6 Sep ’14
During the spring semester, I completed a massive amount of background research to understand today’s current political situation in Turkey. This included the historical background of the country, the background of today’s political parties and leaders, Turkey’s current role internationally and in the region, as well as religious, ethnic, and economic issues within the country. Once my background research was done, my goal for the summer was to begin to look ahead into the possible future of the country. I wanted to see how the Turkish people feel about the political leaders in power, what issues are important to voters in an election, and how the country might proceed or transform politically.
In light of the Gezi Park protests of summer 2013, I wanted to see if there is the chance of future political conflicts due to dissatisfaction with the government. Is an uprising in Ankara something we should be concerned about? An analysis of the current political situation and sentiments of the population could provide insight that is important for security in a constantly transforming region of the world. While in Istanbul I gained some amazingly helpful, and varied, perspectives on the current political situation in Turkey. The professors that I talked to offered me new insight and different opinions on the gravity of the situation and what it would mean for the future of the country. While I was visiting, the country was going through a transition leading up to the presidential elections. Now, the elections are over and as of August 28th, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is now the president of Turkey following an eleven-year rule as prime minister. Erdoğan and his party, the AKP, have long been popular and successful in Turkey but recently; Erdoğan has faced criticism for increasing authoritarianism and possible corruption. Through my research, I have found that Erdoğan continues to be successful even amidst criticism and controversy because there is no real opposition to the AKP. Erdoğan won the presidential election with over 51% of the vote and has now appointed his close ally and supporter, Ahmet Davutoğlu, as the prime minister and new leader of the AKP. But what will the implications be of Erdoğan continuing his essentially unchallenged rule of the country? In light of the decline of democracy, there is the possibility of an increasingly dissatisfied population. Whether that will lead to future conflicts or violence will be a major question in my research.
Now I am in the stage of making a political forecast for Turkey, gaging the implications of Erdoğan’s continuing rule, as well as looking at the economic, ethnic, and social issues in the country, which could contribute to a disgruntled population. Depending on who you talk to, the impression you get on the situation in Turkey will be different; but one person who I talked with while in Istanbul highlighted the significance of the issue when he said that if we don’t reverse the current trend of democratic decline, “the current system will be a disaster.”