The AKP effect?
Is the AKP party responsible for the Turkish “turnaround” that had been observed during 2002-2007?
After the early elections on November 3rd 2002, due to continuous disagreement between coalition forming parties, a completely different political picture emerged. In fact, the parliament had a dual composition with only AKP (Justice and Development Party), a 15 month-old new party in power and CHP. It was the first time since Turkey moved into multiparty democracy in 1946 that such a radical change has occurred. This shift is important to show the magnitude and scope of transformation, which has covered almost all spheres of the society.
The new decade of economic revival in Turkey has been, therefore, correlated with the arrival of the Islamic party AKP to power. This actually encouraged some analysts to see causality between these two results. Following the “Arab spring”, Islamic parties gaining power after the recent elections in North Africa (Tunisia, Egypt, and Morocco) are very appealed to the “AKP model”, that has been seen as a potential similar economic outcome for this new “Islamic wave”.
This perspective is however missing some facts: new Turkey’s rapid emergence has not primarily been due to Islamist ideology or, for that matter, to policies associated with the Islamic faith. Rather, as shown in many reports, Turkey’s rise as a power on the regional and even global scene is the consequence of the country’s blistering economic growth over the last fifteen years. Merits of the AKP government can be mainly drawn from its continuing commitment to improve its economic policies, these policies being actually based on structural reforms and new engagements that were initiated many years before its arrival to power (many of them pushed, interestingly, by the IMF).
Moreover, despite the improved standards of living under AKP, Turkey is still very much a developing country: the country’s per capita GDP is still relatively low by OECD standards, considerably lower than European Union rates, and about a third that of Israel, the leading industrial nation in the Middle East.
The unemployment remains also very high (around 17%).
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