Public Talk in June 2011: Turkey’s Elections: A Mandate for the AKP’s Bold New Middle East Policy?

9 June 2011, Committee Room 5, House of Commons, 6-7 PM
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In recent years Turkey had appeared to be making progress on the road to integration with Europe and the West. The country’s application for EU membership, wide ranging reform of its economic, social and political sectors, as well as increased engagement on a whole range of diplomatic issues, such as Cyprus, northern Iraq and the Middle East Peace Process. More recently however, serious questions have emerged over the direction of Turkish domestic and external policy under the Justice and Development Party, known as AKP and led by Prime Minister Erdogan with significant policy input from activist Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Arguably, the debates involved are at base symptomatic of the long-standing - foundational - Turkish struggle between the “Kemalist” ideals of a secular republican nationalism traditionally associated with the Army set against Turkey's Islamic identity, as represented by the current government - but other factors require examination also.

From its initial election in 2002, every move of Turkey's conservative AKP government has caused intense domestic and international speculation over its policy directions. Was Turkey becoming more Islamic? Or becoming true to the outlook of majority of its citizens? As the Turkish economy recorded rapid growth and Turkish foreign policy undertook a distinctly proactive turn to assert Turkish influence in the Middle East and North Africa, arguably at the cost of some of her NATO allies’ interests, the AKP has undertaken widely debated initiatives, making new allies and letting go of some old ones. Alas, the upcoming elections are deemed by many to be a watershed in determining future direction for Turkish politics. Whatever the outcome, Turkey will remain a key diplomatic and strategic player between the West and the Middle East, by virtue of its geographical location alone.

Coming just days before the upcoming Turkish elections, by kind invitation of Gisela Stuart MP, The Henry Jackson Society is pleased to be able to invite you to a discussion with Ziya Meral, an expert on Turkish politics and society and Researcher in Political Science at Cambridge University. Mr Meral will offer his views on the expected results of the upcoming elections and assess the likely implications for Turkish policy at this crucial juncture.