AKP (Justice and Development Party)

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AKP (JUSTICE AND DEVELOPMENT PARTY)

Political party with Islamic roots that was formed in 2001 and swept Turkey's 2002 parliamentary elections.

The Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkünma Partisi), known in Turkey by its Turkish acronym, AKP, was formed by a group of reformist politicians with roots in the Islamic movement. Its most prominent leaders are Abdullah Gül and Tayyip R. Erdoǧan. After the Constitutional Court closed the Virtue Party, the successor to the banned Refah Partisi, its conservative faction founded the Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi) in 2001. The more moderate members broke away to form AKP in August 2001, thereby cementing a division in the Islamic political movement.

AKP defined itself not as a splinter group of the Virtue Party but as a dynamic new conservative-modern force for rebuilding the collapsing center
of politics by redefining the political domain in terms of the needs of the populace. It is a socially conservative, Muslim-Turkish party that espouses economically liberal policies and integration with the European Union (EU). The charisma of Erdoǧan, his conservative lifestyle, and his role as a generational bridge between younger and older voters gave the AKP broad appeal. The AKP capitalized on the public consensus about joining EU and curtailing the role of the Turkey's military-bureaucratic elite.

The AKP's success in the 2002 elections gave the socially Muslim party an opportunity to restructure the political landscape and expand civil rights. Of the eighteen political parties that competed for seats in the parliament, only two actually won any because parties are required to obtain 10 percent of the nationwide vote in order to seat representatives in the assembly. The AKP had the larger share, winning 34.26 percent of the popular vote and 363 of the 550 seats in parliament. The Republican People's Party won almost 19.40 percent of the votes, securing 178 seats. Independent candidates unaffiliated with any party on the other nine seats. The AKP formed the government under the leadership of Abdullah Gül because the party's leader, Erdoǧan, was banned from being on the ballot in the elections. After AKP assumed control of the parliament, it passed legislation to annul the ban on Erdoǧan; he subsequently won a seat in a by-election and in March 2003 became prime minister.

AKP's identity and ideology is a pragmatic form of Islamic politics, and for that reason the party has broad appeal. It is simultaneously Turkish, Muslim, and Western. This pluralist aspect has worked well politically, given the diverse lifestyles in Turkey. The AKP's Islamism has a very heavy Turkish accent, rooted in the Turko-Ottoman ethos of communal life and a sense of leadership that requires full obedience to the party "ruler," Erdoǧan.

see also erdoǦan, tayyip; refah partisi; republican people's party (rpp).

Bibliography


Yavuz, M. Hakan. Islamic Political Identity in Turkey. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

M. Hakan Yavuz

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AKP (Justice and Development Party)

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