The Anatomy of the AKP/Gulen Rift in Turkey
"Today it is easy to lose focus trying to analyze the current Turkish political scenario," said Ömer Taspinar, expert on Turkey and Middle East affairs, professor at the National War College and Johns Hopkins University, and host of the “The Anatomy of the AKP/Gülen Rift in Turkey” conference organized by IAI in Rome.
"In recent years, instability has increased, due, on the one hand, to the scandals that have hit the major national party, AKP, led by Prime Minister Erdogan, and, on the other hand, to the power struggle between the AKP and its major rival, the Fethullah Gülen movement."
Gülen, one of the most influential minds of the Islamic world, has launched a crusade against the corruption of the ruling party, catching the attention of the public opinion, so that one can now talk about his movement as "a state within the state".
"Gülen is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Erdogan's conservative Islamism,” explained Taspinar. “He is trying to cut contacts with the Islamic world represented by the Umma and the Muslim Brotherhood, emphasizing the 'Anatolian' roots of the Turkish people, close to the West, close to Europe. In fact, Gülen is a great supporter of Turkey's admission to the European Union.”
"It is true that in the last years, Erdogan has changed his Islamic prospective, focusing on internal reforms, starting a dialogue with the EU and encouraging important economic growth, but it is also true that the two leaders remain very distant on the ideological level. For example, the Iran issue: while Erdogan has emphasized the Iranian revolution of 1979 as a positive end to the Persian monarchy (secular and progressive) replaced by the Islamic Republic and the sharia, Gülen sees Iran as the incarnation of all threats to democracy and progress."
And the Turkish people seem to agree with him, as was clear from the Taksim Square revolts of last summer. Taspinar also wants to "dispel the myth of the rampant economic growth of Turkey: the country is not in as good condition as it appears, the cracks of internal scandals related to party corruption and clientelism are reflecting on society and the economy, while Erdogan is becoming more and more authoritarian. Even though he has a high level of consensus, he no longer has the majority of the electorate. The litmus test will be the next local elections, on March 30: it will be a crucial test on which the political future of the prime minister and the whole of Turkey will depend."