What is the reason behind the developments in Turkey’s relative power, capabilities and strength during Erdoğan leadership? What are those internal dynamics and external factors that have contributed in formation of Turkey’s relative weight in international system? What steps Erdoğan and his friends have taken, in such a short period of time, which has build a strong image for Turkey in international community?
The nature has bestowed a lot of opportunities to Turkey: Turkey is located in a strategic place which has geographical proximity with Middle East, Balkans, Caucasus, Europe, Asia, Africa and all Eastern Mediterranean states. This region is also rich of important natural resources which enhance Turkey’s importance as a passage for the energy routes.
Turkey possesses a cultural advantage in the region. Turkey has strong cultural ties and speaks the same language with around 300 million Turks. And we share a common history with the countries in the Balkans, Caucasus and Middle East. Most of these countries have peacefully coexisted with Turks for centuries in the Ottoman time. One must also mention ‘state tradition’: As a state, Turkey is founded over an ancient legacy of knowledge and the experience in statehood. Turkish military power is one of the strongest armies in the region.
In spite of all its deficiencies, Turkey is the best example with a functioning democracy among all other Islamic countries. It has a vast agricultural land and relatively rich human resources. Turkey is a NATO member since 1952, strategic partner of USA, trying to become an EU member and in friendly relations with other countries.
There have also been internal and external problems, of course.
In my opinion, all of the former governments were equal in the conditions mentioned above. So what is it that makes Erdoğan and his team different? The above mentioned facts have nothing to do with Erdoğan or his party!
Unlike its predecessors, the political movement under Erdoğan leadership has truly taken away the obstacles on the path to development of the country. They have trusted the people they have given them opportunity to flourish. They have brought to the scene that self-confidence that has been frozen for more than two centuries. People have, in their term, continuously rewarded “the sincerity to serve the country and the strong will to do everything necessary in that direction” in every election and referendum.
Turkey does not have a problem in resources at all. Turkey had a problem in comprehending and evaluating the already existing resources. Ak Parti movement has uncovered this already present potential. That is it!
What is the result?
Turkey has consolidated its position as a strong regional power and an active global actor. Turkey has mobilized all its resources in order to increase its power; i.e. its state tradition, natural resources, its military power, human resources, geostrategic location, developing economy. The only thing Turkey needs for going even further is the continuation of the determined political will and stability witnessed in the last years under Erdoğan leadership.
The opposition movements (namely CHP), on the contrary, defend the “people in spite of the people” approach. They do not try to comprehend the already existing potential embedded in the cultural codes of the majority, but they think they know better than the people.
I believe that political movements that will understand, comprehend, internalize and translate the already existing cultural sensitivities and political aspirations of majority in Turkey will be successful in Turkey.
What are these cultural sensitivities and political aspirations? There are three main elements: Sunni-Islam, Patriotism and Liberal Democratic Values. First two elements are understandable phenomena. I would like to make one clarification on the third one: The so-called secular perception regarding Sunni-Muslim majority has been deeply mistaken. They have been thinking that Sunni-Muslims are anti-democratic, retrogressive sentiments who long for the comeback of the Sultan and Sharia. They have been regarded as threat towards the Republic of Atatürk and liberal democratic values.
This underestimation of the opposition – regarding Sunni-Muslim majority in Turkey – has misled all political movements opposing Erdoğan movement. This is the fundamental reason why they have been defeated in all elections.
Today, Sunni-Muslim majority in turkey have become the standard bearers of the social and political change; whereas the so-called secular circles represent the stalemate and retrogressive social and political standing. These so-called secular circles have got stuck into the past, living in a imaginative framework where they regard themselves as sole representatives of progress, defenders of democracy and “Western” values.
The time, however, has changed dramatically: In spite of all obstacles, the conservative majority have transformed and modernized in an astonishing way that they have already moved far beyond traditional privileged few; that is so-called secular circles. They became rich, they are globalized, they have their own intelligentsia, they have their own media, and they share the power in all aspects of the social and political life.
Consequently, any political movement that will not realistically approach the social reality in Turkey and that will not develop political doctrine that will encompass, embrace, understand and evaluate the social-psychological dynamics of the conservative majority, cannot simply be successful.
Rejection, denial and simply ignoring of conservative majority, based on superiority complex, is no more a solution. Sincerely adherence to democratic values, comprehensive political approach taking under the consideration sensitivities of the conservative majority is the key for the success of any political movement in Turkey.