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The Electoral Success of the AKP: Cause for Hope and Despair

The 2011 elections marked the emergence of the AKP as a political brand that is likely to win all the elections in the foreseeable future. The party’s overwhelming popularity is linked to its image as the most reliable and trustworthy political party today. The ambitious democratization promises of the AKP created hopes for a paradigm shift in Turkish politics in the aftermath of the elections. However the AKP’s overemphasis on its brand name and its consequent monopolization of the democratization process, excluding Turkey’s other parties, have raised concerns over the fulfillment of a more profoundly democratic participatory system in Turkey. Moreover, the AKP’s adoption of populist rhetoric and stereotypes, which is usually the hallmark of Turkey’s right-wing traditionalist parties, raises further concerns. Finally, the failure of the main opposition CHP to form a coherent platform to challenge the AKP’s monopoly over Turkey’s political scene has contributed to the growing skepticism for a new democratic political paradigm in Turkey.

The Electoral Success of the AKP Cause for Hope and
The AKP seemed to owe a considerable part of its popularity to the electorate’s retrospective voting approving its past performance in engaging with the Kemalist establishment and delivering material improvements.
 

Introduction

It was obvious to almost anyone keeping an eye on Turkish politics that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) would emerge victorious from the June 12, 2011 elections in Turkey. The actual election results surprised many only because of the margin of the AKP’s victory, for few expected an increase in the AKP’s share of votes for a third consecutive term. The election results have shown that since the last elections in 2007, the AKP has increased its votes by 3% and reached the threshold of 50%, which in effect meant twice as much support as its closest follower, the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Moreover, the AKP’s popularity for the first time since 2002 elections did not seem to involve reaction votes against the infringements of the military-led Kemalist establishment into the political sphere. To the contrary, the AKP seemed to owe a considerable part of its popularity to the electorate’s retrospective voting approving its past performance in engaging with the Kemalist establishment and delivering material improvements in the daily lives of people in Turkey. The 2011 elections, in this respect, marked the emergence of the AKP as a political brand that guarantees the electorate’s satisfaction, or at least, that is the most trustworthy, reliable and capable political party more likely than any of its competitors to satisfy the electorate’s demands. This was a huge success that firmly declared the AKP a predominant party, unusually free from the depleting impact of running the country and likely to win each and every free and fair election for the foreseeable future. The AKP’s election declaration entitled “Turkey is Ready, Target is 2023,” indicating a political horizon reaching as far as the centennial of the Republic, has therefore turned out to be not a pretentious assertion, but an acknowledgement of the fact that it is the most formidable political party planning and, all things being equal, likely to win at least three more elections until 2023.

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