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Has the AK Party’s attempt to reshape Turkish society hit a wall?

June 8, 2018

I’ve written an article for World Politics Review ahead of Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary snap elections on June 23.

In it I try to take a longer view, suggesting that while President Erdoğan’s political grip continues to tighten, long-term social tides in the country are not necessarily moving in the religiously conservative direction many assume.

“Erdoğan towers over all areas of life in the country. State institutions have gradually been subordinated to his will since he first came to office in 2003 … He is almost constantly on television, often delivering three pugnacious speeches in one day, broadcast live on every news channel. Under the state of emergency he has been able to govern through decrees granted the full force of the law. His supporters refer to him as ‘reis,’ or chief.

“The government’s attempts to mold Turkish society have in recent years shaped education, family and cultural policy. Money has poured into the Directorate of Religious Affairs, which now has an annual budget of over 4 billion liras, dwarfing most other ministries. Erdogan has famously declared his aim to ‘raise pious generations.’ In right-wing populist fashion, he frames this as a return to a more authentic and harmonious Turkish order, denouncing liberal and secular currents as alien and unwelcome impositions.

“But despite the AK Party being at the apogee of its power, longer-term trends suggest that things may not be so simple. While the government’s religious-nationalist program, combining modern Islamic conservatism with a populist streak heavy on Ottoman nostalgia, appears firmly in place today, there are growing signs that social tides in Turkey are not necessarily moving in the conservative direction that many assume. The vaunted social revolution ushered in by the current government is not as deep as many observers inside and outside the country commonly assume.”

Click here to read the whole thing. If the link doesn’t bring up the whole article it means you’ll need need to sign up to WPR to read it. But if you write your email address in the box at the bottom right corner of the page you should be given access to read.

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