, Volume 93, Number 4

Ayla Göl
When the pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi— AKP) first came to power in 2002, Turkey was described as a shining example of ‘the only Muslim democracy’ in the Middle East. The AKP has remained in power since then. While some hailed it as the so-called ‘Turkish model’, many have been rather sceptical about an ideological ‘hidden agenda’ of the AKP leadership to Islamize Turkish politics. Nevertheless, a stable Turkey under the pro-Islamic AKP rule was perceived as essential to improving relations between the West and the Muslim world. Within the last two decades, under Erdoğan’s leadership it has become clear that a western model of ‘liberal democracy’ will probably not be the final destination of Turkey’s path, but just one of many possible exits. What went wrong under the AKP governance, causing a promising ‘Turkish model’ to turn into authoritarian rule with the rise of illiberal democracy? While the three books under review have different emphases and address different questions, all of them offer timely insights into understanding this pressing question in both Turkish and Middle Eastern politics. They all seem to broadly agree that Turkey under AKP rule has undergone a metamorphosis in three stages: the ‘economic miracle’, combined with pseudo-democratization (2002–7); the phase of ‘regime change’ (2007–11) and, finally, the rise of authoritarianism and Islamo-nationalism (2011–15). Based on these insights, it is possible to argue that this metamorphosis has led to the paradoxes of ‘new’ Turkey, which I will attempt to highlight and explore in this review article. I identify three paradoxes: the persistency of Islam, combined with nationalism (Islamo-nationalism), in state-society relations; the impacts of Turkey–EU relations and reforms on the democratization process; and the future of republicanism in Turkey. I conclude by arguing that the rise of Erdoğan’s authoritarianism combined with illiberal democracy at home will have serious implications for Turkish foreign policy.

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Book review essay: The paradoxes of ‘new’ Turkey: Islam, illiberal democracy and republicanism
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