The Failure of the 'Conservative Democrat' Model? The Political Evolution of the Justice and Development Party (AKP)

Varoglu, Bekir and Mabon, Simon and Garnett, Mark (2023) The Failure of the 'Conservative Democrat' Model? The Political Evolution of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Despite having a highly secular state structure since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, democratic credentials have suffered a severe blow resulting from the pathological state-religion relationship. The Turkish model of secularism has steadily undermined democratic norms and accountability as a result of the erosion of religious pluralism. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) has sought to transform the Kemalist model of secularism and claimed to propose a more plural and inclusive model. Thus, the relationship between religion and state in Turkey has attracted considerable research attention. Over the last decade of rule in Turkey under the AKP, the earlier promises of democratisation and comprehensive political reforms have given way to an authoritarian turn. The thesis examines the role and function of religion in the formation of the authoritarian regime in Turkey under the rule of the AKP. This thesis is informed by post-secularism and its notion of the state-religion interaction in secular regimes. This thesis reframes Habermas’s (2008) understanding of post-secular society as the most democratic and plural model and outlines three basic requirements for post-secular formations: the separation of religion and state, the balance between shared citizenship and cultural difference and the complementary learning process. The thesis then uses this theoretical framework to analyse the relationship between religion and state in Turkey, focusing on how it evolves and exerts influence on the rise of authoritarian tendencies. It highlights that Turkey's particular model of secularism is not marked by the principle of separation of religion and state but instead the strict state control and regulation over religious affairs. It also critically analyses how and to what extent the AKP has transformed the relationship between religion and state in Turkey and/or how operating in the secular political sphere, shapes the policies of the party in regards to religious pluralism. The thesis concludes that the AKP has maintained strict state control over religion as a vehicle to execute the Islamic social and political transformation that led to marginalisation of social dissidents, polarisation of society and the weakening of religious pluralism.

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Thesis (PhD)
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29 Mar 2023 11:30
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 06:03