By Barry Rubin
--There are strong limits on how far Islamism can go in Turkey.
And doesn't much of Turkish foreign policy on regional issues under the AKP look like Iran or Egypt today? The attitude toward Israel, Iran (despite competition in Syria), the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and Hizballah are all in line with an assessment of it as a radical Islamist policy.
ain static. And having about one-third of the population on your side is cold comfort indeed in a democratic state when those people’s votes don’t really count in writing laws, choosing judges, and determining school curricula.
This is where an interesting comparison to the United States comes in. Within Turkey, while under pressure and sometimes even intimidation, much of the mass media and universities are still in the hands of opposition forces. There are campaigns and themes leading to more Islamist attitudes. But by way of comparison, in the United States those two institutions are overwhelmingly in the hands of the pro-government left. This institutional control has gradually led to a remarkable change in popular attitudes that may end up enshrining the left in power for a long time to come. Other views will certainly not disappear in America. But, again, how important is that when the power to set law and customs resides in the hands of one side?
Incidentally, Erdogan recently unleashed his police on the students of the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara where I once spent a very enjoyable semester teaching. No previous government in Turkey could have gotten away with such a violent action against students not threatening any violence. See here, here and here
And for the best article about the struggle for power between Islamists and moderates in Tunisia, see this superb article by Bruce Maddy-Weitzman here. He concludes:
"Tunisia's political and economic prospects, and with it the secular-Islamist partnership which had guided Tunisia for nearly a year, appeared increasingly fragile. To be sure, the underlying rationale that had resulted in the partnership still existed. The fact that Tunisia's primary Islamist movement was relatively “soft”, in comparison to sister movements elsewhere, had rendered it more amenable to cooperating with secular forces. Tunisia's fragmented secular camp, while certainly militant in its desire to protect the Bourguiba-modernist legacy and suspicious of the Islamists, was similarly desirous of avoiding a ruinous confrontation with the Islamists which would destabilize the country beyond repair. Tunisia's neighbors, in this case Egypt and Libya, continued to provide examples of what to avoid.
But the public sphere appeared increasingly polarized, and the way forward in the process of institution-building appeared murky, which did not bode well for the future. Tunisia had made important strides in its democratization experiment but, as with all such cases, there was no guarantee that it would culminate in a functioning, institutionalized democracy. Olivier Roy's argument that Arabs can become democrats without becoming secularists or liberals, and that, indeed, the new context of Arab society is mandating exactly such a circumstance, may well apply in Tunisia. But it will hardly be a democracy that the country's secular-Left camp will find easy to digest, let alone be enthralled with, thus ensuring that Tunisia's political life will be messy and contentious for years to come.
This article is published on PJMedia.