In order to provide an understanding of the ideology of Justice and Development Party in Turkey, the approaches of moderate Islamists should firstly be put forward.
Firstly, the moderates denounce the use of violence for political ends. Secondly, the moderates are in favor of a legalist, incremental approach that based on personal conversion, compromise and the force of example. They do not aim to break down the system but rather to transform it from within through a pragmatic, step by step process that concentrates on persuasion of the population and lobbying authorities.
Thirdly, since they target to alter the system progressively from below, they heavily reckon upon social and charitable activities. Therefore grass-roots activism is fundamental for their strategy. It is designed to attain the gradual Islamization of society below and the conviction of the population that “Islam is the way”, that there is likely concrete “Islamic” solutions to the social and economic ills faced by Middle Eastern societies. This does not mean that moderates avoid from the political arena. In contrast, whenever a chance is given to them, they do not hesitate to actively participate in electoral contests. But they are less dealing with political power than that of the radicals. According to moderates, the winning of hearts and minds are as significant as getting representation in state institutions.
Finally, moderates have the belief that Islam and democracy are compatible. They often allege to find precedents for democratic principles in such Islamic concepts as Shura-consultation- and Ijma-consensus-. Most significantly, they mention that if they were to hold the power, they would esteem democratic rules, abide by the will of the majority as reflected in elections and safeguard human rights and civil liberties as well as the pluralistic nature of society.
Justice and Development Party in Turkey
In 1990s, even some ideological differences within the Welfare Party were seen but these differences were more on organizational and tactical subjects and those ideological clashes had not been come into forefront due to the strict discipline of Necmettin Erbakan. As being popular among the young members of the party and also seen as the potential leader of the party by many, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had frequently reiterated his loyalty to Erbakan.
In 1996, Necmettin Erbakan’s Welfare Party and Tansu Çiller’s True Path Party formed a coalition government in Turkey. But the decisions taken in National Security Council on February 28, 1997 started the dissolution of this government. The decisions on fight against reaction were prepared and made accepted to the civilian members of this council by high level military bureaucracy. This intervention is named as postmodern coup on the grounds that the military openly determined the political process and also the things made in the case of coup by civilians. Generals removed them from the office and the following year the Constitutional Court banned this party on the grounds of being a threat to the secularism.
Nevertheless, after the closure of Welfare Party and the establishment of Virtue Party, the division between the traditionalists- being loyal to Erbakan- and modernists led by Erdoğan came out much more. There were talks on the resignations from the Virtue Party and setting up a new party. However, the starting of the closure activities of Virtue Party postponed these plans and modernists decided to try their chance in the upcoming congress of the Virtue Party.
The congress of Virtue Party on May 17, 2000 has been a historical moment in the history of Islamic parties in Turkey given the existence of an open contest for the party leadership. Erdoğan was banned from the political activities due to his imprisonment from 312nd article of old Turkish Penal Code – openly encouraging the public to hatred and antagonism by taking into consideration religious diversity-. The modernists declared Abdullah Gül as a candidate against the incumbent leader Recai Kutan, a moderate figure supported by Necmettin Erbakan. This was reacted by Erbakan and his supporters. Oğuzhan Asiltürk, one of the prominent assistants of Erbakan, oppressed on provincial heads of the party and threatened them by saying that if they supported Gül; their future would be in danger. Erbakan also demanded from the delegates and deputies of the party not to vote for Gül.
Few days before the Congress, Erbakanists’ dominated Council of Founders changed the party charter and they banned the use of joint list for the Central Administrative Committee. Supported by Erdoğan, Gül emphasized the intra-party democracy and the need for competition. Though all pressures and manipulations, Gül got 521 votes and Kutan got 633 votes. Such a close competition was a precursor of unstoppable division within the Virtue Party. A suitable condition emerged with the ban of Virtue Party by the Constitutional Court of Turkey on July 22, 2001. When the traditionalists established the Felicity Party, the modernists immediately worked on founding a new party. The Justice and Development Party (JDP) was officially founded on August 14, 2001. The Founders Committee was composing of 74 members. 13 out of these 74 members were women.
Although the membership of Erdoğan was rejected by the chief public prosecutor, he was among the founding members. The chief public prosecutor objected six founding women due to their wearing of headscarf. By 16th of August, 51 deputies had joined to JDP. In contrast to this, 48 deputies joined to the Felicity Party. The Founders Committee elected Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the leader of party with consent and Central Administrative Committee also made their choice. The parliament group of the party elected Bülent Arınç – one of the prominent figures of modernists – to the head of the party group with the consent.
Within a period of more than one year between the establishment of JDP and the general elections on November 3, 2002, the party made a great effort on the path toward creating a new and more inclusive image that emphasized its differences with the tradition of National View.
The Justice and Development Party rejects any kind of continuity with the parties of National View and they define themselves as “Conservative Democrat”. The JDP refuses to use the term of “Islamic” or “Islamist” in defining themselves. This stance is politically wise when the military has highly negative views toward Islamists. Yalçın Akdoğan, the chief advisor to Prime Minister Erdoğan, identifies the JDP as a “mass party at the national level, conservative in values, with an appreciation of history, culture and religion.”
When the party programme, 2002 and 2007 election manifests, and countless speeches of its leader are examined, it is seen the clear emphasis on such universal values as democracy, human rights, rule of law, limited state, pluralism, tolerance and respect for diversity. The statute of JDP defines the republic as the single most important administrative outcome of Turkish nation and accepts the national will as the sole determining power. The party accepts national will, rule of law, ration, science, experience, democracy, fundamental rights and liberties of the individuals, and the morality as the fundamental references of her understanding of political administration. The party acknowledges that all people have inalienable rights such as the right to live, freedom of expression, freedom to assembly and so on and states that it respects these rights. It believes that being different is not a dissociation but an element of confirming our cultural richness. The understanding of democracy by the Justice and Development Party is pluralism not being the majoritarian as was in the case of the Welfare Party. Tolerance, dialogue and respect to minority rights are constantly emphasized. In this context, the competition of different preferences is seen as one of the indispensable factors of a healthy democratic system.
Regarding secularism, the JDP’s program supports the concept of secularism more openly than previous Islamist parties. In that regard, the program sees the religion as one of the most important institutions of humanity and regards the secularism as the inalienable condition of democracy and the guarantee of freedom of religion and conscience. According to the party program, on the one hand secularism provides the realization of worships of any people from any religion in a freeway and also their way of life according to their own religious beliefs, on the other hand it further ensures the regulation of the lives of atheists according to that direction.
In this context, secularism is the principle of freedom and societal peace. The Justice and Development Party rejects the exploitation of religion and ethnicity for political purposes, making a tool of the religion for political, economic or other interests, and the use of religion for pressurizing over the people who live and think differently. The Justice and Development Party also perceives the principles put forward by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and the revolutions made by him as the most significant means for reaching of the Turkish society above the contemporary civilization level and the party sees this as the instrument of societal peace. The officials of JDP mention that Turkey and the JDP are becoming the symbol of ‘moderate secular Islam’ and they do not intend to take any formal steps to Islamise the country. They assert that they are against Shari’a or Islamic law and state that their legislative agenda has been much more liberal in economic terms and pro-Western than that of its secularist opponents.
When looked at the economics part of JDP’s party programme, it is stated that this party shall implement a “Continuous and Sustainable Economic Growth Strategy” in order to actuate this rare potential of our country. With the implementation of this strategy, poverty and unemployment shall be decreased, justice will be ensured in the distribution of income. Thus, as the time goes by, Turkey will reach the level of developed countries, the living standards of our citizens shall increase and Turkey’s respectability in the international community shall mount up.
When the foreign policy of JDP in Turkey is examined, it is obvious to mention that this policy is formulated by ex-chief foreign policy advisor of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and now the foreign affairs minister, Prof. Dr. Ahmet Davutoğlu. He wrote a book named as “Strategic Depth: The International Position of Turkey”, published in April 2001. According to Davutoğlu, there has been some fundamental foreign policy principles followed by Turkey in a consistent manner. These have been the territorial integrity of the states, the resolution of problems through reconciliation and dialogue not with confrontation, the orientation to NATO and commitment to the European Union membership process. Turkey would stay committed to these fundamental principles in the new era but there has emerged the necessity of new principles and viewpoints in the aftermath of Cold War period.
Here, the main target is to transform the Turkey into a regional or even a global actor by using the soft power. According to Davutoğlu, the main aim of Turkish foreign policy has been contributing to the peace, stability and welfare in the world. As shown by latest initiatives of Turkish foreign policy within her neighborhood and beyond in recent times, Turkey makes every possible effort for the resolution of problems that directly pertain herself to or not as well as contributes to the encouragement of strengthening of democracy. When examined from this context, it is clear that a proactive foreign policy should be followed to strengthen the stability and security and to increase the prosperity in the neighboring regions that include Balkans, Caucasia, Caspian Base, Black Sea, East Mediterranean, Middle East, Gulf and North Africa which both have problems and lost potentials.
Another fundamental element of the foreign policy followed in this period is to have the responsibility of pursuing a multi-dimensional foreign policy due to having multi-regional identities. Besides, Turkey has this capacity. The unique composition of our culture and geography gives Turkey a sense of responsibility. Contributing to the resolution of the problems in all of these regions and also to the international peace and security is a call of duty for Turkey, emerging from the depths of a multi-dimensional history.
Committed to being a power for the peace in today’s world, the foreign policy of Turkey is much more result-oriented and proactive. This enlarged portfolio of the foreign policy includes wide scale geographic lands, organizations and subjects without any change in its priorities. According to Davutoğlu, this multi-national characteristic of Turkish foreign policy settles on four pillars. One of them is the indivisibility of security. Second pillar is to constitute the concept of dialogue. According to this, all issues and problems can and should be resolved through political interaction and diplomacy. Mutual economic dependency forms the third pillar. This is vital for the achievement and protection of sustainable peace. The last one is about cultural harmony and mutual respect.
Ahmet Davutoğlu states that their fundamental aims in this foreign policy are the achievement of the minimum integration and full cooperation with the all neighbors within the context of these four fundamental principles. Moreover, he asserts that their foreign policy targets to abolish all existing problems in the region by searching for new mechanisms and channels for the resolution of the problems, encouraging positive actions, and constructing intercultural dialogue and bridges of understanding.
Regarding the foreign policy followed by Justice and Development Party, though Ankara’s relatively powerful security relationship with Tel Aviv in recent years; Erdoğan has been criticizing the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians and has been backing the involvement of Hamas in peace talks. In February 2006, there has occurred a crisis between Israel and Turkey. In order to correct her reputability before the Muslim electors, Turkey has been the first country to host the exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal. This was an unofficial visit. The Bush administration has called for Turkey to give a message toward the abandoning terror, recognition of Israel’s right to exist and to stick to the commitments made by the Palestinian Authority. American Jewish Committee has reviewed this visit as “a tragic mistake that would have serious repercussions not only among the governments of Western democracies but the Jewish community in the United States and around the world and with those friends of Turkey”.
Former American Department of State official Henri J. Barkey, in his article called as “Two Faced on Terrorism” has stated the following remarks on this issue; “WASHINGTON, Jerusalem and Brussels were shocked when the Turkish government recently invited the leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, to Ankara. By hosting the leader of a terrorist organization — one that has taken terror to new heights with its suicide bombings of malls and city buses — Turkey undermined its own cause. After all, Turkey has for many years been campaigning to get its homegrown Kurdish insurgency classified as a terrorist group. The United States and European Union have done so. So the invitation to the Hamas leader was particularly strange coming from Turkey, even while Turkey is negotiating to join the EU”.
In early 2009, Erdoğan did cause another distraction with tough walk against Israel in Brussels and a walk-off from the stage in the World Economic Forum in Davos. In both of these places, he did endeavor to concentrate world condemnation on Israel actions in Gaza, but instead European and American audiences concentrated on whether the forthright style in which he did prove his Islamic root or that Turkey was leaving from the West.
Stephen Kinzer points out that Turkey is working to lower tensions between Iran and the United States, between Syria and Iraq, between Armenia and Azerbaijan. No country’s diplomats are as warmly welcomed in Tehran and Washington, Moscow and Tblisi, Damascus and Cairo. No other nation is esteemed by Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Taliban while also sustaining good ties with the Israeli, Lebanese and Afghan governments.
When the social base of Justice and Development Party in Turkey is examined, it can be said that it is a coalition of old center-right electorates, moderate Islamists, moderate nationalists and even one part of old center-left in political terms. This party can also be regarded as a coalition in sociological terms. This intra-class coalition includes an important section of rural population, urban artisans, urban shanties’ residents and rising Islamist bourgeoisie. This rising Islamist bourgeoisie- which is rooted in Anatolia- is accepted as the pushing force of this coalition. TUSKON and MÜSİAD are the best examples of framework organizations of the Islamist bourgeoisie.
A final point that should be mentioned is the reasons of JDP’s success. There exist a series of structural and conditional factors that clarify how the JDP has increased its popular support during the past few years. The first factor is that the JDP has an influential and widespread party machine and a strong network of local administrators. These two elements allow the party a deep-rooted presence in the country. The second factor is the existence of many JDP mayors with control over local administrations, which was empowered after the local elections in 2004. This has allowed the party a fundamental instrument for creating consensus networks using welfare and local services to strengthen clientele networks relied on the lavishing of jobs in the public sector and the redistribution of wealth, above all in the less developed areas of the country.
Moreover, there is the presence of a new, different middle class, characterized by its Islamic roots, searching for political representation; named as ‘ green capitalists’ united under the Independent Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (MUSIAD) that promote an Islamic, conservative vision of society associated with a liberal and market-oriented vision of the economy. The rise of such a social and political actor is one of the most concrete results of the economic liberalization process and the market-oriented reforms initiated by the Turgut Özal-led government in 1980s.
Third factor is the economic growth rate of the country, about 5.5 percent in 2006, and the overall economic record of the JDP government in the past five years. Furthermore, JDP’s performance as a reformist party during its first term has brought about liberal sectors of the society to look with favour on the JDP in that they disagree with an active role for the military in politics. The last factor is the insufficiency of electoral depth of the JDP’s political adversaries. The concern, which is still present in some sectors of Turkish society and has been voiced by the military and nationalist parties over the likely presence of a hidden and radical Islamist agenda of the Justice and Development Party, has not been shared among the greater part of the electorate.
The Justice and Development Party in Turkey, which has been in power since 2002, seemingly to support such concepts as democracy, human rights, rule of law, secularism, and pluralism. This party seems to favor inclusivity and respect the democratic regime of Turkey by constantly mentioning that they are not targeting to found an Islamic state.
In contrast to the views advocated by Al Qaeda in terms of the international relations, the Justice and Development Party in Turkey is not anti-Western. On the one hand, this party surprisingly supports Turkey’s EU accession process when the political roots of the founders of the party are considered. Since 2002, they have been initiating several reforms within this context. On the other hand, they are developing relations with the states such as Islamic Republic of Iran, Syria, and condemning Israel’s policies toward Palestinians which are regarded by the Westerners as “axis shift” in Turkish foreign policy. This party advocates the concept of “Alliance of Civilizations”. They are in favor of establishing relations with every state without looking at whether that state is Western or not, within the context of Strategic Depth concept. The “zero problems with neighbors” principle forms one of the considerable parameters of foreign policy of Justice and Development Party in Turkey.
As a final comment on this issue is, the time will better show whether the Justice and Development Party in Turkey really believes in democracy, has a hidden agenda and changes the axis of Turkish foreign policy in the 21st century or not.
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