With the economy notching up impressive growth rates, investors have been sanguine about Turkey’s politics so long as there is no return to the cycle of coups and economic crises that plagued the country in the latter half of the 20th century.
The chances of another coup – there have been three since 1960 while a fourth government was forced to resign in 1997 – appear remote given that AK has clipped the army’s powers. …
… Scaremongering suggesting the AK has some hidden Islamist agenda is gaining less traction these days.
“If we did have a hidden agenda this would be the best kept secret on earth because people have seen us in action for the past nine years,” Egemen Bagis, Turkey’s minister for European affairs, told Reuters at a marina built for the new rich on the outskirts of Istanbul.
In disarray since AK first swept traditional parties from power in 2002, the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) opposition has changed tactics. It talks less of an Islamist takeover and more on the dangers of Erdogan subverting democracy by gaining control of all levers of the state.
The CHP’s new leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu accuses Erdogan of intolerance and of leading a “wiretapping government” to keep political rivals in check, and has criticized AK for a widening wealth gap despite years of record growth and low inflation. …
… in just nine years under the AK party, religious Turks who were the underdogs of society under previous secular governments have come into their own across the country and displaced the secular, Westernized elite from power.
Generals, the self-proclaimed guardians of secularism, are now confined to barracks; the wives of Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul assertively wear headscarves; government receptions where raki and whiskey are not served no longer make headlines.
Some Turks say “neighborhood pressure” – showing piety in dress or fasting during Ramadan – gets you government jobs and contracts. Some say the call to prayer from mosques is louder under AK and surveys show more women wear headscarves.
The government has made alcoholic drinks more expensive while trying to introduce tougher laws on sale and consumption, particularly to discourage young drinkers.
Education, in a country of 75 million with an average age of 28, is a big issue. Teachers complain that more pious colleagues are being favored for jobs at state schools. …
… Accusations that the police is filled with supporters of an Islamist movement led by Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim preacher who re-based to Pennsylvania for fear of a crackdown at home in the late 1990s, appear particularly sensitive.
Three months ago a well-known journalist, Ahmet Sik, was put in detention for writing a book that repeated the allegations. Police sought to destroy copies of the unpublished book, but Turks can still find it through the Internet.
Tens of thousands protested in Istanbul in May against Internet censorship and plans for a new filtering system, due to be introduced on August 22, under which users must sign up for one of four filters – domestic, family, children and standard.
Turkey has previously banned access to various websites, including YouTube for more than two years, under court orders imposed for infringing decency laws. …