Despite being a party that defines itself as conservative, the ruling party has managed to take the country forward in many fields thanks to its pro-democracy credentials, which have brought the party a great deal of support from the public and democratic intellectuals. However, liberal circles that had been applauding the ruling party for its bold reforms for years have recently been voicing unease about some recent controversies in which the government has adopted a highly “conservative” attitude. Taking into consideration that parliamentary elections are drawing near urges analysts to conclude that the ruling party has embarked on an election campaign to attract “nationalist and conservative votes.”
“What happened to the AK Party? Why it is engaging in behavior such as banning alcohol, punishing “The Magnificent Century” [a drama that depicts Ottoman Sultan Süleiman the Magnificent as drinking alcohol and wooing women] and calling a statue ‘a monstrosity,’ which touches the nerves of secular circles? Why did it return to this conservative point on the Alevi issue, Kurdish issue and basic foreign policy?” asks Bugün daily columnist Gülay Göktürk. Stating that it is not difficult to guess that this change of policy is related to the approaching elections, she says she agrees with many commentators who say the ruling party is trying to make moves that would garner the support of nationalist voters and receive over 50 percent of the vote in the June elections. “Many conservative columnists are also writing about this strategy, and they are supporting it. They say such moves may put liberal-democratic support for the government at stake but that the government can win the support of the larger masses. This is what they say, but I see many serious problems in this approach,” she notes.
Ahmet Altan from the liberal Taraf daily is also critical of the government, the prime minister in particular. According to Altan, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s plans to run as a candidate for the presidency may also lie behind this recent change in his policies as he plans to garner more support from the public. However, he says he does not believe that he would continue following pro-democracy policies if he persists in deviating from his democratic stance today.