Turks like an impression AKP is making in foreign policy

But the reality may disappoint them.

Questions:

What do you think people of Turkey (or perhaps better to say the supporters of AKP?) expect from AKP in the area of foreign policy and is AKP going to fulfill their wishes after the successful elections or not, and why?

Answers:

Joshua Walker, Assistant Professor, Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond

I think that if the election yesterday showed anything it was that the Turkish people expect a lot from their government. Civil society was better mobilized and active than in any election in memory. Therefore as the AKP forms the next government and balance’s the country’s competing interests, domestically, regionally, and internationally, they will be keeping their constituencies in mind. I think the AKP will continue to be forceful in pursuing an independent foreign policy and in particular playing the role of “big brother” to the democratic revolutions sweeping its neighborhood. There is a lot of sympathy and willingness to work with the regimes and people of the Arab world, but when events such as Syria happen, the Turkish people will be the ones to push their government into acting not the other way around. This election was not about foreign policy, but the AKP won because it projected a confidence that Turks like. Economically Turkey is growing at a rate that made it hard not to be satisfied with the AKP and Erdogan, the question is what happens when this unsustainable rate slows…are there other parties with a vision for Turkey? Given the results, the AKP will have to work with the opposition, whether it is the CHP, MHP, or Kurdish party the need to find a workable coalition to pass the constitutional reforms they promised. In many ways foreign policy will be much less contentious than the domestic challenges ahead I imagine. However the AKP set a high bar for itself and much of its foreign policy agenda will be determined by events beyond the control of Ankara that may ultimately disappoint Turks who are beginning to believe that Turkey is not just ‘a’ player in its neighborhood and global scene, but “the” critical player.

Bill  Park, Senior Lecturer, Department of Defence Studies, King’s College, London University

First, I don’t believe Turks vote primarily on foreign policy issues. Like everyone else, the economy is at the top of their list of concerns. However, Turks are nationalistic, and they are proud to see their government making an impact on the regional and global stage. This can mean standing up to the US and Israel, and appearing to pursue an independent policy towards the immediate region. The problem for the Turkish government, however, is that it has worked hard to cultivate regional political leaders, such as Assad in Syria and Ghaddafi in Libya, yet these leaders are now at odds with their own people. After some hesitation, Ankara has come out in support of the Arab Spring protesters. Libyan rebels were upset with Turkey’s initial reluctance to take sides against Ghaddafi, and in Syria the Turkish position now requires Assad to fall from power. It could be difficult for Turkey to patch up the relationship with him if he remains in office.

I doubt the Turkish electorate worries much about the details. So long as their government is making an impression, strutting the regional and global stage, and appearing to be independent – especially from the US and Israel – that is enough for them.

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