Turkey was governed from 1983 to 1991 by the Anavatan Partisi (Motherland Party), better known by the Turkish acronym Anap. It was formed in April 1983 after the military regime that had seized power on 12 September 198o allowed the return of electoral politics. The junta, which had ruled as the National Security Council (NSC), had dissolved all parties and banned their leaders from political activity for periods of five to ten years. The generals thus hoped to introduce “new politics” involving people who had little or no prior political experience. Anap’s founder Turgut Ozal (1927-1993) was such a figure; Anap soon became identified with him and the vehicle for his ambitions.
Ozal was born in Malatya in eastern Turkey into a humble provincial family, his father a minor bank official and his mother a primary-school teacher. His mother, Hafize Hanim, was the stronger influence. She emphasized the importance of education and may have initiated her sons into the Nagshbandi order, to which she was attached. (When she died on io May 1988, the cabinet issued an edict permitting her to be buried in the courtyard of the Suleymaniye mosque near the grave of Mehmed Said Kotku Efendi, a Nagshbandi shaykh.)
After completing his schooling Turgut Ozal entered Istanbul Technical University, where he met future politicians like Suleyman Demirel, prime minister in the 1960s and 1970s, and Necmettin Erbakan. He graduated in 195o and entered the bureaucracy as a technocrat. Ozal rose through the ranks and in 1966 became Prime Minister Demirel’s technical adviser. The following year he was appointed undersecretary at the State Planning Organization, where he formed around him a team of like-minded conservatives, many of whom became prominent in Anap. When Demirel was ousted by the coup Of 12 March 1971, Ozal also lost his position. He worked at the World Bank in Washington from 1971 to 1973; there he became infatuated with American technology and know-how. Meanwhile his younger brother Korkut Ozal joined the Islamist National Salvation Party (Milli Selamet Partisi, MSP), was elected to parliament in 1973, and became a minister in the 1974 coalition of the Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi) and the MSP. Turgut Ozal stood for election on the MSP ticket in 1977 but lost; had he been elected, he too would have been disqualified from politics by the NSC. In November 1979 he was appointed Demirel’s economic adviser, a post he continued to hold under the junta until July 1982, when the “Bankers’ scandal” forced him to resign.
Anap, Ozal claimed, had brought together all the ideological tendencies represented in the recently dissolved parties. The influence of the NSP and the neofascist Nationalist Action Party (Milliyetgi Hareket Partisi, MHP) was especially strong and was reflected in the attempt to reconcile ultranationalism and Islam with the so-called Turkish-Islamic synthesis. Anap was a centerright party that appealed largely to provincial elements most comfortable with the traditional cultural values generally associated with Islam; for example, Anap women tended to prefer modest attire, including the head scarf or turban, over fashions imported from the West. Such people had had a peripheral political role in the old system; now they filled the vacuum created by the NSC’s policies. Many of the new politicians were technocrats (like Ozal himself) whose familiarity with the modern world did not go beyond their field of expertise, and they had little appreciation of Western mores or culture; such people formed the Islamist faction. There was also a secular faction to which Ozal belonged, with his wife Semra, an important role model for Turkish women. Ozal mediated between these factions and manipulated them to safeguard his own hegemony in the party.
Anap won the November 1983 elections largely because only parties approved by the NSC were allowed to run, and Anap seemed to be the one least tied to the military. However, the policies the Anap government pursued were virtually laid down by the NSC. In economic matters, Ozal as prime minister continued to favor free-market and supply-side economics. Ever-rising prices and low wages curbed consumption, enabling Turkey to export its goods and improve its balance of payments. Inflation remained very high, hovering between 6o and 85 percent through the 1980s. In order to stay in power Anap used patronage with great skill and manipulated the electoral laws to its advantage.
Anap adopted most of the policies inherited from the NSC in other areas as well. Despite its promise to restore Kemalism, and thus secularism, as the nation’s ideology, the NSC had promoted Islamic indoctrination in schools as the antidote to social democracy and socialism. It went further than any previous government in making religious lessons a statutory part of the curriculum, countering the previous stress upon critical thinking. The Higher Education Law of 1981 even legislated a dress code for students, forbidding beards for men and head scarves for women; this led to protests in the universities. The Saudi-financed organization Rabita ul Alem ul-Islami (Ar., Rabitat al-`Alam al-Islami) was permitted to subsidize the activities of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs in Europeso as to isolate Turkish workers from foreign ideologies. At home, Saudi influence is thought to have worked through the agency of the Intellectuals’ Hearth (Aydinlar Ocagi). This body, founded in the mid-1970s, planned political strategies for Islamist parties and factions and attempted to reconcile nationalism and Islam by proposing a synthesis of the two.
The Islamist faction in Anap, led by Vehbi Dincler and Mehmed Kececiler, fought hard to further the NSC’s policies in education. They challenged the theory of evolution, claiming that it served only materialism; like the creationists inAmerica, they wanted “the errors of the theory of evolution exposed and what the Holy Books said about creation to be taught.” The Istanbul daily Cumhuriyet (9 September 1985) noted that islamization of education was causing confusion: “Religion speaks of creation, science of evolution: the students are confused as to what to believe.”
For Anap, state support for religious education was also part of its strategy of remaining in power. Qur’anic schools run by orders like the Nagshbandiyah and the Qadiriyah were patronized in return for political support. State-run schools for chaplains and preachers (the Imam-Hatip schools) also flourished under Anap, so that in the 1980s religious education had overtaken secular education-especially in English-and the latter became the preserve of the upper classes.
This strategy failed to bring political rewards in an atmosphere of economic stagnation and high inflation. The voters refused to elect Islamist parties. Despite its generous use of patronage, Anap’s vote in the 1987 elections declined to 36 percent from 45 percent in 1983. The Welfare Party (Refah Partisi, the MSP reincarnated) failed to win even the 1o percent necessary to enter parliament. Thereafter Anap’s fortunes declined until its popularity had slipped below 20 percent. A struggle between the nationalist and Islamist factions followed Ozal’s election asTurkey’s eighth president in October 1989. Mesut Yilmaz’s election as Anap’s leader in June 1991 suggested that the modern wing had won, but the party’s defeat in the October 1991 elections leaves its future hanging in the balance.
[See also Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi; Refah Partisi;Turkey; and the biographies of Erbakan and Ozal.]
Ahmad, Feroz. “The Transition to Democracy in Turkey.”Third WorldQuarterly 7.2 (April 1985): 211-226. Useful for the Anavatan party’s founding and first years in power.
Ahmad, Feroz. “Islamic Reassertion in Turkey.”Third World Quarterly 10.2 (April 1988): 750-769.
Ahmad, Feroz. The Making of Modern Turkey.London and New York, 1993. Reinterpretation of Turkey’s history, emphasizing the dynamic, human factor.
Erguder, Ustun. “The Motherland Party, 1983-1989.” In Political Parties and Democracy inTurkey, edited by Metin Heper and Jacob Landau, pp. 152-169.London and New York, 1991. Article full of insights by a Turkish political scientist.
Tapper, Richard, ed. Islam in ModernTurkey: Religion, Politics, and Literature in Secular Turkey.London and New York, 1991. Some excellent articles on Islam inTurkey, on topics not often discussed elsewhere.