Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay Defends the AKP

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay Defends the AKP

Article excerpt

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay was the keynote speaker at Insight Turkey's fourth annual conference at the Loews Madison hotel in Washington, DC on April 29.

During his remarks, Atalay addressed a number of topics: Turkey's recent local elections, the standing of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), domestic political tensions, and his country's foreign policy.

Turkey has experienced a "great deal of stability" since the country emerged from a long period of military rule, Atalay argued. He attributed this in large part to policies carried out by the AKP and, most notably, its leader, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In particular, Atalay said, the AKP has deftly managed the country's economy. Since the party assumed power, per capita income has grown and living standards have increased, he stated.

Dismissing the idea that Erdogan has become increasingly authoritarian in the past year, Atalay said the AKP "attaches a great deal of importance to people's thoughts and beliefs." Furthermore, he argued, "There is huge [domestic] popular support for what we are doing."

As evidence of this, Atalay cited the fact that the AKP emerged victorious in the March 30 local elections. His party won 43 percent of the vote, he noted, more than it has in previous local elections.

The AKP "ran a brilliant campaign...our strategy was flawless," Atalay boasted, and charged the opposition with running "a campaign of libel" that ultimately failed to undermine the AKP's track record.

The deputy prime minister also attacked the AKP's chief opponent-the Fethullah Gulen movement. Members of this movement have "infiltrated" law enforcement and the judiciary and have illegally targeted members of the AKP, he insisted. As a result, he argued, the Gulen movement must be strongly countered. "This organization in the judiciary needs to be rooted out," he said. …

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