In my previous piece for Today’s Zaman (May 30, 2012), I underlined a number of points to show that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has become a conservative party. It is no longer a progressive party that brings major reforms to the country. Thus, it would not be a mistake to define the AKP as the “new AKP.”
The major components of the new AKP are as follows. First, the AKP has turned into a conservative party that promotes a typical conservative agenda, the major points of which I outlined in my previous article. Second, the AKP has turned into an elitist party that has created a hardcore elite group, and the party now mainly serves the interests of this AKP elite. Third, while the AKP used to be the party of periphery, it now is the party of the political center. Fourth, party leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was a popular leader who has become a populist leader.
The AKP has become an elitist party that has created its own elite and either excludes the “other” from the core of the party, government and state or allows those who show absolute obedience to the party to survive near AKP circles. The foundation of the AKP elites is made up of the old Milli Görüş (national outlook) networks, which have three major branches: the Malatyalılar group, the Beşir Atalay School and the Ahmet Davutoğlu School. The Malatyalılar group within the party is a group that was founded by Selahattin Çekmegil and his followers, who reject novelties in Islamic tradition and try to establish a middle-road approach between the thousands of years of madhhab’s (Islamic schools of thought). This group is a small group within the party, but it has an intellectual influence.
The Beşir Atalay group is a group that is sympathetic towards Iran and comes mainly coming from the universities. This group is particularly exclusivist, thinking they are the backbone of the AKP, and thus believe AKP policies should serve their interests. This group does not want to see any person of a different affiliation in a critical position within the bureaucracy, at universities or even within the party. One may consider this group to largely promote localization and isolation. It carries anti-Western sentiments at its core and promotes Easternism. It wants to use the government and its resources to expand its influence as a network.
The Davutoğlu group is the most open-minded group within the core of the AKP, and most members of which have received some form of education at Western universities, thereby enabling them to communicate with the West. The Davutoğlu group has always taken a strategic approach, changing its position and policies according to the circumstances. Their influence is especially visible in Turkey’s foreign policy-making and security analyses.
Although this group also has its own agenda to occupy the center of party, keeping the others away, one could not argue there is obvious competition between the groups I have mentioned above. All of these groups, however, are for now united in keeping the outsiders away from the party and bureaucracy.
When it come to preparing party policies, these groups work hard on preparing reports and various projects for the government to implement. Within the last year, almost all proposals that have come from these groups have one agenda: using government sources and findings to expand their own influence over society and to establish a worldwide religious/conservative network.
Given the facts that the AKP no longer operates in a partnership with the liberal segments of society, no longer promotes a progressive agenda, is no longer an inclusive party, has created its own elite and tries to first serve the interests of these elites, one could easily argue that the AKP is an elitist party that is slowly turning into a religious/conservative replica of the old Kemalist parties.
This issue itself is good enough to make the argument there is a “new AKP.” I will analyze in my coming articles other points that make the AKP a “new party.”