Yet the judicial reforms approved this week may be an anti-democratic trap door, for they give the AKP the ability to limit systemic checks and balances on executive power. The AKP can pack the courts. The judiciary has protected the Turkish military. The AKP distrusts the military because it fears a coup, and with good reason. The military sees itself as the protector of the secular state and a bulwark against Muslim fundamentalist usurpation.
Will the Kemalist democratic structures survive an empowered Islamist AKP?
This is an important question for everyone with an interest in seeing reformed Islamists maintain a secular democratic state and continue the process of economic and political integration with Europe. Everyone in this case is the vast majority of the civilized world because the prosperous existence of such a polity would deal militant Islamist terror groups like al-Qaida a complete ideological and political defeat.
These are high stakes, indeed.
I have tended to be an optimist about the AKP, in part because the CHP governments of the 1990s were so terribly corrupt. In my view, the Kemalist corruption damaged Ataturk's legacy. However, history also justifies Ataturk's concern for the threat to Turkey posed by anti-democratic Islamists. Today, accusations of corruption tag the AKP, and the AKP's foreign policy gyrations over the last three years do not bode well of stable U.S.-Turkey relations.
After Sunday's election, I had the opportunity to chat with Gerald Robbins, senior fellow at Foreign Policy Research Institute. Robbins' take is dire. "Although the military is now subject to civilian courts and their oversight, the very composition of those courts is fraught with controversy." The court packing to favor the AKP may well occur.
Turkey Prime Minister and leader of the AKP Recep Tayyip Erdogan has, in Robbin's view "effectively scuttled the secularist-dominated military and judicial power bases under the auspices of greater 'democratization.'" Then Robbins added, "Sept. 12, 2010, might be marked as the day Kemal Ataturk's secularist vision effectively ended, and a new Islamist-influenced era began."
I told him I hope he is wrong. My gut says he isn't. The last thing Turkey and the world need is a Sultan Erdogan.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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