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Will Turkey Turn Back Toward the West Next Year?

Daniel Pipes observes that the AKP won the 2002 election with 34.28 percent of the vote. The CHP won 19.4 percent. If you take the five anti-Islamist parties that failed to receive 10 percent and assumed they allied with the CHP, they’d have a majority of 55.7 percent of the seats. That means a defeat for the AKP and possible exclusion from the ruling bloc.

The AKP did not originally ride in on a tidal wave of pro-Islamist sentiment. The party did, however, expand their gains in July 2007, and that’s when they felt it was politically tenable to pursue a more Islamist course. The belief that this contributed to the AKP’s success is partially what’s motivating Erdogan to act so aggressively now as he faces domestic political troubles one year away from the next election. One top Israeli expert, Professor Efraim Inbar, said that the AKP’s popularity is declining and if the current dissatisfaction with them is preserved, “it is likely that Turkey will emerge with a new prime minister.”

The West should have two main goals now: contain Erdogan’s aggression and vindicate the opposition in the process. It is true that Erdogan is seeking confrontation for political gain, but it is this straining of ties that is being used by the CHP to hammer him. Standing firm so the problems he causes are apparent will add weight to the opposition’s condemnations of his foreign policy.

The West must also be on watch for potential aggression against Turkey’s pillars of democracy. The AKP is already trying to roll back freedom by attempting to outlaw adultery, taking over a huge portion of the media, arresting military officers on what may be trumped up charges, and moving to place the judiciary under the control of the AKP-dominated parliament. If the opposition is having trouble putting the AKP on the defensive for these actions, the West should release reports, and officials should make statements that will grab headlines by pointing out the dangers to Turkey’s democracy. The population may not be pro-American, but they are not anti-democracy.

In democracies, politics is usually cyclical. Once a party has been in power for an extended period of time, its opponents have a natural advantage. The AKP could still win the most votes, but even a significant loss of seats will be a major setback that will pressure them into moderating their actions. The AKP is in trouble but the secular opposition must unite. The CHP is talking about reforming the law keeping parties that win less than 10 percent out of parliament. If they can succeed, it will make it easier to contain the AKP and strengthen Turkey’s democracy.

Things are very bad with Turkey right now -- but democracy, the process used by the AKP to come to power, may very well be its undoing next July.

This article was sponsored by Stand Up America.