Daniel Howden: The world's most important political project

Share
Related Topics

The project to create a country that is Muslim, democratic, secular, financially stable and connects the Europe Union with the Middle East makes Turkey possibly the most important political experiment in the world today. And it is on the brink of collapse.

The emergence of a democratically elected government, with its roots in political Islam, in a country where 99 per cent are Muslim, has coincided with enormous political, social and economic progress.

The engine for much of this progress has been the prospect of EU membership. Just as the historical logic of an expanding bloc of rich nations compelled Serbia to arrest war criminals, so it has tempted Turkey to reform.

For six years, a moderate Islamic party has overhauled the legal system and the economy, fostered an expanding middle class and driven the country's bid for entry to the European club. This record has done little to ease the fears of its critics. They perceive a creeping effort to Islamise the country of 70 million and have used parliament, the threat of a coup and now the courts to stop it.

Turkey's generals have been self-styled guardians of secular rule since the establishment of the modern country by Ataturk. For decades, political parties were removed from power on their whim.

The "secular" governments were frequently mired in corruption and beset by financial collapses. Progress stalled, and outside the metropolitan elite, millions of Turks failed to see any secular dividend.

Their unpopularity did what it has also done in Pakistan and Egypt and turned political Islam into a major force. It was from this platform that Recep Tayyip Erdogan made himself the most popular politician in the country. He had to see off court cases and a political ban to take office and has had to return to the polls regularly to reaffirm his mandate. Turkey's chief prosecutor's attempt to outlaw his party is the military's last chance to capitalise on unease in sections of the public at political Islam, and entrench their own power.

The coming crisis will not worry EU countries such as France, Austria and Germany, who have watched Turkey's progress towards joining the EU stall with quiet satisfaction.

They are keenly aware that popular opposition to Turkey's membership – and the flood of immigration it might bring – has been building. Depending on the outcome of this case, Turkey's EU opponents may not need to lift a finger to stop the experiment that offered hope to the entire region. Instead, it will be allowed to suffocate slowly.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Cloud ERP Solution Provide...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: £12bn welfare spending cuts – more achievable in theory than in practice

John Rentoul
 

Clean energy should be our mission to the moon

Martin Rees
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral