Islamist Parties and Democratization : Lessons from Turkey's Justice and Development Party

The Turkish elections of November 2002 brought a new Islamic-oriented political party to power, with almost two-thirds of the seats in Parliament. The success of AKP reflected the population's dissatisfaction with the ruling regime and its economic policy, but also constituted a major change in political Islam manifest in a significantly more liberal and pro-West discourse and program than its predecessors. There are disagreements over how sincere this change is and how long it can be sustained. Some argue that the AKP will eventually clash with Turkey's secular political and military establishment, while others expect that the AKP will gradually transform Turkey's political centre by making it more Islamic and less secular. AKP's record so far has been mixed in terms of validating either view.

Based on the premise that sustainable transformation of a political party depends on a shift in the values of the constituency, this project aims to assess whether the change in AKP is sustainable. Researchers will systematically examine the content of representative conservative Islamist newspapers and economic associations to determine whether the discursive changes preceded or followed major events, both domestic and external. They will endeavor to explain the Turkish experience in terms of general causal mechanisms, and compare the resulting explanation to the perception of political and economic actors as gleaned through interviews. Experts from various Muslim countries will come together in a workshop to discuss Turkey's experience in a comparative light.

There is scope for using the knowledge gained to understand and influence processes in other counties, such as Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco and Palestine.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Friday, September 1, 2006

End Date

Sunday, March 1, 2009


18 months

IDRC Officer

Ahmimed, Charaf

Total funding

CA$ 159,830


Europe, Turkey, Central Asia, Far East Asia, South Asia, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, West Bank and Gaza


Foundations for Innovation

Project Leader

Murat Somer


Koç University

Institution Country


Institution Website