In 2007, the possible candidacy for President of the Republic of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – Prime Minister of the country and leader of the Islamic party Adalet ve kalkınma partisi (AKP, Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, Party for Justice and Development) – provoked strong protests in the sectors lay people of society. In order not to exacerbate the tensions, Erdoğan therefore decided to nominate the foreign minister of his government, Abdullah Gül, to the highest office in the state.
The military – who had often intervened in the political life of the Turkish Republic as guarantors of the secular state – were concerned about the possibility that an AKP member would be elected to the presidency of the country. Some of them expressed their opposition by publishing on the Internet a memorandum in which, in addition to disapproving of the policies of the ruling party, they declared that they were ready to intervene if an unwelcome candidate, such as Gül was, was elected president. For Turkey history, please check historyaah.com.
Their stance, defined as an ‘electronic coup’ and also criticized by the European Union, did not however make the Turkish premier desist from his intentions: in the parliamentary vote for the election of the president, Gül obtained the majority, but the decision of the Cumhuriyet halk partisi (CHP, Republican People’s Party) not to participate in the vote prevented the achievement of a quorum. On May 1, the Constitutional Court accepted the thesis of the CHP, according to which the presence of two thirds of the Assembly (367 deputies) was necessary to make the vote valid, and annulled the results of the elections. In response to the political stalemate that arose, Prime Minister Erdoğan decided to resort to early elections, which were held on 22 July 2007. The vote saw the clear victory of the AKP with 46.58% (341 seats), followed by the CHP with 20.88% (112 seats), and by the Milliyetçi hareket par-tisi (MHP, Party of the nationalist movement) with 14.27% (71 seats). The large parliamentary majority won then allowed the AKP to elect Gül to the presidency of the Republic in the following August.
During 2007, tensions between the ruling Islamic party and secular opponents grew further: the discovery of an alleged conspiracy (known as the Ergenekon case) aimed at overthrowing the incumbent government led, in fact, to the arrest of hundreds of exponents. of nationalist circles. Among them were also senior officers of the Armed Forces, some of whom were sentenced in 2012 to 20 years on charges of conspiring against the government.
In February 2008, the parliamentary approval of an amendment to the Constitution, which lifted the ban on wearing the headscarf on university campuses, helped exacerbate tensions with the country’s secular forces who accused the AKP of pushing forward an agenda. secret policy tending towards the Islamization of Turkey. The Constitutional Court, a traditional bulwark of Turkish secularism, canceled the criticized amendment in June, while in March it unanimously decided to evaluate the request to ban the AKP and the ban for 5 years from the public life of Erdoğan and other members of his party. In July, the request was denied.
In September 2010, the Turkish Parliament passed another 26 amendments to the Constitution, strongly supported by the government. The amendments were mainly aimed at aligning the Turkey to the EU in the field of the protection of human rights, in order to facilitate the country’s entry into the Union. Some of them severely limited the military’s powers of political initiative, forcing them, for example, to submit to the judgment of a civil court if they were accused of crimes against the state or the constitutional order. Other approved measures included increasing the influence of the president and parliament in appointing judges. Appreciated abroad, the reforms were strongly criticized by the Turkish opposition,
The AKP then stood in the 2011 elections demanding a clear mandate to change the existing Constitution. Erdoğan’s party obtained 49.83% (327 seats), the CHP 25.98% (135 seats), while the MHP 13.01% (53 seats); the clear victory did not, however, allow the AKP to obtain a parliamentary majority of two thirds useful for autonomously rewriting the Constitution.
Despite the electoral claim, the AKP continued to face strong internal opposition, especially from the secular forces. The situation seemed to escalate in June 2013, when the decision to build a shopping center in place of Gezi park next to Taksim square in the center of İstanbul caused strong protests in the city that soon spread throughout the country. The demonstrators, who for days clashed with the police forces, actually protested also to denounce the strong economic inequalities in the country, the authoritarianism of the government and the religious conservatism of its exponents.
Despite the demonstrations and the hypothesis of an electoral backlash, the AKP largely confirmed itself as the first political force in the local elections of March 2014.
In August of the same year the Turks, for the first time in their history, were then called to directly elect the President of the Republic. In the consultations, Erdoğan achieved another great success, taking the victory in the first round with 51.8% of the votes. He was succeeded by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu at the head of the government and the party, having in the meantime produced a political break with former President Gül.
In the subsequent political elections, held in June 2015, the AKP remained Turkey’s largest political force (40.87% of the votes and 258 seats), but for the first time since the 2002 elections it did not win an absolute majority of seats in Parliament. The CHP followed with 24.95% of the vote (132 seats), the MHP with 16.29% (80 seats), and the pro-Kurdish left-wing party, the Halkların demokratik partisi (HDP, People’s Democratic Party). he presented himself for the first time in the elections, which with 13.12% of the votes (80 seats) exceeded the high threshold of 10% that had previously prevented Kurdish parties from entering Parliament.
The success of the HDP took place in a very delicate phase of relations between the Turkish government and the Kurdish community. The dialogue initiated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was interrupted in 2007, when the Parliament of Ankara approved a one-year military campaign against PKK targets on the border with Iraq, following which there were several air raids and land raids by the Turkish armed forces. In 2009, new secret contacts were initiated between the parties to reach a truce which, however, lasted until the end of 2011, did not produce any concrete results.
A new round of negotiations was announced in December 2012 and appeared to yield positive results during 2013, when PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, sentenced to death in 1999, commuted to life in prison in 2002 and since then the only prisoner in the Turkish prison on the island of İmralı, spoke out in favor of a ceasefire between the parties. Nonetheless, relations between the Ankara government and the Kurdish community remained tense over the next few years.
Over the years in government, the AKP, in addition to profoundly changing the face of Turkey on an internal level, contributed to redesigning the lines of the country’s international guidelines. While the process of accession to the European Union slowed down sharply, Ankara developed an increasingly autonomous foreign policy, largely based on the ideas contained in a successful volume, published in 2001, by Ahmet Davutoğlu – Foreign Minister from 2009 to 2014 – entitled Stratejik Darinlik (Strategic Depth), foreseeing the expansion of the regional influence of Turkey in all areas once part of the Ottoman Empire (which is why this policy was also defined as neo-Ottomanism). This approach, among other things, led Ankara to take a stronger stand in defense of the Palestinian cause, with a consequent worsening of relations with Israel which reached their lowest point in 2010. That year, in fact, pro-Palestinian activists embarked on some ships, the so-called Freedom Flotilla, attempted to breach the blockade of Gaza by provoking the intervention of the Israeli naval forces. On one of the ships, the Mavi Marmara, violent clashes with Israeli special forces led to the deaths of nine activists, eight of them of Turkish nationality. The incident provoked a harsh reaction from Ankara and further compromised relations with Israel.
Turkey also closely followed the determined developments of the so-called Arab Spring, especially in Syria. When the revolt against the Baššār al-Asad regime broke out, Ankara attempted mediation, but when the negotiations failed, it decided to host the opposition leaders on its own territory. Faced with the subsequent affirmation of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (see IS) on part of the territory of Syria and Irāq, Turkey held an ambiguous attitude. Accused by many of not doing enough to oppose the self-proclaimed caliphate, Ankara decided to intervene militarily against it in the summer of 2015, in the aftermath of the July 20 attack in the city of Suruç which caused over 30 victims and was claimed from the IS. Turkey, which also authorized the use of its strategic base in Incirlik by the anti-IS coalition to strike jihadist targets, nevertheless took advantage of the opportunity to attack, in addition to the positions of the Islamic radicalists, also those of the Kurds, who are militarily engaged against the IS. This choice was confirmed by the decision to carry out a vast wave of arrests on Turkish territory, which affected both Islamic fundamentalists and Kurdish activists. effectively putting an end to any hypothesis of agreement between the government and the community. The Kurds also considered the truce definitively broken and responded to Ankara, attacking in particular men of the Turkish security forces. Alongside these developments, the AKP was unable to form a new executive, as no party was willing to participate in a coalition government. The prime minister in charge Davutoğlu therefore returned his mandate to President Erdoğan, who called the elections for the following November. On 10 October 2015, the country was shaken by a dramatic attack in the capital Ankara: on the occasion of a pacifist demonstration against the resumption of the conflict between Turkey and the Kurds, two explosions near the central station caused over 100 victims.