STRATEGIC ANALYSIS

Turkey, Islamic Politics and the ‘Turkish Model’

Mehmet Ozkan is Visiting International Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile.
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  • September 2013
    Volume: 
    37
    Issue: 
    5
    Commentaries

    In more than three decades, ever since the Islamic-oriented National Order Party was formed in 1969, Turkish politics has been analysed by many in terms of two straitjacketed views: Islamists trying to capture power on the one hand, and on the other hand the secularists or the state elite, with the help of the military, struggling to keep the country’s political orientation towards the West to protect Turkey as a secular state. This image of Turkey has created some confusion among strategic analysts abroad in understanding Turkey and its policies.

    An Islamist-versus-secularist understanding of Turkey gained currency when the Refah Party entered parliament as the largest party, after receiving more than 21 per cent of the votes in the 1995 general election. After becoming a coalition partner in 1996–1997 with the True Path Party with Refah leader Necmettin Erbakan as prime minister, even Turkish political analysts joined the debate on Islamists versus secularists at the domestic level. Although Erbakan was ousted from power in 1997, such debates continued to circulate in academic and political circles.

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