The AK Party’s Political Identity

What the AK Party needs now is a new definition of identity in line with the requirements of constructing the "new" Turkey to complete its political visions.

The Justice and Development (AK Party) leadership has refrained from acts of self-identification since the party’s establishment in Aug. 2001. Having been forcibly removed from power during the post-modern coup of Feb. 28, 1997 and losing a series of closure cases over the years, the political movement that established the AK Party as a way out of crisis long sought to explain which principles it did not defend instead of describing what exactly its platform entailed.

The AK Party’s early years reflected an effort by the movement to shelter itself from the perpetrators of the 1997 military coup who clearly did not intend to retire just yet. At the same time, the party reached out to social groups that, in line with the establishment’s narrative, had identified the Islamic movement as a threat to society. During this period the primary objective was to receive support from the majority whose quest for reliable political actors had turned into an ideology by itself.

It was this set of priorities that compelled the AK Party to ignore the question of political identity for several years – to such an extent that it even parted with its self-proclaimed notion of conservative democracy which was the product of an expedited search for a way to disassociate itself from the tradition of national outlook.

The AK Party’s credentials as a mass party, too, pushed the question of identity to the background. Addressing the needs of a large and diverse audience, the AK Party leadership strived to ensure adequate representation for all social groups with whom they could work on the basis of democratization.

Even though the AK Party has refrained from developing a strictly defined identity due to its core political conjuncture and its objective to be a broad-based political power, it has always had certain political missions such as bringing the state and society together, strengthening politics by eliminating illegal power elites that have settled down in politics and normalizing the relations between thepublic, politics and state.

The AK Party has established strong bonds with society throughout this time while it has abstained from defining a certain identity. The AK Party’s mission to struggle with tutelage has provided it with a social grassroots base that has supported it with political priorities. The AK Party has substituted its need for identity with political mission, and thus, it has given political responsibility to its base and has got rid of the risk of constricting its social base by confining itself to an absolutely determined identity.

After the 2010 constitutional referendum, the surge of attacks against the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AK Party led the party’s mission to turn into a form of identity in the course of time. Erdoğan and other senior officials of the AK Party refused the offer for a political axis shift as they were resolved on constructing a “new” Turkey. Moreover, the party’s base held strictly to this decision. All of these developments opened the way for the AK Party to determine the course of its identity. As these lines emerged in a state of struggle, they had a characteristic that narrowed the AK Party’s political visions.

Now that the presidential election, the AK Party congress and handover ceremonies are all completed in favor of Erdoğan and the AK Party, it is possible to say that this struggle has arrived at a solution. What the AK Party needs now is a new definition of identity in line with the requirements of constructing the “new” Turkey to complete its political visions.

Unlike the liquidation politics, constructive politics entails a nonreactive political vision that is independent from conjuncture. This requires a clearly defined political vision. The speeches that Erdoğan and Davutoğlu delivered at the AK Party congress gave satisfactory clues to determine the parameters of the AK Party’s identity. One of the priorities of the AK Party for the next period is to give content to its political identity in line wi

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