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Monday, March 26, 2012

The beginning of the end of the AKP/Gülen marriage?

...the tactical alliance between the AKP and the Gülen movement began to fade once the two groups’ common enemies had been neutralized. As the split between the two is likely to form a central fault line in Turkish politics in coming years, it is important to briefly note wherein their differences lie. - excerpt from "The Big Split: The Differences that Led Erdogan and the Gulen Movement to Part Ways", first published in the Turkey Analyst, a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program Joint Center.
A fascinating, unemotional and informative look at the roots of the AKP/Gülen partnership that has been so effective in the last decade of Turkish politics. More importantly, the authors explain how the same things that brought the two Islamist groups together may be tearing them apart now that the Kemalist military has essentially been neutralized.

Of particular interest was the focus on the specific (and different) Islamic roots of both movements. People in the west (and indeed many secular Turks) have a tendency to lump all Islamic factions, orders, movements, etc. into one, assuming that, since both the AKP and Gülenists have fundamentalist roots, they will naturally get along into perpetuity since at least one of them is (officially) in charge. Alas, this is not the case. However, against a common enemy even the most unlikely of partnerships tend to emerge, so it's understandable that the two different ideological sects would come together against the military. (But let's not forget that when religion gets intertwined in politics regardless of the country, who knows what kind of craziness will result...?)

The article concludes by saying that the rift between the two is essentially one caused by ideological differences on Iran, Israel, etc., but more importantly by a desire for power which, in terms of Erdoğan at least, is fairly obvious. The questions in my mind therefore become: will Islamist control of Turkish politics now weaken and, if so, will any of the secular parties be able to swoop in to capitalize? Sadly, after a devastatingly corrupt and inept period of secular governance in the 90s, this is unlikely - although I hope I'm wrong.

I learned quite a bit from the folks at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program Joint Center (although CA-CI&SRSPJC is a mouthful) and hope you do too. This is the type of article that reminds us why academia and academics should continue to play a pivotal role in policy-making.

HT: Burhan Gurdogan (@bgurdogan)