The AK Party’s Last Decade in the Areas of Economy, Society and Politics

Organized by the Insight Turkey, a peer-reviewed quarterly in English published by the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), the panel entitled “The AK Party’s Last Decade in the Areas of Economy, Society and Politics” was held in SETA, Ankara.

At the panel, moderated by the Insight Turkey Editor-in-Chief Talip Küçükcan, the subjects of “The AK Party Period Constitutional Amendments,” “Turkish Economy in the AK Party Period,” “Turkey’s Education Policies (2002-2013) in the AK Party Period” were discussed in detail. Among the panelists were: Vahap Coşkun, faculty member at Dicle University; Erdal Tanas Karagül SETA Economy Director and faculty member at Yıldırım Beyazıt University; and Zafer Çelik, SETA Education Expert and faculty member at Yıldırım Beyazıt University.  

Moderator Küçükcan introducing Insight Turkey said the journal projects the accumulations of Turkey’s experiences to the outer world, and analyzes Turkish foreign policy, and includes analytical articles in content. He added that the next issue will focus on Turkish foreign policy. Following Küçükcan’s introductory remarks about the quarterly, other panelists took the floor:

Coşkun: Critical steps have been taken in the direction of being a state of law

The first panelist Vahap Coşkun in his assessment of the last decade of Turkey under the AK Party government focused on the Constitutional discussions and works. Coşkun underlined that the 1982 Constitution does not include a modern Constitutional paradigm; therefore, the current Constitution has needed modifications, and in fact 21 amendments have been introduced so far. According to Coşkun, the 1982 Constitution should be amended for three reasons: To reduce the pressure on the civilian politics, to reflect global demands, and Turkey’s relations with the European Union (EU) and the Customs Union.

The AK Party has voiced the need for a new Constitution since the day of its establishment, but has failed due to not having sufficient real ruling power and lack of consensus among the political parties in the Parliament. Therefore, said Coşkun, through the reforms, the AK Party has made partial modifications on the issues vital for itself, such as the Democratization Package.

During the decade-long AK Party government period, amendments have been made in the Constitution three times, in 2004, 2007 and 2010. The AK Party government stood against the military e-memorandum in 2007, the year in which the Constitution fights took place, and issued a counter-memorandum; therefore, reminded the military that they were accountable to the People. As for the changes made after the Constitutional Referendum in 2010, constitutional guarantees were provided for freedoms and critical steps were taken in order to become a State of Law.

Coşkun wrapped up his remarks with that the Constitution fetishism should be eliminated, social agreement should be reached between the government and the opposition and that the Constitution is not needed in order to accomplish some reforms.

Karagöl: Turkey has set her own policies without the IMF

The next panelist Karagöl focusing on the last decade of Turkish economy shared his assessments about the economic transformation. He said that the economic growth indicators in the period of 2002-2007 reached a level that they had not seen since the 1950s, and as a result, Turkey was ranked among the world’s largest 15 economies. The per capita income has increased noticeably over the last decade, added Karagöl predicting that Turkish economy will make a jump from the middle-income level to the level of high-income countries. 

The 2008 Global Economic Crisis affected the entire world but Turkish economy grew despite the global crisis, the panelist underlined. Through exports to the regional countries other than Europe, Turkey has gained flexibility and new maneuvering opportunities. As a consequence, credit rating agencies raised Turkey’s investment grade, he said. In the ten-year period, Turkey has achieved many “firsts” in the economy and made significant developments, said Karagöl, suggesting that serious steps should be taken in the energy and R&D sectors in order to achieve better economic performances.

Çelik: Accessibility, quality, finance, administration, democratization

The third panelist Çelik talked about the AK Party’s education policies in the last decade. It is possible to evaluate these policies in five main categories, said Çelik listing them as accessibility, quality, finance, administration and democratization. 

Targets set for education in the last decade have been reached and the 58th government has been quite a reformist in terms of education policies, Çelik said.

“Accessibility” in education is the area that the AK Party government has become the most successful. Although problems in schoolization and gender inequality in this process have been solved substantially, the percentage of girl students who are sent to school continues to drop from the west to the east of the country.

Çelik said “quality” in education may be examined in two different aspects: It is possible to say that Turkey falls behind the EU countries and the United States, but Turkey has made a remarkable progress when her past and present records are compared. Education quality has increased in the last decade and Turkey rose 40 points in the world category, he added.

As for “administration,” Çelik said no significant advancement has been made in the decentralization issue and Turkey has failed to take concrete steps in higher-education reforms.

About “financing” in education, Çelik stressed that almost a 100 percent increase has been realized and resource subsidies increased from 2 percent to 4 percent. When compared to the EU countries, the 6 percent is low and more resources should be allocated for education.  

In his final remarks, Çelik concentrated on “democratization” and said that new steps have been taken owing to the Democratization Package revealed on September 30, 2013. With this package, the headscarf and co-efficient issues in universities have been resolved, the Turkish Student Oath has been abolished and arrangements have been made in education in mother tongue.

Translated by Handan Öz