Leadership and Democracy LabWestern Social Science

The Turkish Ruling Party and Textiles

Primary contributor: Rojin Hessami

Team Leader: Ernest Tam


Turkey’s current ruling party, The Justice and Development Party (AKP), is the nation’s largest conservative political party. Established in 2001, the party was formed by a cross-section of political members of existing conservative parties, such as the Welfare Party, the Motherland Party, the National Salvation Party, and the Virtue Party. Currently the AKP is under the leadership of Tayyip Erdogan—who first entered politics as the mayor of Istanbul from 1994-1998. At the start of its emergence, the party faced both Turkey’s political instability in the 1990s and the economic turmoil of 2001 which saw a rise in inflation and the plunging of shares. The AKP marked its presence in the national election which took place in November 2002, where it became Turkey’s first party in eleven years to achieve the majority, winning two-thirds of the parliamentary seats. In the last five legislative elections, between 2002 and 2015, the party has won pluralities and held the majority seats for roughly 13 years, only to lose it in June 2015, but regaining it again in November. The Justice and Development Party is currently under the leadership of Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, while former party leader Erdogan serves as President.

            The AKP party originally ruled according to doctrines of modern Islamism, but later abandoned this ideology in favor of a conservative democracy. The party began portraying itself as strongly pro-Western, advocating for a liberal market economy, ascension into the European Union and for foreign policies emphasizing Turkey’s regional role. In an effort to conform to Western standard of freedom and democracy, the AKP has been a long-time supporter of a strong centralized leadership and attempted to implement presidential system of government. The AKP’s public endorsement of secularism hasn’t eased the worries of critics, who accuse the party of pursuing a hidden agenda. The AKP has also been criticised for having foreign and domestic policies that are characterized by Neo-Ottoman or Pan-Islamist features—advocated at the expense of the nation’s secular republic ideology. Consequently, the AKP has been accused of having abandoned its commitment to secular principles—entrenched in the Turkish constitution—which has been a predominant conflict within Turkish politics.

In recent years, Turkey has undergone a turn of events in different directions. Erdogan the AKP’s leader, has been accused of having utilized highly authoritarian methods of governing. This includes the tight control over alcohol consumption and abortion. The Erdogan government is also known for monitoring opposition media by enforcing strict limitations on its publications, and even temporarily restricting the Turkish population’s access to Twitter and YouTube. As of late 2014, Erdogan and the ruling party have been describes as having adopted a winner-takes all approach, which suggests that there is an interference with the rule of law and civil liberties of the nation. Additionally Erdogan has used the Turkish police to carry out numerous arrests of journalists and individuals who have publicized anti-Erdogan or anti-government opinions.

            Currently, Turkey is facing political unrest in terms of ensuring the existence of democracy in the nation, as demonstrated by the wide-spread anti-government protests in May 2013 as well as the heightened tension between supporters of the ruling AKP and its adversaries. This is illustrated in the failed attempt for a military coup d’état which took place in July 2016.  Members of the Turkish military attempted to arrange a coup in an effort to regain power from Erdogan’s regime. While he was away on vacation, the military forces took hold of several media outlets, Istanbul’s airport, and many strategic bridges. Unsuccessful in their attempt to overcome all forms of media and communication, Erdogan was able to contact his supporters via social media and urge that they retaliate against the military on behalf of the government. The night of the coup resulted in a death toll of approximately 290, and the arrests of thousands of coup supporters. Following the coup d’état, the Erdogan initiated a series of Turkish Purges which aimed to expand the arrests of personnel involved, examining areas such as Turkish civil servants and private businesses. Among these arrests were at least 103 generals, the governor of Sinop Province, the detaining and removal of 2,745 Turkish judges. Besides this, 2,839 soldiers of varying ranks have been detained, and there has been the suspension of approximately 49,321 public sector employees and 15,200 teachers. Turkey continues to struggle against political unrest with Erdogan’s regime undergoing a decline in Turkish democracy. In the June 2015 national election, the AKP lost the parliamentary majority and refused to accept the results, calling for a repeat election which eventually took place in November 2015. In this election, the AKP regained the parliamentary majority. Since then, the Turkish population has expressed their doubt as to whether or not change is attainable via peaceful and diplomatic means.

The AKP has directly impacted the competitiveness of Turkey’s textile industry continually over the past year. Back in April 2016, Turkey proposed an anti-dumping duty on all cotton imports from the U.S., which consequently surged costs for Turkey’s own textile manufacturers. Effective immediately, the Turkish government implemented a dumping-duty of 3 percent on cotton imports under the presumption that they were a threat to Turkey’s domestic cotton production. Consequently, cotton farmers in the U.S. have spoken out against the rise in duties and will pursue further actions via the World Trade Organization and Turkish courts. The new ‘dumping-duty’ will jeopardize Turkey’s textile business with the U.S., as U.S. cotton will be positioned at a competitive disadvantage. With shipments averaging between 1.5 million to 2 million bales annually, Turkey is the U.S.’s second largest cotton buyer. Accordingly as the costs of raw materials increases it will continue to impede on the competitiveness of Turkish exports, therefore regional textile manufacturers must compensate for the 2 to 3 percent rise.