Will the AKP lose votes in disagreement with Gülen movement?

Emre Uslu
Emre Uslu

Date posted: November 24, 2013

AKP officials have not find any convincing argument that will convince conservative people that the government is not punishing the Gülen movement, a movement that has touched many lives among the conservative people in the heartland of Anatolia.

For the last two weeks, Turkey has focused on the prep school issue. As you all know, the government has made a controversial decision to close privately run prep schools in the name of education reform.

Several debates emerged from this decision. First, there is the question of whether or not the government has the right to close private companies. Liberal democrats rightly argue that passing a law to close down an entrepreneur’s business is against the logic of liberal economy and liberal democracy. As long as a person pays taxes, he/she has the right to open a business in any legal area and the government has no right to prevent them from opening that business and no right to shut the business down once opened.

Is the Ak Party government punishing the Gülen movement?

The second debate is concerns the real intention of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. The real goal of government is to punish the Gülen movement. Although the government rejects such allegations, it is very likely that the real purpose of the government is indeed to punish the Gülen movement, because there are several areas in which the movement disapproves of what the government is doing.

First, the government’s problematic relations with Israel were a source of disapproval from within the Gülen movement. They think that Turkey should not be in conflict with Israel because the Gülen movement thinks that conflict with Israel moves Turkey away from the West and draws the country closer to Iran, Russia and the Middle East, which they don’t want to see.

Second, the Gülen movement has declared its concern about freedom of the press, limitations in Turkish democracy and stopping the progress toward EU membership.

Third, the Gülen movement has a disagreement with the AKP’s approach to the Kurdish question. The movement has concerns about the expansion of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) influence over the Kurdish population and not guaranteeing Kurdish rights to ordinary Kurds.

These are the three major areas on which the AKP government and the Gülen movement disagree. Given the fact that such disagreements with the Gülen movement weaken the government’s approval ratings with the conservative masses in the heartland of Anatolia, the government wants to silence the criticism coming from the Gülen movement.

It is a typical attitude for the government to silence the opposition through various forms of punishment when government officials think that the criticism hurts them in any way. For instance, veteran journalist Hasan Cemal and many others were punished because they were influential figures who had voiced criticism of the government.

The Koç Group is under heavy scrutiny because the group opened its hotel to the Gezi protesters.

Many artists and TV producers have been punished and their productions cancelled because they supported the Gezi protests against the government.

The Gülen movement is just one of the most important groups that faces this threat of punishment. The movement had given its full support to the government until this year. Without that support, it wouldn’t have been so easy for the AKP to govern Turkey in the early years.

Because the Gülen movement’s critical support is now in question after the recent confrontation with the AKP government, many wonder whether the AKP government will lose votes in the upcoming elections.

The AKP officials think that they will not lose votes over that because they think that they are reforming the education system and that the reform will provide an equal opportunity for the poor to send their children to private prep schools to prepare for the national exams as the rich have done, and that the poor people will vote for the AKP.

However, many political observers disagree with such claims. They think that the intended reform could seriously harm the AKP government because the AKP officials have not find any convincing argument that will convince conservative people that the government is not punishing the Gülen movement, a movement that has touched many lives among the conservative people in the heartland of Anatolia.

More importantly, the conservative people have now, for the first time, directly faced the authoritarian side of the AKP government and they don’t want to see such a government. Previously, when the government was putting pressure on liberals and neo-nationalists, such pressure did not directly affect the everyday lives of conservative people. This time, however, conservative people in the remotest corner of the country have seen the direct impact of the authoritarian face of the government. Thus, it could indeed make the AKP government lose some votes. Yet no one knows just how many votes they will lose.

Source: Today's Zaman , November 24, 2013

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