Turkey’s Tea Party

Mümtazer Türköne

Some civil society organizations known for their religious tendencies expressed full support for the government in newspaper ads titled, “They thought it would last 1,000 years.” The title referred to the Feb. 28 process. This was followed by a second declaration titled, “Declaration of the nation,” which sought to express full and strong support for the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and the prime minister. The statement in the second declaration, about “attempts to undermine the achievements of the visionary leadership which has been ruling the country for 11 years,” reflects this explicit support. Such declarations target one side. These groups refer to a “group guardianship” as the main source of threats.

The terms “group guardianship,” “civilian guardianship” and “parallel state” have been used by AK Party circles in recent times to denote a natural alienation in their support base. What they mean by this is the 
Hizmet movement, or the Gülen movement as it is popularly defined. Those behind the ads are from different backgrounds and members of diverse religious communities and orders. This is strange: There is a state of disagreement between the AK Party and the Hizmet movement provoked by the controversy over prep schools. A religious group criticized the government’s decision and policy. Other groups raised opposition to such criticisms, calling it “group tutelage” and expressed full support for the government. We should not ignore the fact that these groups are respected by the people. What is strange in this move is in the visible contradiction between the content of the ads and the goal they seek to achieve. 

In general, such moves become popular and considerable when support for the government declines in an attempt to consolidate power. But there is a strange situation here: These ads were published to express opposition of a religious group which has been supporting the AK Party government for 11 years rather than another political party or initiative. It is true that there is an ongoing debate between the community and the government and that members of this community are still supportive of the AK Party and its candidates in the upcoming elections. This means that the area is being narrowed as power is being consolidated by these ads.

Mass parties consist of broad coalitions. Political leadership compiles different tendencies and interests and turns them into support for its party. Religious communities or groups have experienced repressions in these lands for many years. For the first time, they were allowed to perform their activities during the 11-year long AK Party rule. So what does the current alienation and disagreement mean?

In order to find an answer to the question, we need to follow the traces of a group within the AK Party, similar to the Tea Party of the American conservatives. A core group which sees politics as a fight to the death and compromise as treason is becoming stronger within the AK Party. Any criticisms or objections are strongly discouraged by this group.

The long reign has led to intensification of this core group within the AK Party. The tendency of the mass party to integrate diverse groups and reach out to the masses and the reflex of this core group not to share power with others are clashing. Otherwise, you cannot explain the waging of war by strong defenders of a political party against those who voted for that party. A Tea Party within the AK Party is expending tireless efforts. If you pay attention, you will see that the terms “guardianship” and “parallel state” incorporate objections to sharing power. There is no other explanation for a mass party alienating its own support base.

Turkey’s Tea Party is emerging slowly. We will follow the political developments with reference to this party.

Source: Today’s Zaman

Source: Recto | Verso

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