It was June, 2013. I arrived in Ankara, Turkey, right on time to witness the development of the protests that began at Istanbul’s Gezi Park and spread throughout the country’s urban centers, as well as to experience and participate in the social and political discussion that was taking place at that time. The purpose of my visit included the participation in a conference on Turkish foreign policy and some field research. That gave me the opportunity to speak and exchange views with students of International Relations, academics, experts, and diplomats.
A widespread understanding was that Turkish society had been left without a political alternative. In other words, the political opposition – most notably the Republican People’s Party, CHP – was not an adequate opponent to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). And there was no other option. Most of the people I discussed with were open in expressing their discomfort with the AKP’s policies. Others, mostly people affiliated in one way or another to the government, appeared more reluctant to directly criticize the AKP. Yet the consensus was clear: The AKP has made significant improvements with regard to the country’s democratization, economy, and foreign policy. But this did not change the fact that it became gradually authoritarian by having a majoritarian approach to democracy. As often argued, this was also reflected in foreign policy. Continue reading