USAs tidligere ambassadør i Tyrkia, Morton Abramowitz, holdt nylig et foredrag om Tyrkia. Som venn av landet uttrykker han seg forsiktig, men bekymring for økende islamisering og autoritære tendenser fra Erdogan og hans parti/regjering er ikke til å komme utenom.

Arrestasjonen av 50 høyere offiserer er enestående i nyere historie. Det er for tiden store spenninger i politikken. AKP-regjeringen har heller ikke kunnet oppfylle sine løfter, og poplariteten er synkende.

Even though Turkey is a long-time ally, there is a growing perception, particularly among our conservative cognoscenti, that domestically the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is out to destroy the power of the military and make Turkey not an Islamic state but a more conservative, religiously oriented state with much greater public manifestations of Islam. Some fear more extreme internal religious developments and a very authoritarian government emerging if the military is completely defanged as the guardian of Turkish secularism. Many holding this view believe that on foreign policy the AKP is detaching Turkey from its Western moorings and focusing more on ties to the Muslim Middle East and Russia and showing less interest in joining the EU and maintaining close ties to the US.

For the moment let me say briefly that while the AKP government, of course, has made changes in domestic and foreign policy that might lend support to those views, such basic judgments are, I believe, overdone, and their concerns simply do not take into account the complexity of Turkey and its rapid development. I will focus on foreign policy, but a few more comments first on the domestic dimension

The rise of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) is due to the failure of Turkey’s mainstream parties, but more fundamentally to Turkey’s structural changes: the growth of the economy, an enlarged non-Istanbul entrepreneurship and the vast movement of poorer, more devout people from country to city. The AKP, which rose out of an older fundamentalist party, has given voice to these demographic elements that rarely had one and in doing so has done much to make Turkey an open, more vibrant and democratic country. They have severely reduced the ability of the military, their main political enemy, to intervene in politics through coups. This ongoing effort, however, has polarized the country, particularly those who believe the army is essential to preserving Turkey’s traditional secularism and providing balance in a conflicted society. The events these past weeks will deepen the polarization. The AKP has gone far because it is a majority party, accelerating change and intent on making Turkey a bigger economic and political player in the world.

While surviving efforts so far by the military and the judiciary to bring the government down, the AKP’s dynamism has diminished in the past two years, partly because of world recession but also because they have talked much but accomplished little on promised and certainly politically the most difficult fundamental reforms, like a new constitution to replace the authoritarian military-bestowed constitution and real measures to deal with its Kurds. Rather they have pulled back

One last point: Life changes. So do politics in Turkey, however ineffective Turkey’s opposition parties have been. Yes, Prime Minister Erdogan dominates the scene like a colossus; he is an extraordinary dynamic politician, but he is also viewed as increasingly authoritarian and destructive of a free media, polemical and prone to risk-taking including now his defense establishment. The AKP’s political position remains strong, but its popularity has been diminishing. Conceivably, the past weeks’ events could spur Mr. Erdogan to early parliamentary elections, although he has denied it. Should he wait till the present parliament’s time is up, economics could well play a bigger part in determining the outcome of the next elections, notably the great unemployment rate and the difficulty of changing that over the next year. The free ride opposition parties have given the AKP, partly on economic matters, is likely to end. More fundamentally the country seems increasingly at war with itself, and the public tone is acrimonious. Dominant as they now are, the AKP could well continue its drift downward, setting the stage for an election producing a coalition government. Political life in Turkey can turn fickle — not unlike what we see in the US today.

Some Western perceptions of Turkey (1)