Prime Minister Erdogan’s address at the AK Party’s 4th Grand Congress on September 30th, 2012 initiated a debate on his party’s new ideological inclination and the future of Turkish politics. Certain analysts drew attention to the replacement of the AK Party’s previous emphasis on “service” (i.e. economic development and concrete projects) by “ideology” and “mission.”1 Other observers interpreted Prime Minister Erdogan’s emotional speech marked with references to historical symbols of “the great nation” as a search for a new “Turkish-Islamic synthesis.”2 His emphasis on the shared history of Turks and Kurds, coupled with the 2071 vision (the millenial of the Battle of Manzikert), were believed to represent proof of such a quest.3
Understanding the AK Party’s Identity Politics: A Civilizational Discourse and its Limitations
The AK Party seeks to respond to four challenges stemming from three confrontations (Islamism, Kemalism, and regional balance of power) that are intertwined and intensely interactive: The potential radicalization of Islamist movements through new sectarian polarization, the extension of the Kurdish Question regionally and internationally, the struggle for greater influence among regional powers, and the repercussions of Israel’s aggressive policies. The discourse of civilization that Prime Minister Erdogan frequently and recently employs reflects a quest to invent a new political language and an overarching shared identity regarding the future of both Turkey and the Middle East.
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