Is the ruling party (AK Party) legitimate in Turkey?

Currently, there are growing tensions in the ruling party of Turkey due to corruption and bribery scandal. In relation to that, the sons of former Interior Minister Muammer Guler, former Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan, former Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdogan Bayraktar of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), who were replaced in a Cabinet reshuffle following the raid, Halkbank General Manager Suleyman Aslan and Reza Zarrab, an Iranian businessman of Azeri origin, have been arrested as part of the corruption and bribery probe. All those corruption and bribery scandal have far-reaching repercussions both nationally and internationally. The scandal broke right at the middle of the disagreement over the ‘dershane’ (private educational institution) between ‘Gulen/Hizmet Movement’ and ‘AK Party’. Therefore, the scandal is perceived as a revenge against the AKP by Gulenists for the ‘dershane’ incident. Basically, the ruling party claims the scandal is an international plot which are described as ‘interest lobby’ or ‘foreign forces’ by Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan. The ruling party also believes that mainly US and Israel back those operations with targeting Halkbank, Turkey’s largest publicly-traded bank, and the government itself due to their close relationships with Iran. In this context, the ruling party blames ‘Gulen Movement’ for cooperating with international powers to plot against the ruling party to take over the government. However, the government did not provide any evidence to support those claims. In fact those claims are not a new or recent  phenomenon by the government. There are a lot of paranoia about international community and foreigners specifically (Western countries and Israel). But how the ruling party came to this point?

Since Erdogan clashed with Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos after heated debate on Gaza, the ruling party’s international and national perception have been changed into more Islamic and extremely authoritarian way with very strict juridical acts and practices. Erdogan and his party started to blame international community and Israel for leading a campaign to discredit him and to the country. The ‘one minute’ crisis followed by a remarkable chain of events such as; diplomatic crisis between Israeli Deputy Foreigner Minister Danny Ayalon and Turkish Ambassador to Israel Ahmet Oguz Celikkol, Gaza flotilla incident which was organised by the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) (recently investigating for working in close collaboration with El-Qaeda) Those incidents irreparably damaged the relations between the two countries .

Nevertheless, the foreign policy has completely changed into Sunni-Islamic way which is described as ‘Neo-Ottomanism’ nationalist-religion-centric focus that targets former Ottoman Empire borders especially in the Middle East. Basically, new Turkish foreign policy which was defined as ‘zero-problem with neighbours’ by Ahmet Davutoglu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, aiming economic and political cooperation between the countries in the Middle East. Initially, Turkish authorities started to cooperate with the dictators (despite the local community) in the area in order to designate a free-trade zone in the hopes of attracting Gulf investment. However, after the the Arab Spring, most of totalitarian regimes were overthrown by the libertarian movements. Turkish foreign policy could not make any predictions about the Arab Spring due to its limited and narrow diplomatic analyse. During this period, Turkish authorities made another risky and dangerous progress with cooperating illegal/terrorist subcontractor groups (Hamas, Al-Qaeda, Muslim Brothers) in order to direct or effect the local communities in the area regardless of its social and diplomatic risks.

Moreover, the ruling party did not meet the conditions of the NATO (adapting Chinese air-base system, in spite of NATO) In addition, they confront the NATO and the US in most of the cases including such as; breaking the economic sanctions on Iran. Nonetheless, the ruling party did not match criteria for the European Union candidacy. On the contrary, the government misused the EU candidacy negotiations in election campaigns for the domestic politics. The government believed that economic successes would provide a political stability and international prestige regardless of their wrong and unlawful acts within internal affairs.

The ruling party followed the same processes in domestic policy as they did in the foreign policies. The AK Party believed that they would be the only and indispensable power to rule the country. This belief was the most significant obstacle in front of the AK Party to understand internal and external affairs. AK Party blamed both international and national opposition and rivals for plotting them therefore, AK Party claimed to fight with those powers in the name of state’s independence and survival. This belief transformed the AK Party from moderate-Islamic party to radical violent party and created chaos within the state (Gezi Park protests and Roboski (Kurdish) Massacre). This period caused chain of incidents that the ruling party could not control and manage adequately. AK Party change its direction to compete with its national rivals to ensure its power however, they always violate legal and legitimate fields to stay in power. This period polarised the country and positioned the citizens as ‘supporter of the state (AK Party)’ or ‘traitor’. The ruling party started to act as the owner of the country and the citizens therefore, they want to shape the society and the state within their own traditions and rules.

Consequently, past incidents have to be well-analysed to understand the approach of AK Party’s towards the corruption and bribery scandal. The ruling party blaming foreign powers (Israel, US, interest lobby?) and Gulen (Hizmet) Movement to plot or coup against AK Party. However, they did not and still do not deny the claims about corruption and bribery. In this situation, the ruling party do not act as a normal party to let the judiciary to investigate claims properly. On the contrary, AK Party takes the scandal with a paranoiac attitude and blame everyone internationally and nationally for weakening the country. In this circumstances the ruling party cannot be taken legal and legitimate in international arena in terms of universal political ethics and the law if they still act abnormal and paranoiac towards international and national powers.

About the Author
Originally from Istanbul, Turkey, Gurkan is an Oxford BA (Hons) graduated and pursuing a double master's in International Political Economy at Warwick & Strategic Studies at NTU in Singapore. He is also a published poet.