Turkey's Islamists Like NATO More Than Do Nationalists
It's the conventional wisdom that Turkey's Islamist Justice and Development Party is leading it "eastward," i.e. away from NATO and its traditional (for the last century, anyway) defense alliance with the West and into the arms of Iran, China and other "eastern" countries. But that's not a correct reading of Turkey today, according to a poll flagged by the Wall Street Journal's Emerging Europe blog.
The poll notes that the unpopularity of NATO in Turkey has been driven not by the AKP, but by nationalists. The poll asked Turks whether NATO is "still essential" or "no longer essential" to Turkey's security. And it found that supporters of the AKP were in fact less likely to say that NATO is "no longer essential" than supporters of the nationalist Nationalist Movement Party and -- possibly more remarkably -- the Kemalist Republican People's Party. And while NATO has become less popular over the past five years among all political groups, it's become much less popular among nationalists than among other Turks.
The Journal suggests that it's nationalists who are in fact pushing the AKP prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan into a more anti-NATO posture:
That’s a finding more surprising to foreigners than to Turks, who have long watched nationalist leaders attack the ruling AK Party for selling out the country to foreign, and in particular U.S., interests.
A strong role for nationalism in deciding voter preferences also goes a long way to explaining Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hardening rhetoric in the lead-up to elections on June 12. Mr. Erdogan has become increasingly tough on the issue of Kurdish demands for political and cultural autonomy—a neuralgic issue for Turkish nationalists. He also last month staked out a particularly harsh position against Western military intervention in Libya, dividing him from key NATO allies.
According to the poll, 52 percent of AKP supporters now say that NATO is not essential. A cynic might ask: now that the Cold War is 20 years dead, how exactly do the other 48 percent believe that NATO is essential?
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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