Typology of the center-right in Turkey
Embargo Lift Date: 2016-06-24
Osmanbaşoğlu, Gülsen Kaya
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This dissertation analyzes the center-right in Turkey regarding its domestic politics and discourse through three main parameters which are democracy, state and secularism. A set of theoretical explanations helps to delve into the issue more deeply. In that regard, the three main connotations of the left and the right which arose out of the French Revolution, the socioeconomic reading and post-materialist vs. materialist divide would shed light onto the dynamic and instable nature of these concepts. Then, underlining the contextual differences influencing the interpretation of the left and the right as well as the significance of the concept of the center, the center-right in Turkey is analyzed through three parameters. Regarding the center-right’s position on democracy, this dissertation argues that the Turkish center-right is eager to employ democracy as a procedural tenet rather than a substantial one. Thus, the Turkish center-right parties are eager to concentrate on winning the elections, catching the people, representing the majority’s expectations and struggling for the will of nation rather than putting emphasis on the ends of a democratic system, equality related issues and so on. The center-right parties have an affinity to take democracy as the rules of the game. Center-right parties’ relationship with the state in Turkey is analyzed within two subtopics. First of all, in terms of power, center-right parties, represent the periphery, located in opposition to ‘center’ which brought about a reciprocal suspicion between these parties and the center. Changing the character of the system also toyed with the very concept of the center which was occasionally dominated by the CHP, bureaucracy, military and so on. Secondly, the allocation of state resources and the state’s position on the economics set another characteristic of the center-right parties. These parties intensively stress liberal economic options in their programs and discourses. Nevertheless, until ANAP tenure, the reflection of that discoursive position to the policies was quite limited. On the other hand, as service-oriented parties, center-right in Turkey to a large extent deals with development and technical progress which differs from the cultural and symbolic developmentalist insistence of the left. On the other hand, center-right parties engage in cliental or patronage relationships through the utilization of service for political gains. All in all, regarding both power and economics axes, the center-right’s position vis-à-vis the state brings us the conclusion that it was actually a love and hate relationship. Given the militant character of the very Republican ideology in Turkey, center-right digresses from that compulsive secularism and tries to lift the bans on religious oppression by trying to liberalize the visibility of religion in the public sphere, adopt new schooling, banking and other such measures to support religious followers , and to perceive religion as a cultural instrument through which it may communicate with the people. Nevertheless, the center-right in Turkey is very aware of the fragility of the secularism issue and does not promote a state system based on religion. On that subject, the center-right parties in Turkey tend to introduce a passive version of secularism and stay within the boundaries of the regime without challenging the state structure at all. In conclusion, the procedural employment of democracy, a love and hate relationship with the state and passive secularism are three main defining notions of the center-right in Turkey. If these parties move toward from these main three principles, they lose their ground and begin to collapse. In other words, if any of the following options occurs, it will stand as a proof of having moved beyond these three principles, and the center-right parties will be weakened: The drastic increase of authoritarianism without concerning democracy (even its procedural or majoritarian means), paying much more emphasis on the love side of the coin regarding its relations with the state and positioning next to the militant secularism.