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From Islamic Renaissance to Neo-fascism in Turkey

  • Firat Demir (a1)

The Neoliberal Landscape is a collection of nine essays exploring the economic, political, social, and historical dynamics behind the rise of Islamic political parties in the Middle East, particularly the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) in Turkey. For scholars studying Turkey and the wider Middle East, understanding the rise of the AKP as well as its internal and external undercurrents has been a challenge. On the one hand, its founding leaders marketed their party as a democratic Islamic party, similar to Christian Democrats in Europe, and claimed to focus their efforts on democratizing Turkey by limiting the military and Kemalist hegemony. To this end, they formed alliances with the liberals and the liberal-left as well as the outward oriented business groups, and used the support of the European Union and the United States as leverage to increase their legitimacy. The AKP's strong neoliberal stance in economic policy also allowed it to win over domestic and international capital to its side. The changing times in global politics were also in the AKP's favor, coinciding with the post-9/11 period when the United States and its allies were desperate to find a liberal and democratic Muslim country with a market economy that they could use as a showcase. The AKP project, however, proved to be short-lived as it has increasingly become authoritarian at home, bordering on neo-fascist, and confrontational abroad. In fact, many analysts have suggested that what Turkey is experiencing is nothing short of a regime change, moving the country from a secular republic, albeit a semi-democratic one, to a neo-fascist one-party state with some Islamic flavor, ruled by a strong-man with no pretense of democracy. In fact, since the 7 June 2015 elections, the country has moved to a de facto presidential system, even without constitutional change.

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Review of Middle East Studies
  • ISSN: 2151-3481
  • EISSN: 2329-3225
  • URL: /core/journals/review-of-middle-east-studies
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