June 15, 2011
When it comes to geopolitics, few major shifts are more important than the emergence of an Islamic democracy in Turkey. Long resisted by the Turkish military and its western allies, the accession to power of Erdogan’s AKP party in 2002 has provoked major changes for the better in Turkey’s economic performance, institutional architecture and foreign policy orientations.
For the first time since 1946 – the date a democracy of sorts was inaugurated – a political party has succeeded in securing a third consecutive mandate, bringing much-needed political stability to a crisis-prone Turkey. As a result of the June 12 elections, Erdogan’s party has obtained a solid 49.9 percent of the votes. The electoral score reflects not only the recognition of the government’s achievements in social and economic terms, but is interpreted by many as a mandate for further reforming Turkey’s outdated 1982 constitution.
Back in the ’90’s, I was unfortunately alone in publicly supporting the Turkish Islamic politicians in their quest to form a government. In the wake of the Iranian revolution, most western specialists feared that such an occurrence would shift Turkey’s allegiance from NATO to the Iranian camp, which currently enlists countries such as Lebanon. Turkey’s evolution in the past decade proves, however, that an authentic Islamic democracy is both possible and potentially beneficial. For the first time in decades, countries like Greece or Armenia have nothing to fear from their militarily powerful neighbour, whose foreign minister Ahmed Davutoglu inaugurated a “zero problems” neighbourhood policy.
Today, when the Arab revolutions are in full swing, it is the Turkish, and not the Iranian model, which has won the hearts and minds of many Arab reformers, from Egypt to Syria and beyond. In hindsight, it is worth pondering what would have been the potential consequences of thwarting Turkey’s Islamic political project again in 2002. In the current circumstances, however, the new Turkish foreign policy agenda and the projection of its soft power across the Middle East have so far succeeded in preventing the Arab world’s slide into despair and anti-western religious fundamentalism. (sources: Zaman, The Guardian, The Economist, EVZ)Florian Pantazi