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Extra resources for Religion, Politics, and Turkey’s EU Accession
As can be discerned, the wedding became a political event and served political purposes. More specifically, Erdoğan pushed Turkey’s bid for EU membership by promoting Turkey as a bridge between civilizations and as such indispensable to the EU. The wedding was only one of many occasions in which Erdoğan and other members of the Justice and Development Party, AKP (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi), used the term “civilization” to promote Turkish EU membership. Likewise, both proponents and adversaries of Turkish EU membership within the EU have repeatedly turned to the civilizational term to advance their positions.
Yet, it is quite ironic that the Justice and Development Party, AKP (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi), a political party with so-called Islamist roots, has steered Turkey closest to the prospect of EU membership. Both Casanova and Öniş highlight this apparent paradox that the AKP should have created the conditions for greater democracy in Turkey (Casanova 2006, Öniş 20 KEMAL KIRIS¸CI 2006). It is also ironic that the EU has played a very central role in assisting Turkey’s transformation while many in Europe are using religion as a means to keep Turkey’s membership at bay.
This would facilitate the negotiation of that new equilibrium between democracy and secularism. The survey seems to suggest that the Turkish public is by and large ready for such an exercise, or at least it is much more ready than it was in 1999. Given the result of the national elections in July 2007, it is possible to argue that the Turkish electorate has largely voted in favor of more democracy and reform rather than of nationalism and the idea that Turkish secularism is under imminent threat.