October 12, 2015
Saturday’s horrific terrorist attack in Ankara where more than 100 people lost their lives brings to mind similar gruesome deeds, from New York in 2001 or London in 2007. The similarities between these events, unfortunately, end with the casualties. In Turkey, the opposition -in a rather desperate bid to thwart Erdogan’s party’s re-election chances- took to the streets rallying against the government. This is unfortunate because normally, in times like these, political parties and the population rally behind the government of the day in a show of solidarity.
For democracy to flourish, it is not enough to have free and fair elections and respect for the rule of law. A necessary ingredient of any functional democracy is a measure of respect between the party (or parties) in power and the opposition. Sadly, this basic respect among political leaders and parties competing for power seems to be lacking in Turkey. In the past three years this appears to be the main reason why elections have taken place in a very tense atmosphere, made worse by vicious attacks, slander and unethical political bickering.
There is one essential aspect, however, that has escaped the attention of the Turkish opposition, blinded by hate as it is against Erdogan’s AK Party. Arab youth, who are yet to see positive changes in their societies following the Arab revolutions, still regard the Turkish brand of Islamic democracy as a model to be emulated. In a recent book about their aspirations, Ms. Bessma Momani -a renowned Arab-Canadian scholar and political scientist- wrote that
“Some Turks don’t want to hear this but there is a Turkish model in the Arab world. Some countries may find that Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian war has given the model a negative perspective but overall throughout the Arab Spring and even before there was a very positive view. What is the Turkish model? It’s to create a society that is economically growing with lots of opportunities. It’s a place that allows for Islam in daily life. As much as secularists might have a hard time seeing this, they do appreciate the idea that a Muslim party has an opportunity to compete. They view the Turkish model as positive and I think sometimes they are critical of Turkish actions with respect to Syria but I think if you take out the geopolitics, overall, Turkey as an economic model is very high. People still look up to it as an example.” (Source: Hurriyet)
Since 1998, I am one of the few European historians to have supported the idea of an Islamic party in power in Turkey. In doing so, I fully realize that my professional views are at odds with the beliefs of most EU political leaders and mainstream intellectuals, many of whom are blinded by secularism and could not foresee the rise of political Islam. It is not entirely by accident, therefore, that four years after graduating in geopolitics and international relations with excellent results from Sciences po Toulouse, I am still without a suitable job. The truth remains, however, that AKP’s many achievements, especially in the economic sphere, are substantial and its leaders’ performance in office should also be recognized as such by EU leaders and Turkish opposition alike.Florian Pantazi