kurdish political party, illegal. This decision triggered a renewal of operations by the PKK both in country’s urban and rural areas.

Indeed, the AKP appears to be tied back by the opposition in its quest for political solutions both domestically and internationally. Its Opening Policy seems to be fuelling opposition every time the government attempts to move it forward. The main political opponents come from MHP and CHP. These two parties have persistently accusing the government of launching a campaign of dismantling the Kemalist and replacing it with a decentralized federation enjoying significant autonomy from the mainstream Turkish nation-state.

An element of weakness manifests itself in the nature of opposition posed by the country’s opposition political parties. In 2010, the leader of the CHP had to resign in the wake of a sex scandal that brought his 18-year reign at the party to an abrupt end. The new party leader, Kemal, by virtue of his very character, has introduced an element of dynamism in the party. Kilichdaroglu stands in sharp contrast with his predecessor and his ilk, who had already started bringing the party down because of their lackluster leadership and lack of new ideas.

Since taking over office, Kilichdaroglu has been steadfast in attacking AKP leaders for plotting to undermine the foundational Kemalist nature of the Turkish nation-state. Indeed, CHP is one of the political parties that helped erect this type of a nation-state. For the leaders of CHP, the new brand of multiculturalism will definitely lead to Turkey’s disintegration. It should be borne in mind that Kilichdaroglu comes from the Alevi-Kurdish cultural background.

For the MHP the grounds for rejecting the Opening Policy have to do with the perceived threats of multiculturalism on the survival of the Turkish nation. In recent times, Devlet Bahcheli, the MHP leader, has been employing nationalist rhetoric resembling that of the CHP. The only difference is that the MHP has been pursuing this agenda more aggressively. For instance, in 2010, declared during a keynote speech that the Opening Policy was an undesirable project that would end in disaster and catastrophe. He also lamented the unconstitutionality of AKP’s policies, saying that they were being pursued at the compromise of national integrity.

MHP’s outbursts against the AKP have continued to take on a hard-line tone. In June 2010, for instance, the party’s leader sensationally stated that the policies of AKP were contributing to domestic terrorism, adding that as long as the Opening Policy remains in place, the problem of terror in Turkey will continue to prevail.  However, even in the face of such stinging criticism, the AKP government has not made any significant efforts to change this policy.

The lack of influence by the opposition parties is a clear indication of the weakness of their structures. Moreover, the persistence by the AKP government to push ahead with its agenda on the Kurds and other minorities shows its level of confidence in winning the support of minority groups. By undermining the role of opposition political parties, the government is perhaps passing a message of opposition’s insignificance in matters of relevance in both domestic and foreign policy.

Chapter 3: Methodology

In this chapter, focus is on methodological and theoretical foundations for the present paper. There is a wide range of theoretical, methodological, and disciplinary approaches in the studies on Turkish politics. Each of these approaches has been used at one study on Kemalism or the other. In some cases, an overlap manifests itself in the adoption of these approaches. There is also key distinction between the use of modernist and post-modernist studies.

In modernist studies focus is on the limitations that are imposed on one’s freedoms. Such an approach would be necessary in the analysis of Turkey’s politics in relation to the practice of citizens’ religions and cultures. In the case of Turkey’s party politics, the modernist approach is commonly used to assess the religious discourses of mainstream parties such as the AKP and their contribution to the vibrancy of public reason and political exchange[18].

On the other hand, methodological post-modernists address structures of power that have emerged in the post-colonial era as well as the accompanying experiences relating to oppression. In this approach, local values are analyzed, and strict secularism is considered an ineffective tool used for state control. On the bigger picture, strict secularism is viewed as an inappropriate way through which Turkish communities can express their sentiments. In the course of this debate, it is common for people to justify the existence of parties with a political philosophy such as that of the AKP. For the AKP, a feature that is particularly appealing to the adherents of this methodological approach is that its vision of secularism is much more inclusive.

There is no doubt that scholars have a tendency to use competing methodologies whenever they are defending the notion of Kemalist secularism[19]. However, in recent times, the scholars have tended bring together put into consideration the conceptions of the Turkish Republic with the social contexts in which the country’s citizens live. In these social contexts focus is on historical, cultural, and religious dynamics. When all these considerations are factored into the methodological assessments of Turkish politics, it appears that the idea of passive secularism is become increasingly acceptable.  Moreover, religion is being seen to play a crucial role in all public discourses.

The post-modernist methodology is also appropriate in the assessment of the views of politicians whose convictions are religiously-inspired. Such politicians tend to impose their vision of ‘the good’ upon everyone who does not agree with their views. Adherents of the vision of traditional Turkish secularism can easily impose normative counterarguments in their efforts to reverse this trend. Such an undertaking resembles the efforts of US secularists to criticize the policies and religious rhetoric imposed by various US governments.

Moreover, an overlap of views has been inevitable, considering the nature of issues being addressed and the interdisciplinary nature of the subject matter. Incidentally, this overlap brings about lack of distinctiveness in various methodological theories. Instead of being clearly identified as either modern or postmodern, the methodologies end up being typical of a blend of a wide range of scholarly tools.

Today, it appears right to blend empirical analyses, legal critiques, historical studies, narrative descriptions, linguistic critiques, feminist analyses, and economic critiques into a unified interdisciplinary analysis. This trend may persist well into the future in studies on Turkish politics. Such a unified approach is appropriate in a study of the variety of the present paper, which focuses on the country’s rise to become a regional power. For this reason, a post-modernist methodology is adopted for the present paper. In line with the current methodological trend, the study blends various forms of critiques and analyses into a coherent discourse. It is on the basis of the key findings in this discourse that conclusions are derived.

Chapter 4: Discussion of factors contributing to Turkey’s rise to become a regional power

Soft-power policies of the AKP government

Traditionally, Turkey has been performing a hard-power role from a regional perspective, particularly in the Middle East region. The country has been using this power largely because of its economic and military strength. However, in recent times, the country has resorted to the use of soft power. On the soft-power front, its attractiveness has been remarkably increased by international transformations.

Other than being in possession of many assets, Turkey has been expressing the willingness to manifest itself as a soft power whose credibility across the region is unquestionable. One of the most glaring soft power tools used by the country is that of playing the role of a third party in the resolution of a wide range of conflicts in the region. The role that the country played in Israel-Palestinian, Israel-Syrian, and Lebanese conflicts presents an excellent examples of soft-power roles.

The soft-power role of Turkey is often seen as both advantageous and as a source of subtle constraints. However, the advantages are increasingly being seen to outnumber the problems, if the country’s recent rise to regional-power status is anything to go by. This role has enabled Turkey to continue playing an influential role in economic and political reform across the Middle East[20]. By refraining from using military tools in conflict resolution, Turkey has acquired a high moral ground that gives it more bargaining power in matters of regional interest.

The EU dimension

With regard to the EU dimension, a notable development affecting Turkey is the loss of momentum in the drive towards Europeanization. The process of accession to the EU has stalled. This turn of events has forced Turkey to look elsewhere for regional dominance. In this regard, the best alternative has been a portrayal of the so-called ‘soft-Euro-Asianism’. Turkey resorted to this strategy after realizing that the age of Europeanization, which had started between 2002 and 2005 when the AKP government came into power, had come to an end[21]. During this phase, the AKP government started laying down the foundation that would pave way for Turkey’s full membership in the EU. After 2005, this enthusiasm waned. In its place was the implicit launch of the soft-Euro-Asianism strategy. In this strategy, Turkey focused on foreign policy activism whereby equal energies were directed to all the neighboring regions and not the EU region alone. In this context, the Western element of Turkey’s foreign policy remains, only that it is loosely expressed.

Opposition parties and political Islam

The role of opposition parties in this paradigm shift in Turkey’s foreign policy is worth discussing in the present paper. A significant development has been the rise of the Islamic movement across the country. This movement has been enjoying popular support, as evidence in the stranglehold maintained by such parties as Welfare, National Order, Virtue, and National Salvation[22]. These parties have continued to maintain this stranglehold not just in religious matters, but also in economic and political issues, particularly those identified in the context of the perceived strains of globalization and modernization.

The rise in political Islam in Turkey can best be analyzed in the form of interplay between four key processes: consolidation of Turkey’s establishment Islam and state-sponsored religious activities, religion-related policies promoted by the center right, the influence of the Sufi tarikats, and the mounting ideological appeal and organizational strength of the Islamist Welfare Party[23].

The 2002 elections transformed politics in Turkey in just the same way as the configuration of the country’s political parties. With over two thirds majority in parliament, the AKP became dominant in a country with a tradition of Islamic political orientation. This religious orientation was evident in the way many political parties criticized the religious policies that had become synonymous with the Turkish nation-state. Previously, Islamist political parties were being banned; however, they re-emerged later on with a reframed message in response to contemporary constraints and opportunities. This transformation consisted in a full-fledged process of moderation[24].

Geo-political positioning in the Middle East, Mediterranean, Caucasus and Central Asia

The political economy of the Middle East has been of great interest to the entire world as energy resources become increasingly scarce. As a soft power in the region, Turkey has found herself being pursued by virtually all the key actors in international politics. Major global powers have not failed to notice that the so-called Turkish model has been largely popular across the Middle East. Therefore, a desirable way of accessing the Middle East region has been to go through Turkey. Moreover, the Arab world ‘fell in love’ with Turkey’s war of independence as well as its efforts not to fall for the settlement that the winners of the World War I imposed on different countries[25]. However, this admiration suffered a setback after Turkey’s entry into NATO after the World War II. However, in recent years, the Arab world has started viewing Turkey in different light. Incidentally, this positive influence has also spread to other regions that neighbor turkey, notably Europe, Mediterranean, Afro-Eurasian, and the Caspian.

With the rise of political Islam, the political events happening inside Turkey have started attracting attention from different actors across the region, and indeed globally. These events promise to have an influence on the role of opposition, Turkey’s democratization process, and the role that the country plays as a regional power. these events are bound to have a far-reaching influence on the country’s cooperation and competition with other neighboring powers, notably Russia.

Chapter 5: Conclusion

In summary, Turkey the AKP government has played a pivotal role in the rise of Turkey to become a regional power. Similarly, opposition parties have provided significant pressure to keep the government on its toes with regard to the regional dominance agenda. However, the Turkish opposition has not been acting strong enough in the pursuit of influence in the regional power agenda. This is particularly the case since AKP rose to power in 2002.

At around the time when AKP won in a landslide in the 2002 elections, the world was experiencing a trend towards the rise of political Islam. This phenomenon has been playing out in Turkey. For this country, the issue of Islamic movements has been particularly a dominant political theme, considering that Turkey is a dominant player in a region that is home to the Arab world.

There is no doubt that political Islam in Turkey got a new lease of life with the coming to power of the AKP. This vibrancy was critical in the country’s increased assertiveness on regional and international fronts. However, the opposition parties in Turkey’s have not contributed a lot in the push towards EU accession, and later ‘soft Euro-Asianism’. The opposition appears to be more interested in preventing the AKP from rolling back the Kemalist ideals than in pushing for Turkey’s increased assertiveness and influence on regional and international levels.

For Turkey’s rise to regional dominance to be sustainable, the country’s opposition parties need to be stronger, and this would require establishing stable institutions of democracy. The recent growth in popular opposition to the AKP is a manifestation of a promising trend, which, if sustained, will create a culture of democracy in the country. Such a culture is needed for the country’s rise on the regional front to be sustained and further growth guaranteed.

References

Alessandri, Emiliano. ‘The New Turkish Foreign Policy and the Future of Turkey-EU Relations’, Turkish Studies, 4/1 (2010), 120-138.

Aras, Bülent. ‘The Relations between Turkey and the Caucasus’, Perceptions, (2011), 14/3, 53-68.

Aras, Bülent. ‘Turkey and Eurasia: Frontiers of a new geographic imagination’, New Perspectives on Turkey, 40/4 (2009), 195-217.

Ayata, Sencer. ‘Patronage, Party, and State: The Politicization of Islam in Turkey’, Middle East Journal, 50/1 (1996), 40-56.

Bürgina, Alexander. ‘Ongoing opposition in the West, new options in the East: Is Turkey’s EU accession process reversible?’ Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, 12/4, (2010) 417-435.

Carkoglu, Ali. The rise of the new generation pro-Islamists in Turkey: The Justice and Development Party phenomenon in the November 2002 elections in Turkey, Turkish Studies, 7/1, (2008), 3-19

Cengiz, Fırat. ‘The 2011 General Elections in Turkey: Potential Implications on Domestic and International Politics in the Shadow of a Discourse Change?’, Parliamentary Affairs, 65/1, (2012) 255-269.

Diez, Thomas. ‘Turkey, the European Union and Security Complexes Revisited’, Mediterranean Politics, 10/2, (2005), 167-180.

Dinç, Cengiz. ‘Turkey as a New Security Actor in the Middle East: Beyond the Slogans’, Perceptions, 14/2 (2011), 61-80.

Gulalp, Haldun. ‘Political Islam in Turkey: The Rise and Fall of The Refah Party’, The Muslim World, 89/1, (1999) 22–41.

Ifantis, Kostas. ‘Turkey in transition—opportunities amidst peril?’ Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, 9/3, (2007), 223-231.

Kardaş, Şaban. ‘Turkey: Redrawing the Middle East Map Or Building Sandcastles?’ Middle East Policy, 17/1, (2010), 115–136.

Keyman, Fuat. ‘Modernization, Globalization and Democratization in Turkey: The AKP Experience and its Limits’, Constellations, 17/2, (2010), 312–327.

Kirişci, Kemal. ‘The transformation of Turkish foreign policy: The rise of the trading state’, New Perspectives on Turkey, 40/2 (2009), 29-57.

Larrabee, Stephen. ‘Turkey’s Eurasian Agenda’, The Washington Quarterly, 34/1, (2011), 103-120.

Larrabee, Stephen. ‘Turkey’s New Geopolitics’, Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, 52/2, (2010), 157-180.

Mecham, Quinn. ‘From the ashes of virtue, a promise of light: the transformation of political Islam in Turkey’, Third World Quarterly, 25/2, (2004), 339-358.

Narli, Nilufer. ‘The Rise of the Islamist Movement in Turkey’, Middle East Review of International Affairs, 3/3, 38-48.

Oğuzlu, Tarik. ‘Soft power in Turkish foreign policy’, Australian Journal of International Affairs, 61/1, (2007), 81-97.

Onis, Ziya. ‘The political economy of Islamic resurgence in Turkey: The rise of the Welfare Party in perspective’, Third World Quarterly, 18/4, (1997), 743-766.

Öniş, Ziya. ‘Turkey in the Post-Cold War Era: In Search of Identity’, Middle East Journal, 49/1 (1995), 48-68.

Önişa, Ziya. ‘Between Europeanization and Euro‐Asianism: Foreign Policy Activism in Turkey during the AKP Era’, Turkish Studies, 10/1 (2009), 7-24.

Özbudun, Ergun. ‘From Political Islam to Conservative Democracy: The Case of the Justice and Development Party in Turkey’, South European Society and Politics, 11, Issue 3-4, (2006), 543-557

Tank, Pinar. ‘Political Islam in Turkey: A state of controlled secularity’, Turkish Studies, 6/1, (2005), 3-19.

Tezcür, Güneş. ‘When democratization radicalizes: The Kurdish nationalist movement in Turkey’, Journal of Peace Research, 47/6, (2010), 775-789.

[1] Nilufer Narli ‘The Rise of the Islamist Movement in Turkey’, Middle East Review of International Affairs, 3/3, 38-48.

[2] Ziya Öniş ‘Turkey in the Post-Cold War Era: In Search of Identity’, Middle East Journal, 49/1 (1995), 48-68.

[3] Ali Carkoglu The rise of the new generation pro-Islamists in Turkey: The Justice and Development Party phenomenon in the November 2002 elections in Turkey, Turkish Studies, 7/1, (2008), 3-19.

[4] Alexander Bürgina ‘Ongoing opposition in the West, new options in the East: is Turkey’s EU accession process reversible?’ Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, 12/4, (2010) 417-435.

[5] Fuat Keyman ‘Modernization, Globalization and Democratization in Turkey: The AKP Experience and its Limits’, Constellations, 17/2, (2010), 312–327.

[6] Kemal Kirişci ‘The transformation of Turkish foreign policy: The rise of the trading state’, New Perspectives on Turkey, 40/2 (2009), 29-57.

[7] Pinar Tank ‘Political Islam in Turkey: A state of controlled secularity’, Turkish Studies, 6/1, (2005), 3-19.

[8] Ziya Önişa ‘Between Europeanization and Euro‐Asianism: Foreign Policy Activism in Turkey during the AKP Era’, Turkish Studies, 10/1 (2009), 7-24.

[9] Tarik Oğuzlu ‘Soft power in Turkish foreign policy’, Australian Journal of International Affairs, 61/1, (2007), 81-97.

[10] Emiliano Alessandri ‘The New Turkish Foreign Policy and the Future of Turkey-EU Relations’, Turkish Studies, 4/1 (2010), 120-138.

[11] Kostas Ifantis ‘Turkey in transition—opportunities amidst peril?’ Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, 9/3, (2007), 223-231.

[12] Güneş Tezcür ‘When democratization radicalizes: The Kurdish nationalist movement in Turkey’, Journal of Peace Research, 47/6, (2010), 775-789.

[13] Stephen Larrabee ‘Turkey’s New Geopolitics’, Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, 52/2, (2010), 157-180.

[14] Bülent Aras ‘The Relations between Turkey and the Caucasus’, Perceptions, (2011), 14/3, 53-68.

[15] Bülent Aras, ‘Turkey and Eurasia: Frontiers of a new geographic imagination’, New Perspectives on Turkey, 40/4 (2009), 195-217.

[16] Haldun Gulalp ‘Political Islam in Turkey: The Rise and Fall of The Refah Party’, The Muslim World, 89/1, (1999) 22–41.

[17] Fırat Cengiz ‘The 2011 General Elections in Turkey: Potential Implications on Domestic and International Politics in the Shadow of a Discourse Change?’, Parliamentary Affairs, 65/1, (2012) 255-269.

[18] Thomas Diez ‘Turkey, the European Union and Security Complexes Revisited’, Mediterranean Politics, 10/2, (2005), 167-180.

[19] Cengiz Dinç ‘Turkey as a New Security Actor in the Middle East: Beyond the Slogans’, Perceptions, 14/2 (2011), 61-80.

[20] Şaban Kardaş ‘Turkey: Redrawing the Middle East Map or Building Sandcastles?’ Middle East Policy, 17/1, (2010), 115–136.

[21] Ergun Özbudun ‘From Political Islam to Conservative Democracy: The Case of the Justice and Development Party in Turkey’, South European Society and Politics, 11, Issue 3-4, (2006), 543-557.

[22] Ziya Onis ‘The political economy of Islamic resurgence in Turkey: The rise of the Welfare Party in perspective’, Third World Quarterly, 18/4, (1997), 743-766.

[23] Ayata, Sencer. ‘Patronage, Party, and State: The Politicization of Islam in Turkey’, Middle East Journal, 50/1 (1996), 40-56.

[24] Mecham, Quinn. ‘From the ashes of virtue, a promise of light: the transformation of political Islam in Turkey’, Third World Quarterly, 25/2, (2004), 339-358.

[25] Stephen Larrabee ‘Turkey’s Eurasian Agenda’, The Washington Quarterly, 34/1, (2011), 103-120.

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