Similar surveys also demonstrate that the CHP would receive the support of only one out of every four voters but it fails to gain any further support. Stressing that something has to be done to address this situation, Matkap also noted that the only thing to do is to resolve intraparty problems.
This information is very important as it points out the classic misperception of the secular circles in Turkey. This misperception holds that politics is all about the skill of mobilization and the CHP, for instance, thanks to the energy that it will be able to create once it has resolved its internal problems, will be able to attract a greater number of votes from the people. Naturally, we cannot ignore the impact of intraparty problems upon the electoral performance of the party. However, it is typical that this analysis does not include an element of how social preferences are changing. It appears that the CHP is still unaware that the religious segments of society create a state of dynamism which determines the wholesale transformation of society and that the actual problem is to appeal to this growing group of people. Secular intellectuals who have a column in a paper or hold an academic title show a tendency to restrict themselves to a narrow cultural conflict framework by following the discourse of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. His emphasis upon a religious generation and his opposition to abortion is not a position that could be seen as a surprise or an exaggeration. In the end, it is a visible reality that Turkey’s conservatism is focused on family and women. Anatolian Islam is not concerned about adapting to modernity in the fields of law or economics. But when it comes to the boundaries between communities in daily life, we see that the sexist and moralist approach appears as an identity.
On the other hand, the extreme politicization of this phenomenon is not independent from the inherent and intuitional reaction of the secular circles because the religious communities that emerge out of a secular lifestyle in Turkey move to a defensive discourse in times when they no longer feel protected by the state. This leads to a disconnection of the objections by secular intellectuals to politics and the intensification of cultural differentiation. However, this tension alienates the communities from each other in intellectual terms while also offering some insights into why the CHP will not be able to attract greater support.
It should be stressed that only Islamic circles could lead attempts for a process of change in Turkey for at least the next 10 years. This implies that the politicians who are eager to represent the secular segments of society have to seek a reunion of the values rather than a separation or erosion of the same values. Interestingly, this is exactly what has been happening in Turkey, and thanks to this, the AKP has been attracting greater popular support.
Let me first make two evaluations. First, the primary reason for the rise of the AKP is a sociological change that makes the existence of the AKP more meaningful than its success. In other words, the number of people who naturally align themselves with the AKP is rapidly growing and this makes some sort of single-party regime a possibility. Second, the most important dynamic in this group is the will to integrate with the external world, and this is experienced in the form of a secularization that expands the sphere of the community and transforms the perception of religiosity. Therefore, while the prime minister’s opposition to abortion is endorsed in religious terms, a growing number of Muslim women actually have abortions.
In short, regardless of Erdoğan’s strong statements and discourse to maintain control over his supporters, there is a state of alignment or rapprochement between the Islamic and secular values in the fields of women, children and familial issues. Maybe Muslim families prefer different paintings in their houses, but the furniture is becoming similar. Even if different destinations are picked, similar approaches are held towards spending free time or having a vacation.
This means that the boundaries of the Islamic community are getting “thinner,” making admission to or expulsion from the community easier, and this actually invites the secular circles to subscribe to religious symbols. In recent years, a growing number of people have adopted an aspect of religiosity as an indispensible part of their secular lifestyle. On the other hand, the number of people who prefer Islam as their primary identity but who have also distanced themselves from restricted religiosity has also increased.
Turkey has created a gray area between the identities of religiosity and secularism, and the AKP is the conveyor of this area. This will remain the case as long as the CHP and secular circles fail to appeal to this hybridization.