Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Turkey's new Ataturk?
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP party have made Turkey wealthier and more powerful on the world stage. But some Turks are concerned about a loss of civil liberties.
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"[Kilicdaroglu] is making small revolutions in the evolution of the CHP," says Yazici. "Now with Kilicdaroglu we have a real alternative."Skip to next paragraph
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AKP: Boosted economy, weakened military
The AKP traces its roots to an Islamist party that was finally outlawed – even Erdogan was imprisoned for four months for reading a poem in 1998 that stated the "mosques are our barracks… the minarets our bayonets.”
The AKP has since shown, however, that it would not usher Iranian-style Islamic rule into Turkey, which would have upended nearly a century of Ataturk-driven secular rule. Instead it has overseen a pro-business agenda that has seen Turkey through the recent global downturn unscathed.
"Religion? They changed that for money," says one Turkish journalist covering the AKP rally, who could not be named giving a political opinion.
Yet at the same time, the AKP has fought back against the fiercely statist and secular establishment, by imposing civilian rule – through the courts and at the ballot box – over the once all-powerful military, and by deestablishing the establishment.
The AKP had to fight that fight to survive, but at the same time it “created a dynamism which made the AKP more and more strident,” says columnist Akyol. It also consolidated power in the hands of one individual, he says.
When the AKP was first formed, there were several key leaders at the top. But others fell away, and Abdullah Gul began president, so “it became the party of Erdogan, period,” notes Akyol. “This third term will be a time when the opposition criticizes the AKP for not being liberal enough.”
There are currently 57 journalists in prison in Turkey. The Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders downgraded Turkey's press freedom ranking from 102nd in the world in 2008 to 138th in 2010, behind Zimbabwe and Algeria. Some 7,000 websites are banned.
Opposition building momentum ahead of next election
Sensing a real chance during the campaign, the leader of the “new” CHP, Kilicdaroglu, traveled to each one of Turkey's 81 provinces and spoke at 300 rallies, while logging 36,660 miles by jet and helicopter, and thousands more by road, according to one Turkish media tabulation.
The prime minister, by contrast, traveled to just 68 provinces and addressed 90 rallies, while flying 24,808 miles [45,944km].
"The AKP made new investments in all areas, very quickly, and brought good stability for salaries," says Mr. Oynan, the AKP supporter, adding that there was "no chance" the opposition could win Sunday's vote. "But next election, in four years if the AKP does not fulfill its promises, people will choose another."