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A Specific Conservative Party in the Political Party System: An Analysis of AKP

Political parties are central to the conduct of modern politics because of their position among people. On the other hand, a political party system is an order that includes political arrangements in a country and the relations between the social and political beings of society. This paper aims to give a summary of what it means and to mention a political party from the history of Turkey to exemplify.

Political parties are what almost many of us talk about every day. Perhaps it is what we are being manipulated  about through the media, and even the most irrelevant person has an idea of what a political party is. So, have we ever thought what political parties are, what to do or what should we do ? I do not think that Turkish people who grumble at parties in front of the television do this. If we talk about what it is rather than how it is spoken in daily life, it means establishing the link between the state and society. This link is shown through elections, even if there is an election, the existence of political parties do not prove there is a democratic system in the country. There are minor and major parties that we can vote in these elections. These parties which make up the political system have different purposes. The purpose of small parties is not to win the government, unlike large parties. They only try to make an impact against power in the political process with specific policies and determine it. Based on these aims, it can be described as “an organized group that participates in political life to achieve the power of the members’ thoughts and interests partially or completely” (Erdoğan, 1998). Political parties are essential not only because of their functions but also to structure the way relations between the parties work in practice. This network of relationships is called the party system. It is a system of all parties. This system is divided into four in terms of number and relative size.

The first system is the one-party political system. The most prominent examples are fascist parties like the Nazi Party in Germany and communist parties like the Communist Party in the USSR. In this system, there is a monopoly and strict ideological discipline. Competition is officially forbidden, and the party acts as a government without any mechanism. The second one is the dominant party system. There is only one large party, but since it is one party, it should not be confused with the one-party system. The difference is that a dominant party system is competitive because some parties are competing for power in elections. Still, as a result, there is only one party in government that has long held power. Although there are multiple political parties participating in the elections, the same party consistently wins and remains in power. The third is the two-party system. Typical examples are the US and the UK that two major parties have the power in these countries like the Republican Party and the Democratic Party in the USA, the Labour Party and the Conservative Party in the UK. The two parties almost receive ninety percent of the vote. Other small parties cannot come to power because they cannot approach two large parties. The final one is the multi-party system. We are very familiar with this system because contemporary democracies are now democracy of parties. Therefore, one of the indispensable features of democratic systems is that they are systems that allow more than one party to live. There is competition among more than two parties. This system is mainly in Europe, and there is also in our country, Turkey. Now, it will be explained the political position of one of these parties in our country: The Justice and Development Party, Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP) is a party that has put itself in the conservatism of the linear political spectrum.

AKP, as we all know, is a conservative party that has been in power for 19 years. First of all, conservatism gained a momentum with DP after the 1950s. In the political line that develops in this parallel with all these movements; DP, AP, ANAP, and its current AKP can be mentioned. So first, let’s discuss what conservatism means. While conservatism is in a broader framework in terms of political science, when we think of Turkey in particular, conservatism is a line of thought intertwined with nationalism and Islamism. The main point in conservative thinking is to protect social values, spiritual rules, institutions such as religion and family in the face of changes. Therefore, it is to take a traditional identity attitude. AKP defined itself as “conservative in terms of Turkey’s cultural heritage protection and defense of democratic values ​​and institutions in the modern sense’’. However, this definition contains some ambiguities. It is also important to note that defending modern institutions and values ​​are not sufficient to define democracy. Advocating modern institutions and values ​​is an indication not only refers to conservatism but neo-conservatism. Because, as mentioned before, conservatism tries to protect the traditional against a modern one, while new conservatism is based on adapting to current modern conditions. One of the most critical problems in AKP’s political identity is the concept of conservation in a conservative idea. The emphasis mainly on the understandable content of the conservative thought is the fact that the existing institutions and the status quo are protected, and the change is viewed as it must not be.  

https://www.clingendael.org/pub/2018/too-big-for-its-boots/1-turkeys-domestic-politics/

AKP emphasized that they do not want to pursue Islamist politics, and argued that they aim to draw religion out of the political sphere, into the social area as stated: “My reference is Islam, and my political reference is democracy”. They emphasized that they wanted to position AKP’s political identity in a “conservative democracy”. Ali Yaşar Sarıbay describes AKP as “Islam, liberal practices, democrat attitude, Western orbit” (Sarıbay, 2003). Islamist cadres are at the roots of the right-wing AKP. However, they do not want to reveal these aspects very much, even claim that they have changed and differed from the National Opinion line (Milli Görüş Çizgisi, Erbakancılık ). They insist on avoiding an Islamist characterization; On the other hand, they emphasise conservatism as a language that is considered legitimate before the system and as a language that has an exclusive agreement between itself and the public as much as it seems about its meaning (Aktay, 2004). However, the party’s sincerity and actions on these issues have been the subject of controversy from time to time. In 2008, a closure case even was filed because “it became the focus of anti-secular acts” .

Many factors have led the AKP to an approach that emphasizes nationalism. The 51 percent need of the Presidential Government System, Gezi Park protests, 17-25 December operations, June 7 elections, the ending of the Kurdish Opening, the PKK’s moat policy, the July 15 coup attempt, MHP alliance can be given examples. 

By Bertelsmann Foundation Transformation Index, Turkey was classified as a “moderate autocracy” for the first time (BTI 2020, Turkey). It reported as Turkey’s “de facto dictatorship” had to be considered 77th among 137 countries”. I think this is an indication that we are evolving towards fascism.

In conclusion, political parties are indispensable for the execution of modern politics. The structure of political parties is a structure that includes local political parties and their connections. Since the need for interpretation of current political atmosphere and political situation of the current government in Turkey, AKP has been specificly chosen and written.

REFERENCES

Aktay, Y. (2004), Modern Türkiye’de Siyasi Düşünce-Muhafazakarlık, İletişim Yayınları.

BTI Index (n.d), Overview Turkey. Retrieved on July 26, 2021 from https://www.bti-project.org/en/reports/country-dashboard-TUR.html

BTI Project (n.d.), Turkey. Retrieved on July 26, 2021 from https://atlas.bti-project.org

Erdoğan, T. (1998), Anayasa Hukuku, Beta Basım Yayım Dağıtım A.Ş.

Sarıbay, A. (2003), AKP Kimliksizliğe Mahkum, Vatan.

Şahin, Ö. (2016), ‘Erdoğanizm’le beraber İslamcılık devletleşiyor, BirGün. https://www.birgun.net/haber/erdoganizm-le-beraber-islamcilik-devletlesiyor-114769