Recent developments in Turkey represent a new crisis within the political establishment.
On the surface we see an investigation into corruption initiated by the judiciary. The scandal reached the top of the ruling AKP (Freedom and Justice Party) and government officials, even Prime Minister Erdogan’s son. A cabinet reshuffle followed, with many ministers being forced to resign by Erdogan.
On one level this is a power struggle between the Gülen movement and the Erdoganists. The AKP and the Gülen movement are both soft-Islamists, but with different roots.
The Gülen movement holds many positions within the state machine, especially in the judiciary and police, as a result of patient, semi-clandestine work for many years.
They were instrumental in getting rid of army generals as an autonomous political force. The AKP welcomed the Gülenists’ support in that. Now times have changed.
For some time, there has been visible tension. The Gülen movement has been more assertive, demanding more positions in the state.
They were clearly against Erdogan’s policies on a number of issues, such as his “peace” policy with the Kurdish movement, his hard line on Israel, his anti-US policy on Iran and Syria, and so on.
But the power struggle among them is not the whole story. This is a move motivated and backed by western imperialist powers, the US in particular. They haven’t been happy with Erdogan for some time as he has insisted on his own stubborn, ambitious line especially on foreign policy. The Gülen movement is a tool of US imperialism in this game.
Erdogan has become an increasingly Putin-like authoritarian leader. He seeks to carry on his political career as president with increased powers, through a series of elections that will be held in 2014. Western powers don’t want another Putin.
The conflict in essence is about which path to take for Turkey: An anti-western, anti-Israel path, with relatively more independence from the US, or a more obedient path. Erdogan has increasingly become the former type of leader in the Middle East.
The government and Erdogan have definitely received a blow. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that AKP will lose the coming elections.
AKP still enjoys a high level of support (around 40-50%) which is the highest by far for any bourgeois political party around.