CONSERVATIVE DEMOCRAT POLITICAL IDENTITY
The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is a conservative democratic mass party that situates itself at the center of the political spectrum.
The AK Party, which has started the most comprehensive democratization and change process in the history of the Republic, has been successful at five elections since its foundation in 2001. AK Party has increased its votes in three consecutive elections and has been in office during these terms.
The “conservative democrat” political identity that AK Party developed has now been fully established and become a political attraction. It is a source of inspiration for regional countries.
The conservative-democrat political identity that AK Party has been trying to develop has overlapping characteristics with other practices of conservatism in the world. That said, this political identity has been shaped by Turkey’s socio-cultural characteristics and has a political style that has been shaped by Turkey’ local dynamics.
In a predominantly Muslim country, this conservative-democrat understanding contributed significantly to the development of democratic experience and set a precedent in its region.
Conservatism argues for limited government against all sorts of authoritarianism, leaves change to societal dynamics, underscores that freedom will only have meaning in its concrete form and lends credit to intermediary mechanisms such as the family, NGOs and foundations. This political outlook can be accommodated only with democracy. Critical thinking, ideational and behavioral pluralism, fundamental rights and freedoms as well as a political idea that values civility and tolerance have redefined conservatism in a democratic form. AK Party has opted for a new type of politics by predicating her civilizational values and thus has introduced a different type of political vein in Turkish politics.
Politics based on compromise… According to our notion of conservative democracy, the realm of politics is based on a culture of compromise. The articulation of societal differences in the realm of politics can only become possible if politics are founded on a basis of compromise. Societal and cultural diversity should participate in politics on the foundation of democratic pluralism produced by tolerance and allowance. Participatory democracy develops by representing this diversity and including it into the political process.
Conservative democracy which is in favor of limited and defined political government views totalitarian and authoritarian approaches as enemies of democratic politics. Conservative democracy values political legitimacy based on the will of the people and the common values of humanity.
The rule of law necessitates limiting governments and institutions according to objective rules and laws emanating from universal values. Also, it is not acceptable that the state narrows itself to a taboo-like space due to ideological preferences and dictates unduly onto the people. The state should recede to its actual functions and should be small, dynamic and effective. It should not define, shape or impose its preferences onto its citizens but should be an entity that is defined, controlled and shaped by the citizenry.
Reformist politics… The platform of democratic politics is a space where all sorts of problems are articulated, where all societal demands are reflected and where right and wrong will be corrected by experience.
Conservative democracy is based on an understanding that favors gradual and phased change over top-down change. Societal change is the most fundamental and durable form of change. Interrupting socio-economic, cultural and political life is negative as it abrogates accumulated knowledge, experience and historical development. Also, attempting to impose totalitarian approaches from top-down to society no longer has an impact. Conservatism’s key promise is to protect traditional structures and carry historical gains into the future against totalitarian revolutionary interventions.
Conservatism refuses radicalism and societal engineering. Politics should be based on compromise, defragmentation and tolerance rather than conflict and polarization. Change should be achieved by protecting the core values and gains of traditional structures.
Politics that normalizes the system… The most important aspect of the political identity that AK Party has developed is its aim to normalize Turkish politics. For decades, Turkish politics has been under the shadow of tensions arising from the relationships between religion-politics, tradition-modernity, religion-state and state-society-individual. These tensions have narrowed the space for politics and have caused numerous problems. AK Party has attempted to reconstruct these relationships and free them of being problem areas; it has impeded the progress of crisis-prone tutelage approaches and thus has normalized the political system.
AK Party has been able to maintain its existence, keep Turkish democracy functioning and take it even further. The fact that the AK Party won successive elections and became a permanent feature of Turkish politics although it had been founded just before its first election demonstrates that normalization has been achieved.
Realistic politics… Turkish politics has witnessed for a long time abstruse, doubtful and unclear political behavior and empty political discourse. Parties that have formed governments have been seen to lose their identities due to pragmatism and populism and have surrendered to the conjectural developments. Such parties ended up defending views contrary to their political philosophy and thus found themselves in a crisis of genuine representation and consistent discourse. AK Party, which has been defining its direction clearly via its party program, government program and urgent action plan has fended off doubtful approaches and gained the confidence of society. AK Party has defined its politics via its party and government programs and has thus presented a measurable performance, increased the quality of politics and frustrated those who accused the party of having a “hidden agenda”.
Embracing unity politics… AK Party situates itself as a meeting point of individuals who come from different political traditions on the basis of established values and principles. Divisive identity politics which has put one religion, sect or ethnic identity at the center of its political program has polarized politics and caused the marginalization of such movements. By contrast, AK Party has treated the issues of all societal segments as political issues and attempted to solve them within the framework of overall democratization. By embracing unity politics, AK Party has grown and become an assurance for Turkey’s unity and indivisibility.
Pro-change politics… AK Party has initiated the most comprehensive change and transformation campaign in Republican history and embarked on reform that has crowned our Republic as an advanced democracy.
AK Party does not view conservatism as being opposed to change. Rather, it defines conservatism as being opposed to authoritarian and radical change. It has thus completed “silent revolutions” based on an understanding of gradual change and societal dynamics.
Principled politics… As a conservative-democrat party, AK Party has been able to simultaneously implement real and normative politics and followed principled and consistent politics. It has been able to establish correct linkages between principles, traditions, events and real politics and made value-based policy choices and maintained its principled stance in the face of government erosion.
High politics… AK Party has not refrained from tackling systemic problems in a comprehensive manner. The successful fight against the mafia and other illegal organizations, progress on issues ranging from the Cyprus issue to the Armenian Question, from the democratic opening to civilian-military relations demonstrates AK Party’s prioritization for high politics. AK Party pays attention to micro problems while also fully engaging in macro issues.
AK Party will continue to maintain its conservative-democrat political imagination and shape the future of Turkey.
POLITICS, DEMOCRACY, CONSTITUTION AND RIGHTS
AK Party defines advanced democracy as an institutionalized and free democracy in which an individual’s indispensable, non-transferrable, immune rights and freedoms can be fulfilled and protected against all kinds of the authority of the state. Advanced democracy is one in which the will of the citizen has a direct impact on state institutions not only through elections but also through decisions and controls exercised by citizens in every aspect of public life.
AK Party views democracy as a process that develops and advances with the wide participation of the people. Democracy is a regime of tolerance, dialogue and negotiation where the rule of law and principles of administration are shaped by the consent and will of the people. In democratic regimes, the will of the people is reflected through free and fair elections where the use of final authority and implementation power is exercised by institutions formed via elections. All sorts of differences and minority views are protected.
In democratic administrations, the majority cannot impose its will on the minority and vice versa; a pluralist understanding is the norm where the implementation and exercise of power is inspected by objective criteria based on universal judicial norms. NGOs, the media, opinion makers, professional organizations and other similar organizations play a key role in this process.
Since 2001, AK Party has initiated the most comprehensive democratization campaign in Republican history and has led many diverse societal groups so that democracy can be exercised with all of its institutions and rules in its ideal form. By breaking the political tutelage, AK Party has made it possible for the will of the people to be reflected in institutions and organizations. AK Party has completed many reforms so that an open and organized society can emerge.
AK Party has rejects incomplete democracy and will continue to intensify its efforts to reach the standards of advanced democracies.
AK Party, which aims at validating advanced democratic norms and implementation forms in every aspect of public life, wants to set an example for a strong democracy supported by well-established institutions.
Our Political Stance
AK Party believes in the need for the whole body politic to be transformed into a mechanism that solves problems. This outlook has widened the space of politics and increased the impact, credibility and power of the body politic.
The misguided notion that labeled the reflection of the will of the people as “politicization” in a negative sense and aimed at eliminating through interest groups bureaucratic oligarchy has lost its power due to the decisive struggle led by AK Party. The development of politics has thus been perceived as the development of democratic administration that strengthens the will of the people.
According to AK Party’s concept of politics, the will of the people is the ultimate source of legitimacy. Any other option that could overshadow the will of the people cannot be tolerated.
Since 2002, AK Party has completed major legislative reforms which were stipulated in its program. It has taken major steps to widen the rule of law, to develop democracy and human rights, and to expand political freedoms in order to reach advanced democratic standards.
Within this framework, the minimum age for becoming a Member of Parliament was lowered from 30 to 25. Also, electing the president by public vote was approved.
In light of our understanding of participatory democracy, referenda as a medium were given due importance; the will of the people became not only limited to voting in elections but became a medium for participation through referenda.
In order to facilitate a proper reflection of the will of the people rules, principles and regulations pertaining to election propaganda, election limitations as well as election security, vote counting and documentation were redesigned with a view to increase transparency. Polling boxes and voting cabins have been upgraded to modern standards; colored votes have been introduced for parliamentary elections. Political parties and candidates have been allowed to campaign with their local language and dialects.
In order to increase voter’s participation in general elections and referenda by citizens living abroad, technical and administrative deficiencies have been overcome. Citizens living abroad have become able to vote in the countries where they reside.
AK Party governments have taken important steps in the way of increasing transparency and fight against corruption. AK Party began a comprehensive and uncompromised campaign against corruption and reaped its benefits in a short time. In this conjunction several laws have been introduced or amended such as Law on Information Access, Law on Associations and Endowments and Public Procurement Law. Moreover it created center of information at the Prime Minister’s Office in order to enable the citizen to directly interact with the public agencies and started implementation of Strategy to Fight Unregistered Economy.
Under AK Party governments Turkey has become a signatory to international anti-corruption conventions.
Thanks to these measures Turkey has taken a progressive stance in anti-corruption efforts. As a result politics, economy and society have been positively influenced. AK Party will further its determined struggle against corruption in the path to 2023.
Political parties are indispensable actors in a democracy. That said, the current constitution and laws stipulate certain limitations on party regulations, organizations, programs and activities.
It seems that political parties are defined as if they are ordinary bureaucracies, their programs and regulations bureaucratic regulations and their activities ordinary state activities. A uniform political understanding has been made supreme in politics.
This notion of politics goes against the idea of political parties as an institution for the people. This is also the product of an understanding that does not believe politicians can carry the responsibility of the people and thus mistrusts and discredits politics and politicians.
AK Party has combated this concept of politics since its founding. Protecting the will of the people as reflected in the ballot box was seen as sacred. The Party has lifted democracy and the will of the people and completed important reforms that have underlined the will of the people. It has widened the realm of civic politics and reinstituted respect for politics and politicians.
In a real state where the rule of law is supreme, the right to form a political party, the ability to prepare the program and bylaws of a party according to their free will should be protected.
AK Party has eased the conditions to form a new political party. While prior to these changes only individuals who had qualifications necessary to run for Parliament were allowed to form a new party, changes have been introduced to allow qualified individuals to become members of a political party to set up a new party.
We aim at changing and freeing limiting, penalizing and authoritative stipulations in the constitution and relevant laws dealing with founding a new party, preparing party programs and bylaws, party organizations and intra-party democracy. Hence, we want to further widen and free the political space.
In the future, we aim to overcome a uniform organization for political parties via legal frameworks. Instead, we aim at introducing legislation that would guarantee parties to be formed, organize and engage in propaganda activities freely. We also plan to introduce legislation that would allow parties to organize in a free and democratic manner without any complications.
Also, new reforms will be introduced to achieve advanced democratic standards on party closures and limitations to exercise politics – a defect that has put Turkey in a difficult situation internationally. Party signs and institutional identities cannot commit abuses and should not be encouraging individuals to commit crimes. Committing a crime can only be done by members, delegates or officials of the party. Crime and penalties are for persons only. To penalize a party due to a crime or abuse by a party member or official is also contrary to the principle of the individuality of a crime. If there are crimes and abuses committed by party members, they should be penalized according to the Penal Code.
We will pass new laws that will prevent party closures due to the actions of members of parliament or party members. Our approach is to not penalize a party but party members in case of a crime.
One of the most important problems confronting politics is the stipulation pertaining to the eligibility of party members. In a democratic country there could be nothing as normal as citizens seeking to solve their problems via political means. Keeping citizens out of politics means that we keep them out of problem-solving mechanisms defined by the rule of law.
Therefore penalties which limit political participation and exercising politics will be lifted. Except for the judiciary, security bureaucracy and convicts, we aim at lifting limiting arrangements for all citizens who want to become a member or administrator of a political party.
In the Constitution and the Political Parties Law, there are many limiting stipulations. Most of these penalties are impossible to implement and reflect a mentality that aims at cutting the voice of politics. Such penalties narrow the scope of politics. These penalties and limitations which are not in accordance with democracy and the rule of law will be lifted.
In the new period, we aim at lifting problematic legal stipulations which pertain to election system and elections, limitations to the right to be elected and elect as well as amendments that would make representation more just. We will make amendments and changes to the Constitution, Law 298 on Fundamental Precepts of Elections and Voting Lists, Law 2820 on Political Parties and Law 2839 on Parliamentary Elections.
We will lift all anti-democratic impediments and limitations to the right to elect and to be elected. Legal amendments will be introduced that will facilitate better democratic representation, and increase democratic standards, allow for closer relations between MPs and the people.
Legal changes will be initiated that will allow the Higher Election Council, responsible for the administration and inspection of elections, to fulfill its duties better. In order to democratize the Higher Election Council, make it more transparent and improve its efficiency, a permanent structure will be established that would allow members of the judiciary and candidates proposed by the Parliament to become members.
For almost 200 years, a live debate over administrative and political systems has been continuing.
Although Turkish political history has had at times strong and stable governments, overall we have had unstable, weak and ineffective coalition governments.
Turkey always grew and developed during times of political stability and strong government. The Menderes years, the Özal era and the AK Party era are concrete examples that prove our point. When there was no political stability and strong government, we have always had political, economic and social crises where the country as a whole has lost.
Governments who were multi-party, weak, without fast decision-making reflexes and political will were open to all sorts of anti-democratic interventions and overshadowed by political tutelage.
It is no coincidence that political, economic and social crises increased during such periods. Such periods were costly for our country both domestically and internationally.
In light of our political experiences and history, the debate to find the right recipe for a system that would produce political stability has been continuing in our country for years. Through political and legal reforms, AK Party has lifted the impediments for a fruitful debate and thus made important contributions to the discussion.
For Turkey to reach its 2023 goal, it needs strong governments that can produce justice, trust and stability. Turkey needs effective and strong governments in order to solve its current problems and fulfill its regional and global ambitions.
Following the referendum that foresees the election of the president by public vote, a change in the political system has become a necessity. We need to discuss what sort of model and political system would shape Turkey’s future. Henceforth, the options of a party-affiliated presidency, semi-presidential system or presidential system should be debated within this framework.
The aim of this debate should be to transform political stability from being a transitory phenomenon to an institutional one.
It is a must for Turkey to switch to a system of governance that would not be paralyzed by weak and powerless governments open to intervention. Rather, we need a political system would reflect the will of the people more effectively where there would be absolute separation and independence between legislature and executive power, where the executive would be properly controlled by the legislature, where there would be stable, effective and powerful executive, where there would be an ability to take fast and courageous decisions to solve problems and overcome crises and where accountability and transparency would be paramount.
AK Party believes that there is a structural problem in Turkey’s political system and it is thus seeking a structural remedy to the problem. Therefore, either a presidential, semi-presidential or party-affiliated presidency choice should be selected and implemented.
A New Constitution
AK Party is determined since its foundation to draft a new constitution that would reflect its advanced democracy understanding; that would be prepared with the widest possible agreement and democratic methods and that would be owned by all parts of society.
From the beginning, AK Party has been struggling to prepare a pluralist and free constitution that would not be exclusive but inclusive, not “othering” but embracing, not divisive but uniting, not penalizing but freeing, not uniform but diverse.
Terms such as fundamental rights and freedoms, the rule of law, freedom of thought and religion are not present in a universal manner in the 1982 Constitution. They are present in the Constitution within their own narrow and limited meaning. Although the 1982 Constitution was amended 17 times and half of its content has been changed, the stipulation that “the Constitution should be understood and interpreted in line with the essence and respect to its soul and with absolute faith” at the preface, amendments have been subjected to ideological interpretations and thus have been rendered meaningless. Despite attempts for change, the concept of “the essence and soul of the Constitution”, which began with the 27 May 1960 military coup, has served as a shield of tutelage and protection against true democracy.
AK Party has been instrumental in arguing for the need of a new constitution and has facilitated a better understanding of our society for such a need. Political and judicial problems experienced since 2002 have gradually served to remind our society that the main issue is the constitution and that the crux of the matter lies with the soul of the constitution. Henceforth, AK Party has been raising the issue of a new constitution since 2007 and has taken a number of steps in that direction.
AK Party has worked on its own prior to the 12 September 2010 referendum, passed constitutional amendment on its own and presented it to the nation. Other parties have not contributed to the amendments and have not believed in them. Prior to the 12 June 2011 election, all parties have campaigned for a new constitution. Although belated, it is important that all parties agree that there is a need for a new constitution. Consequently, after the election, preparations for a new constitution have begun.
AK Party has led the new constitution process and contributed in a constructive manner. We have proposed a new commission instead of the TGNA Constitution Commission. This was because in the TGNA Constitution Commission all parties are represented according to their weight in the TGNA. This would have given AK Party a huge majority in the commission. Henceforth, AK Party proposed a Consensus Commission where all parties would participate voluntarily and each has three representatives. As was with the idea of drafting a new constitution, in the actual drafting of the new constitution, AK Party is again the architect of the process.
Turkey must complete the new constitution process. A new constitution is necessary; no one, no political party can escape from this responsibility. The world has changed, Turkey has changed; politics based on political tutelage emanating from military coups has bankrupted. People are now conscious of their will and its supremacy. The mentality of the current constitution has been liquidated. Therefore, a new constitution must be drafted sooner than later.
AK Party has outlined clear principles in relation to a new constitution. Constitutions should be made up of two sections. The first section should deal with fundamental rights and freedoms; the second with the structure and functioning of the state. In relation to the first section, we propose that “fundamental rights and freedoms are not a favor by the constitution or the state but rather based on fundamental human rights that go beyond the constitution.” In relation to the second section, we propose “every individual or institution who exercises sovereign power should directly or indirectly base that power on the will of the people. No person or institution that does not base itself on the will of the people can exercise sovereign power.”
The current constitution harbors an ethos that thinks of the people as belonging to the state. The new constitution needs to reverse that. The notion of people as a property of the state is unacceptable. People should own the state. The new constitutional process should introduce a new paradigm in this area.
Together with the people, AK Party will continue to struggle in a determined way so that Turkey will have a new, democratic, civil and free constitution. Whatever the positions of others, AK Party will not budge from its aim to draft a new constitution because Turkey’s economic and social potential and the target we wish to realize in the world necessitate a new constitution.
AK Party, which works sincerely and in a determined fashion in the Consensus Commission will continue to maintain its will to draft a constitution and seek compromises at every level until this process is completed.
Justice and Law
Our vision of justice is based on trust. This is why AK Party has examined all of the issues related to the justice system carefully and implemented necessary reforms without any hesitation.
Under AK Party’s rule, Turkey has become a country where rule of law is respected and every citizen has the power protect his rights. Turkey is no longer a state of rules and regulations but a state under the rule of law.
To reach this goal, we have implemented regulative and structural changes, improved human resources, judiciary mechanism, physical and technological infrastructure and more than 70 % of our Judiciary Reform Strategy has been implemented.
As we have promised, we managed to realize crucial changes and carried out one of the most important legislative changes in our history. AK Party has made numerous constitutional amendments and renewed many of the laws that have not kept with the needs and demands of our age. Among the changed laws are the Turkish Criminal Code, the Law of Criminal Procedure, the Penal Code, the Juvenile Law, the Law of Misdemeanor, Turkish Trade Law, Turkish Law of Obligations, Civil Procedures Law and Notification Law.
Under AK Party Governments, the military courts have been made part of the state of law. Our ultimate goal is to reach judicial unification in both military and civilian courts system.
In 2011 and 2012, we passed three major reform packages in order to make our judicial system more efficient and transparent. We will continue to improve our legal system in tandem with our 2023 Vision.
We will pass the 4th judicial reform package in order to speed up judicial processes.
We will expand the definition of ‘hate crimes’ to include all speeches and acts that contain religious and ethnic hate, discrimination, insult and provocation. We will introduce strong measure to ban hate speech.
We have taken a number of steps to protect basic rights and civil liberties and will continue to do so.
Turkey has faced numerous court cases at the European Court of Human Rights. We have taken new measures to address this issue and established the Human Rights Office within the Ministry of Justice. This Office will look into cases of human rights violations.
We have sent many judges to the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights.
We have taken an important step and made the ECHR decisions and interpretations a criterion for the appointment of judges.
Turkish citizens can now apply to the Constitutional Court for their individual cases – a revolutionary step that will make the Turkish Constitutional Court function as a human rights court.
Starting on September 3, 2012, we have begun to appoint legal councilors in our diplomatic missions around the world in order to help our citizens with their legal cases in the countries in which they live.
Fundamental Rights and Freedoms
The essence of government and politics based on the sanctity of the human person is to improve universal human rights and freedoms at every level.
We as AK Party define the moral purpose of politics as legitimacy, fairness and justice and believe that the maintenance of justice in every sphere of life is necessary for a peaceful society and successful state. This requires the rule of law and fairness. A democratic, harmonious relationship between the state and citizens is possible only by accepting and expanding people’s fundamental rights.
The raison d’être for AK Party’s existence is to realize justice and fairness in the widest sense of the term. To improve rights and freedoms is the main principle to resolve old-age problems as well as today’s issues. We believe that the improvement of rights and freedoms will play a crucial role in enhancing the exemplary features of Turkey in the future.
Since its birth, AK Party acted with a political vision that has given priority to rights and freedoms to lay the ground for Turkey in 2023.
We believe that such a politics, combining concepts of right and freedom from our own civilizational values will improve the relations between the state and society, the state and individual, and family and individual as well as the relations between different segments of society.
While being careful for social unity and cohesiveness, we will improve all rights and freedoms without any hesitation and without any fear or uneasiness. We believe that doing so is a requirement of fairness, maintaining justice and establishing social solidarity in our society.
Zero-tolerance policy will continue to be implemented against any violation of human rights. A single violation of right of an individual is a violation of rights of all our citizens. This is why we established the Human Right Institution of Turkey, allowed individual appeals to the Constitutional Court, and founded the Ombudsman mechanism. These mechanisms will guarantee the protection of rights and will be implemented to prevent all violations of human rights, discrimination and other exclusionary practices.
On the basis of fundamental human rights and laws, we once again underline our understanding of the principle of secularism. Secularism should be understood as a principle that keeps the state in equal distance to all religions and religious groups, prevent the dominance of one religious group over others, and take the freedom of belief as an indispensable part of democracy.
In our view, secularism refers to the impartial stance of the state toward all religions and beliefs. AK Party takes secularism neither to be enmity to religions nor irreligion; rather, we take secularism to be the guarantee of all religions and belief systems.
For AK Party, secularism is a principle of freedom of religion and conscience that works as a principle of freedom and peace, a guarantee for both religious and non-religious people to live and organize their life and believes freely, to explain and practice their beliefs freely.
AK Party rejects all exploitation of sacred religious values, be it political, economic or otherwise.
Creating pressure on religious people in a democratic country, where differences are supposed to live together, will negatively impact pluralism, coexistence, dialogue and tolerance.
AK Party believes that inciting and discriminating religious people, for their choice and life-style, or the exploitation of religion to put pressure on people having different life-style is an unacceptable situation. These are anti-democratic attitudes and contradict human rights and freedom.
The Process of National Unity and Fraternity
The Project of National Unity and Fraternity is a major democratic initiative implemented by AK Party to expand the sphere of civil liberties while fighting against PKK terrorism. We have implemented revolutionary democratic transformation and human-centered reforms. Indeed, all reforms, implementations and decisions made throughout this process are concrete signs of our human-centered and freedom-based politics.
Ethnic, religious and regional nationalisms have constituted the red lines of our politics because we reject all kinds of discrimination. Our effort has been characterized by a vision that values differences as part and parcel of our social unity and cohabitation on the basis of citizenship of the Republic of Turkey. Religious, ethnic, social and cultural rights have been freely exercised under successive AK Party governments we have taken all the necessary measure to make it happen.
We have implemented new policies to heal the wounds of all discriminatory practices previously meted out to religious, ethnic and social groups.
A multi-dimensional approach has been applied to resolve chronic problems damaging the sense of social unity, and this is why we have implemented The Project of National Unity and Fraternity to resolve the problems that different ethnic and religious groups face in Turkey.
We have made a paradigmatic shift in resolving long-standing problems of our Kurdish citizens and South East of Anatolia. We have developed effective means to fight against state negligence, development problems and discriminatory practices.
We have clearly separated the question of terrorism from the basic democratic rights of our citizens. We have effectively ended all policies of negation, denial and assimilation. Overcoming long-established fears and taboos has enabled both the state and the society to confront the realities and allowed a democratic discussion of the problems. In implementing this approach, we have normalized political and social life and never sacrificed freedom for the sake of security or sacrificed security at the expense of freedom.
Over the last decade, we have taken giant steps for the improvement of basic human rights and freedoms, unconditional realization of the primacy of rule of law, democratization, and strengthening of civil society. In that line, OHAL (Governance of Extraordinary Condition), DGM’s (State Security Courts) and Special Authorized Courts have been abolished and zero tolerance policy to torture has been implemented. A civilian has been appointed as the Secretary General of the National Security Council for the first time; the decisions of the Higher Military Council have been opened to juridical process; the special EMASYA protocol for military forces has been lifted; the law for the Right to Access Information has been passed for a transparent government; the closure of political parties has been made more difficult; and the right to found associations and allowing foundations to own property has been made easier. In all of these steps, we have aimed to expand the limits of the right to organize in political and social areas according to the Europe Convention of Human Rights.
To allow different ethnic groups to express themselves, we have started 24-hour public broadcasting on national TV and given permission to private radios and TVs for broadcasting in native languages. The bans on political propaganda in native languages or freedom of speaking native languages in prisons have been lifted. The bans on giving local names to children and using local names for cities has also been lifted. We have made it easier to give public service to citizens who cannot speak Turkish. Our universities have now departments and institutions in local languages. All of our citizens have the right and means to learn their own native languages. In the state public school, student will be able to learn their own language.
The previous unjust practices against the speaking and learning of native languages have been ended and today the state itself accepts the responsibility to teach children their native languages.
Specific plans have been implemented for regional development. During our era, to reduce the regional gaps we have implemented the most comprehensive development plan and have invested around 35 billion dollars in South East Anatolia. We will continue to work on the social and economic aspects of this issue. With specific stimulus plans, private sector will increase its investment. KDRP (Returning and Rehabilitation of Villages Project), compensating citizens for their losses, GAP, BELDES, KÖYDES, Social Support Programs, Regional Development Agencies and other project have changed the face of the Southern Anatolian region.
Regardless of ethnic identities, we have strengthened the bonds of trust between individual and the state and enhanced the legitimacy of democratic state.
As our task and responsibility, we will continue to realize this vision for a strong Turkey. We, as AK Party, aim to expand and deepen the will of the people for living together with strong democratic vision and high standards.
We will continue to implement the strategy of National Unity and Solidarity and there remain many things to do.
In this line, some of the steps are as follows:
- The problems we had in the courts with defense in native languages will be resolved by a legal amendment.
- The official language is Turkish. However, we will take all the necessary steps to ease the process in getting public services in native language.
- We will pass the law for establishing a civil structure named “Independent Monitoring Mechanism” to follow and resolve the complaints of our citizens
- We will pass the law for “Commission for Equality and Fighting against Discrimination”.
- Legal arrangement for the “Protection of Personal Information’’ will be completed.
- Anti-democratic regulations that have previously been used as pretext for military intervention will be removed.
- We will change all names, associated with military intervention, given to the public places and institutions
- We have already changed several regulative aspects, implying ethnic discrimination in the legislation. The next task is to finalize this process in every detail.
The Fight Against Terrorism and Domestic Security
Terrorism has become to display its impact in different parts of the world and it threatens the world peace. The fight against terrorism is a process, which should be led by collective responsibility of the government, opposition, political parties, the media and all relevant institutions.
AK Party came to power following a period of politics of denial, refusal and assimilation and during which the rights and the freedoms of our people were put aside in the name of “fight against terrorism” in the 1990s. It gave priority to personal rights and freedoms and ended the politics of denial, refusal and assimilation. The fight against terrorism is carried out within the boundaries of law and democracy and extreme caution is taken as not to disrupt the daily life of our people.
We broke the dark vicious circle that contributed to legitimizing and strengthening anti-democratic elements within the state on the one hand and the terrorist movement on the other by putting an end to the anti-democratic and repressive practices in the fight against terrorism.
AK Party protects the balance between democracy and security in its fight against terrorism. Freedoms are protected along with effective fight against terrorism.
We approach the issue of security as a whole with its humanitarian, political, civilian, military, economical, cultural, sociological and psychological aspects and within a regional perspective.
We will continue to pursue policies that aim to protect the welfare, rights and freedoms of the local people and the structure of the unitary state with the aim of solving problems definitely in an effective way that would not lead to a weakness in the struggle against terrorism which is threatening the region.
AK Party, implementing a multi-dimensional struggle against terrorism will continue to take all the necessary legal and legitimate steps and means to put a complete end to the problem.
Family: As a conservative democrat party, we value family. The driving force behind our social policies is to protect and support families that are the strength of our community and builders of our future.
What distinguishes us and gives us advantage is our strong family structure. In fact, it is our strong family structure that sustains our community despite all difficulties and social and individual traumas.
We, as AK Party, have followed policies dedicated to improving the living standards of women, the young and the elder who make up the pillars of our community.
We, as AK Party, have always defended market economy and free trade, but we have never given into to the savagery of capitalism. The state does not play the main role in the economy, but rather the role of an auditor and monitor.
The redistribution of funds gained from private sector oriented economies in order to increase the living standards of our people and take care of our disadvantaged has always been our most fundamental policy.
We have always valued the principle of a social state and we continue to value it. To this end, in order to give the most effective, productive and expedient service, all institutions of social welfare services were merged under the roof of Ministry of Family and Social policies.
We increased our social spending to sixteen times of what it was in 2002. The ratio of social spending to GDP has also increased three fold.
In the year of 2012, we began a monetary support program for widowed women. 192.109 women have already applied to the program.
Maintaining the dignity of our people who receive assistance under our social policies has been a sensitive and important issue for us. To this end, in order to shift our approach to social services from a focus on demand to a focus on supply that provides case specific services, we launched the “Family Social Support Initiative” (ASDEP). We are in the process of completing the two pilot programs, in Karabük and Kırıkkale, under this initiative.
This initiative aims to determine families in need of social support and services utilizing an objective and standardized criteria; inform them of our services as well as other programs they can take advantage of; and to ensure they receive the support they need. In other words, this initiative aims to increase the living standards of disadvantaged families by ensuring that they benefit from all social support programs they are eligible for.
The ‘case and context specific’ approach to social services will deliver the services families need the most. Furthermore, the bill that provides for the establishment of Private Family Counseling Centers has been passed and steps towards establishing these centers have already been made.
AK Party considers the family unit as the most important factor in raising the mentally and physically healthy citizens with strong moral and ethical values the new Turkey needs. As such, we will work towards creating “social awareness” in all segments of our community in order to protect and value the family unit. One of the ways to achieve this will be developing an effective social policy that strengthen the institution of marriage, protects the unity of the family and maintains family values.
In order to protect the unity and happiness of the family we will initiate the “social services counseling system” that reaches to all families and provides support to families in the family home.
We will prioritize the family unit in following all social welfare programs and we will make sure that not a single family is living under the poverty line by the end of 2023.
In order to strengthen the institution of family, we will establish parenting schools and increase the number of family counseling centers.
There will be a “social services and rehabilitation center” in every neighborhood within walking distance of every single family.
We will execute policies aimed at protecting and strengthening the unity of the family in tandem with policies on housing, education, social security and income distribution.
We will also develop social policies to provide services to Turkish families who live abroad.
In order to increase access to social services centers, we will establish them not only in center provinces but also in other relatively populous provinces.
Women : Assistance for balancing work and family life will be provided. Childcare assistance will be given to mothers, and opportunities for children to be placed in private or public day care will be created.
We will also establish ‘Business Development’ centers that aim to support women entrepreneurs in collaboration with KOSGEB (Small Medium Enterprises Development Organization). Financial support will be provided for the alumni of the “Business Development Centers”.
Our goal is to increase the number of women in the workforce to 40% and women employment to 38%. The incentive programs first offered in 2008 and more recently enacted with law 6111 have been extremely effective in increasing youth and women employment. These programs will be continued.
We implement a zero tolerance policy on violence against women. We believe that violence against women can be prevented with the assistance of Violence Prevention Centers and widespread protective services. To this end, we intend to establish Violence Prevention Centers as well as Women’s Shelters in every city. By the end of 2012 Violence Prevention Centers will be opened in 14 cities.
Children: Children are our biggest priorities. Children services will be restructured. The system will be shifted from care in group homes to care in foster families. By the end of 2014, 14,000 children will be part of a specialized child rehabilitation program. Both those children who are victims of crimes and those who are forced to commit crimes will be rehabilitated and their reentry to society as productive members will be facilitated.
A Turkey in which all members of the society participate in and contribute to child services and in which child neglect, exploitation or violence against children do not exist will be realized.
A Turkey in which children’s rights are adopted as the national strategy and implement with all public resources will be realized.
Everything necessary for our children to grow into well educated, respectful, pious and self-confident individuals with perfect moral and ethical values will be will be done.
It will be ensured that every child is given equal opportunity in education. At least 50% of children who need special care will be enrolled in specialized schools.
A preemptive and preventative approach will be adopted in order to resolve problems before the children need child services by giving support to their families.
Youth : Our youth are the spirit of our present and the assurance of our future. The youth is a nation’s most precious treasure. Our country has more of this treasure than other countries.
AK Party has taken many effective steps to raise intuitive and healthy individuals who are enriched at home and at school.
We have ended the injustice of coefficient system at university placement exam.
We increased opportunities for housing, boarding, scholarship and financial aid for higher education students in an unprecedented manner. We have given assistance in the form of financial aid or loan to every student that applied since 2003.
We have allocated 270 million TL annually for vocational training to raise qualified workers in order to prevent unemployment.
We have issued a general amnesty to 800,000 students who have quit their education for one reason or another (except those who were indicted of terror crimes) at both graduate and undergraduate level. This was the biggest student amnesty in history.
We have also exempted business of young entrepreneurs from their tax obligations in addition to providing them with start-up expenses.
Our youth will show their virtues that are becoming harder to find in the world. Our exemplary youth will build a Turkey that is singled out as an example in its region.
Legal, political, economic, social and cultural initiatives will be launched in order to increase effective youth participation in decision-making mechanisms.
We will increase youth centers and encourage and support young people to develop and implement their own projects.
We will create affordable housing not only by collaborating with TOKI (Housing Authority of Turkey) but also by supporting private student residence halls.
We intend to increase the capacity in our student residence halls to 600,000 students by the end of 2023.
We have made a lot of progress in our initiative to transform our residence halls into single or maximum three occupant rooms. We will complete this process soon.
We will form “Youth Information Spots” in order to give the most expedient and correct information on subjects of interest to the youth.
We will improve vocational schools and vocational training centers to become more effective in education. The workforce various industries in our county needs will be created and at least some of the factors that cause unemployment will be eliminated.
We will develop specialized incentive programs for young people who wish to build their own business.
We will increase career planning and advancement services offered to the youth. We will institute “Business Building and Development Centers” in collaboration with universities and occupational and professional associations. We will create opportunities for university students to gain hands-on experience and to practice what they learn in theory by encouraging collaboration between private sector, public offices and universities.
All necessary steps will be taken to increase youth’s access to art and sports functions including increasing the number of youth and culture centers in cities.
The Disabled: While working towards making our cities, public buildings, facilities open to public and public transportation accessible to the disabled we will work towards increasing vocational training and employment of those who can work. We will increase social services and support for the disabled.
The quota in public sector for disabled employees has been increased from 6434 in 2002, to 25,563 in 2012. The currently empty 15,000 positions allocated to the disabled will be filled as soon as possible.
The quota for the disabled in the private sector has been increased from 10,226 in 2002 to 37,982 in 2012. Incentive programs for the employment of the disabled in the private sector will be maintained.
The government will pay the insurance premiums for a period of one year of those who employ two or more employees in addition to employing the disabled.
We are continuing our efforts on the proposed law on establishing business protective of disabled rights. We expect to pass it into law by the end of this year.
Disabled citizens will continue to be prioritized in terms of home care services. Also initiatives to shift from an institutional approach to the care of the disabled to a care at home approach. Having already launched the Hope House Projects and Wellness Centers with Obstacles projects, group home approach to child services will be abolished for disabled children.
Furthermore, service standards for both private and public care and rehabilitation centers will be increased.
Elderly: We will develop social policies and social services programs in the form of “active aging” in order to get the benefit of our senior citizens’ experience.
We will ensure the accessibility of all social services that assists in healthy aging. We will develop social policies that assist provide for home care or institutional care for the elderly in collaboration with civil society organizations and public sector.
Social Assistance: We will implement two types of social service policies. First type of policies is those that provide for better living standards for our citizens parallel to the progress and development in country. Second type of policies will aim to lift those who are in need of social assistance from their current situation to conditions where they are more productive and self-sufficient.
We will implement a more effective social assistance policy with the help of united social assistance and services project. With the point system the designation of poverty will be made through more objective set of criteria.
With the minimum income initiative a monetary assistance, determined for each family on the basis of the number of the household, the level of poverty, the number of elderly, children or disabled in the household, will be provided.
Housing development project for the poor and the disadvantage will be continued with the first target of 100,000 residences.
We will forge a strong and sustainable bond between social assistance and employment.
Martyrs and Veterans: We will implement policies that will provide our veterans and families of soldiers who died for our country a life with dignity. To this end, we will not hesitate to take any action to supply their economic and social needs.
In addition to the employment and other benefits afforded to our veterans and fallen soldiers’ families by our recently enacted law, we expect to provide support in terms of finding affordable housing, scholarship for their children for private schools and entrepreneurial support for those who want to start a business.
Workforce and Social Security
We are planning for the working conditions of 2023 today. We are determined to give our country a competitive edge in the global market.
Fundamental regulations such as Social Security Reform, Labor Law, Employment Packages, Health and Safety on the job and collective contract bargaining for public servants have already been realized.
In the upcoming term, we will reevaluate the law and regulations on syndicates and trade unions inherited from the post September 12 coup regime. We will enact the Collective Labor Relations Law, drafted in accordance with universal standards, that protects our workers’ right to association and collective bargaining and understands peace in labor relations as the basis of all economic progress.
We will solve the problem of “lack of vocational skills” which is actually the main source of unemployment by allocating approximately 1.5 billion TL and by giving vocational training to 400,000 unemployed, annually.
We will elevate the level of vocational skills and knowledge to the required levels and vocational competence to world standards by increasing the already implement 351 occupational standards regulations to 1000.
We will continue the incentive programs we implement to increase employment among women and disabled and we will increase women’s participation in the workforce to 38%. We will also fill the currently empty 15,000 jobs allocated to disabled citizens.
We will reevaluate subcontract work conditions and extend the security of the law to the employees of subcontracts by implementing regulations on work hours, vacation and sick pays as well as the employees’ right to organize.
We have decreased undocumented employment which causes budget deficiencies, injustice in income distribution and which deprives our workers from social security from 53% to 37%. We aim to lower it to 15%.
We will increase the 2800 career counselors we employed under the “Every Unemployed Person Will Have a Counselor” initiative to 4000. As such, we will provide more qualified and professional services in learning a vocation and searching for jobs.
In addition to our employment packages, national employment strategies, vocational training, implementation of universal occupational standards, we will offer more incentive packages for employers, counseling services to the unemployed and implement on the job training. On the 100 year anniversary of our Republic, we will bring down the unemployed to the minimum possible level.
We will reevaluate our public servant employment packages and update it according to the needs and conditions of the present.
We have signed our name to substantial reforms in social security. We have merged the Social Security Reform, which is one of the most important links of the transformation chain our country is undergoing right now, with social security institutions under one roof. We have achieved unity of norms and standards. We eliminated discrimination in health services. We have provided unconditional healthcare security to all our children under 18. A sustainable social security system that embraces 75 million citizens from birth to death has been created.
In addition, adjustment to pensions demanded by our retirees has been made. Veteran and fallen soldier pensions have been increased and victims of terror were given salaries. The General Health Insurance that has been long discussed about but not implement has finally been realized. It was finally implemented on January 1st, 2012.
We are determined to sustain a social security and healthcare system that is easily accessible and just for all of our citizens. We will continue to strictly follow the principles of a social state.
Towards this end, we will balance the income-expense balance and we will decrease the social security deficiency ratio to the GDP to 1%. We will shift the funds achieved from this to areas it can be used more effectively and productively.
We will decrease undocumented employment to the levels observed in other developed countries. We will increase the active vs. passive ratio to 3%.
We will move all our transactions to the electronic media so that retirement process will take only a day.
Since the day we came into power in 2002, we have achieved tremendous improvements in the healthcare. By our Healthcare Transformation Plan, defined by the principle we named “First Priority is Human”, we realized great achievements. We said “everyone deserves a decent healthcare” and we managed to carry out a paramount transformation.
With the pace and depth of improvements in our healthcare indexes, the improvement has turned into a global success story. With such an example of a concrete success in the transformation, we displayed that we can hurdle all troubles and realize all our goals, once we believe.
Under AK Party’s governments, receiving a decent healthcare is no more an exclusive privilege for some but a service to all citizens by the state, regardless of income. In comparison to developed countries, our citizens have the privilege of being a citizen of a country having strong healthcare system. Necessary decisions have been made for having such a system without any hesitation and decisively.
With such a perspective, we have integrated all public health centers and hospitals, beginning from SSK (Social Insurance Institution) hospitals. Aiming to cover further the needs of low-income people, we have expanded the rights of our citizens holding Green Cards. The coverage of healthcare and medical expenses has been expanded. Our citizens are no more ‘captives’ in the hands of private clinics (consulting rooms), wasting their income because of destructive and weakening medical expenses.
Medical costs have been reduced significantly. The burden of medical expenses on both public and private individual has been lessened greatly.
“Urgent Healthcare” service have become available not only in the urban areas but also in the rural areas. While expanding the coverage area, we have also included air and sea transportation service in the healthcare system. The expansion of our service to people covered different areas ranging from hamlets of Hakkari to the uplands of Trabzon, villages of Edirne, steppes of Yozgat and lowland of Adana. Simultaneously, we have served people who needed urgent service including people in Afghanistan and Somali, earthquake victims in Haiti, and victims of tsunami in Indonesia.
The policy of family doctor (primary care physician), an indispensible part of modern healthcare system, has begun to be implemented and the system has become generalized countrywide.
The indexes of indicators in contagious diseases have been improved to the levels developed countries.
While doing all these service, we have implemented a national plan for raising awareness against smoking and obesity negatively influencing quality of life.
Disadvantaged areas lacking adequate medical personal, basic facilities and equipment have been our priority since the beginning and we managed to close the gap between different regions. In our 10 years, we have added 7 million square meters to the areas of basic medical facilities/institutions comparing to the 7 million square meters established in the last 80 years before AK Party’s governments. All of the new facilities constructed in our terms have at least one or two bed separate rooms having the basic services.
The number of people serving in the public healthcare institutions has been doubled.
While all these, we have been careful to use the public sources effectively with the Healthcare Transformation Plan. The great transformation has been realized with a sustainable financial system. Despite this tremendous transformation, the increase in public spending on health was less than general public spending. While the increase in public spending in general was 265% between the years of 2003-2011, public spending on health was 225%. In other words, we have established a sustainable health system.
In the last decade, despite the increase in the individual expenses for healthcare, the burden on the individual has been reduced to a minimal level.
This is why the satisfaction ratio from healthcare system rose from 39% in 2003 to 76 % in 2011.
Now, our task is to build large city hospitals. While beginning to realize the task, we begin to implement Integrated Public Hospital system, increasing the quality of the healthcare system.
Our success story in the Healthcare Transformation Plan caught an international attention and we began to share our experience with other countries. Several organizations including WHO and OECD refer to our improvements in the healthcare system as an exemplary success.
As of today, Turkey, with her Transformation Plan is an agenda setting example in the global context. Turkey has become a pioneering example in the healthcare discussions with her goal and success in serving people.
Education and Culture
Our young and dynamic population is one of the most important sources and precious values for us.
Since the beginning, increasing the level and quality of education has become our constant aim. We have managed to achieve great success in the education system both in terms of physical and technological infrastructure.
It has become a tough and a difficult process to increase the coverage of compulsory education to 12 years for AK Party. All of the obstacles preventing equality of opportunities in education have been removed and we will continue to do so.
In 2023, at the Centennial of the Republic, we aim to reach 100 % literacy rate for people under 50, enable all young population to have at least high school education and give a chance to all those who like to have a higher education.
We dream and work for having more than 200 universities in 2023, resolving all bureaucratic hurdles preventing the establishment of private universities, and boosting the R&D budget to the levels of developed countries. This is why we prefer to turn the Higher Education Council, the main institution overseeing the governance of universities, into a ‘coordinator’ rather than ‘governor’ in the new constituent.
Turkey and our people deserve to have an educated, healthy and competitive young generation with strong ideals for the future.
Motivating our young population to participate further in the social, cultural and sport events is a task to be realized by the joint and coordinated work amongst our municipalities and related ministries.
A chance to have life-long education has become an indispensable part of our modern life. We dream to have a society, with its all levels, making education an integral part of her life.
We know that the most precious source and wealth of countries is not material, underground sources or industrial investments. What matters is the production of knowledge, education for such knowledge and the use of this knowledge for innovating and exporting technology.
Our task has been to maintain a system in which the basic requirements of our age are met.
While aiming at raising the standards, it must be noted that we have been careful to comb out all of the discriminatory themes implying negative, stereotypical images and perceptions in the textbooks. We will continue to do so. Elements with negative and discriminatory perceptions, breaching human rights and universal rule of law will be erased form our national education system.
AK Party is a conservative democratic party. Our conservative stance is not the protection of the status quo but of conserving perennial, productive values. For us, the conservative approach is a pioneering element of the transformation and reform process in Turkey. It is to re-formulate our values, social and cultural principles that made us and give us our own identity, in a way that could respond the needs of our time.
We see culture as a foundation on which the individual, society, the future and civilization are all founded.
Our perspective is to have a society founded on our culture and values that combines tradition and modernity, the local and the global, the old and the new.
Culture for us is a foundational element that characterizes human life. In this context, we will support all activities strengthening our cultural values, improve cultural sources to empower personal life and social practices.
We will continue to support enhancing the different shades and colors of our pluralist culture.
Elevating Turkey to the list of top-ten countries in the world requires us to make Turkey a center of cultural production, distribution and sharing center both in her region and in the world. We will continue to deepen the quality of activities promoting our cultural legacy, tradition, arts and artist, intellectual heritage, major figures and their works.
In the centennial anniversary of our Republic, Turkey will reach a point where our cultural and social values will be reproduced and transmitted to future generations successfully.
With a confidence founded upon our values, our citizens will see the world as a sphere of cultural exchange, source of knowledge and business activity.
Our government has been monitoring the changes in the world economy closely since the beginning and all of our assessments have been made on the basis of realistic assessments. In a decade, we transformed Turkey into a confident, competitive country where the rule of law helps economic stability. A sustainable economic development is possible only with a strong democracy, rule of law based on universal principles and competitive production system.
As with other spheres, we have managed to realize a tremendous transformation in the economy.
The center of our focus in the economy has been the individual and improving his condition. Rather than adopting a strictly centralized developmental model, we gave priority to establish a productive environment in which the entrepreneurs and workers can realize their potential. The state has acted as a facilitator rather than a force preventing creativity and development.
We have not treated economy as completely independent from social and political spheres nor reduced it into to markets’ daily fluctuations. Maintaining a strong democracy based on rule of law and a strong economy is like the two side of the coin. We acted with a vision that it is not possible to maintain a strong democratic transformation without a strong economy. Likewise, we believe it would not be possible to have a strong and viable economic system without a strong democracy based on the rule of law.
Our population, which was 66 million when we came to power, has reached 75 million. Between the years of 2002-2011, our Gross Domestic Product has increased from 230 billion dollars to 774 billion dollars while our income per capita has increased from $3500 to $10,000. While we have worked to increase our income per capita by three fold despite our increasing population, we have found our inspiration in our people.
The most fundamental concept that undergirds AK Party’s economic policies and conception of governance is “trust”. The most important source of our historical achievements is the trust and stability we have achieved.
While the interest Turkey paid in 2002 made up 15.5% of its GDP, in 2011 this rate was reduced to 3.4%. Had this rate not been reduced, in 2011 the amount paid to interest would reach $120 billion annually. In 2011, what we paid in interest was approximately $25 billion. The difference between $120 billion and $25 billion is the difference of trust and stability. The funds wasted in the past are now allocated to social services.
We decreased our budget deficit by maintaining fiscal discipline. Public sector net debt, which hangs like Democles’ sword over many EU countries today, made up 74% of our GDP in 2002. As of 2011, we reduced this rate to 39.4%.
We have restored the much deserved prestige of Turkish Lira by removing six zeros while reducing inflation to single digits.
We managed to log in more capital than what our economy needed from foreign sources. The foreign exchange reserves increased from $28 billion in November 2002 to $110 billion (including gold) as of September 14, 2012.
We provided relief both to our consumers and producers with tax breaks.
While the capital investments by the private sector constituted $28 billion in 2002, it was $140 billion in 2011. The investments the private sector made due to stable political and economic environment manifest itself as import/export, production but most importantly as employment.
We are successfully implementing both those active workforce policies aimed at giving the unemployed vocational training thus increasing employment and policies aimed at protecting those who are unemployed. While the number of the unemployed that benefited from the active workforce programs in 2002 was 1,500, in 2011 those who benefited from this program reached 250,000 people.
Our achievements in employment are just as important socially as they are economically. Despite the ongoing global crisis, we were able to provide employment for 1,317,000 people in 2010 and 1,516,000 people in 2011. In this way, we reduced the unemployment rate to single digits. While the unemployment almost reached double digits in Europe even without an increase in population, Turkish economy is continuing to produce employment.
While we were increasing employment we also gave a battle against unregistered employment. With the precautions we have taken, the number of registered employment has increased from 10.2 million in 2002 to 15.2 million in 2011.
The success of our reforms carried out between 2003 and 2007 was tested with the global crisis. Our economy passed this test with flying colors.
We have managed the global crisis with our own resources without requesting bailout funds from international organizations such as the IMF. Not one of our banks went under. We did not fall into the vicious circle of debt and interest. We did not experience financial turbulence. As a rising economic power in the face of a global crisis, we found our confidence again. We have become a country that holds a guiding light to others that shares its positive experiences and holds its head up in all international platforms including the G-20.
We have paid off almost all of our debt to IMF. We are now at a position to lend $5 billion to IMF.
We have shown a much envied economic performance with economic growth rates such as 9.2% in 2010 and 8.5% in 2011. Our economic growth continues determinedly at a time when growth rates in Europe are expected to remain at zero and when global growth rate is predicted to be in the negatives.
We have increased the ratio of public social spending including education, healthcare and social protection from 13.5% of the GDP in 2002 to 16.7% of the GDP in 2011. While only 1.3 billion TL was allocated to social assistance spending previously, we now allocate almost ten times that number.
Our fight, as AK Party, against poverty is moving forward full fledged. In the world today there are almost 1 billion people with an income of less than $1 a day. There is no one in Turkey today living under such poverty. We have decreased the rate of those who have less than $2.15 daily income from 3.04% of the population to 0.2%. During the same time period, the rate of citizens who lived with $4.3 daily dropped from 30.3 % to 3.7%.
We have provided a more fair distribution of income. In 2002, the annual income of the wealthiest 10% of the country was 18.3 times more than the annual income of the poorest 10%. In 2011, this was only 12 times more than the poorest 10%. The Gini index has also dropped from 0.44 in 2002 to 0.40 in 2011.
Today, Turkey is the biggest economy and the most effective political actor in its region. The achievements of our country are a source of inspiration for other countries. Without a doubt, Turkey’s importance and influence will increase in our economically and political restructured world.
Recent transformations in our neighborhood environment are a sign of continuous interest in our social, political and economic policies.
The experience of Turkey has become a more valuable experience in this new era where the government needs to rely on the will of the public and feel responsive to meet the development demands of the people. Understanding the sign of times effectively and implementing necessary basic policies for such a vision, our Party will support both the democratization and development of these countries and will serve the vision of strong Turkey.
Relying on our success and confidence in the last decade, we can say that we have established the essentials of centennial anniversary of our Republic. Our main task will remain to increase the welfare of our people with a sustainable and stable growth performance.
The aim is to have an advanced society with its all modern standards and a competitive, strong Turkey on a global level.
A great economy will continue to be maintained as part of our integrated vision and will be put at the service of advanced democracy with a goal of establishing a strong society. We will all earn our bread with our own efforts, make it bigger and distribute it fairly.
Maintaining confidence and stability in the economy will continue to be our main principle.
The pioneering force in the high growth rate has been the private sector and will continue to be so. We, as AK Party, will continue to pave the way for strong, effective private sector. To do so, alongside macro economic stability, we will continue to implement reforms for increasing quality and competitiveness in goods and service sector.
As much as we value macroeconomy, we will continue to value microeconomy. Having an efficient economy has been our aim, and we will continue to work unceasingly for efficient management in both public and private sector.
In light of this perspective, we have specific aims to realize by the centennial anniversary of the Republic:
§ To be among the top ten economies of the world in terms of the GDP.
§ To maintain a stable reduction in inflation and keep interest rates to a single digit.
§ To increase exports to 500 billion dollars per year.
§ To increase per capita income to $25.000.
§ To reach annual GDP of 2 trillion dollar.
§ To reduce unemployment rate to %5 and to increase the present employment rate to at least 50 %.
While working to realize these goals, we will not compromise the basics of our economic plan. Fiscal discipline will be strictly followed. Fighting against inflation will continue to be a priority for us. We aim to continue growth enabling further employment based on real economy and export.
We will continue to support free capital movements and free trade. Floating exchange rates will continue and we will implement structural reforms for a more efficient economy.
While working toward a stronger economy we will continue to ameliorate regional and social difference in income distribution. All of our regional development projects such as GAP (Southeast Anatolia Project), DAP (East Anatolia Project), KOP (Konya Lowland Project), and DOKAP (East Black Sea Project) will be implemented. From north to south, from east to west, the quality of services to our citizens will increase.
The priority we gave to regional development will continue with new action plans we have been devising for regional development. Such mechanisms as the New Stimulus Plan, Development Agencies and Regional Development Managements alongside other supportive mechanisms will have an integrated vision and stimulate regional development.
Local Government and Urban Planning
Human-centered and service-focused approach has been our vision of local governance. That is why a real local development has begun with AK Party.
Our responsibility is to enable the further participation of our people, direct representation in the local authorities and democratic supervision of local administration.
We will continue to keep the governance system from excessive centralization, delegate power from center to local agencies that provide direct services to the people.
We will continue to take necessary precautions to increase effectiveness and productivity in public service. Respond to the needs of our citizens is our utmost priority.
This is why we have been re-formulating the Greater Municipality system so that we can coordinate public services on the local-provincial levels.
We have quintupled the sources of local municipalities and will continue to increase their financial capability.
A new bill, characterized by a modern local governing perspective for rural areas and villages, will be passed at the Parliament.
There is a strong and vital need for urban transformation as Turkey’s 95 % of territory is earthquake area, and the city centers are under pressure of migration. The necessary technical bureaucratic background-steps, such as the law no. 6306, have already been taken.
Our aim is not to destroy homes but to construct them. Our goal is to shape a physical environment in which the social needs of our citizens are met. We will build modern, durable and earthquake-resistant buildings. To realize this huge task, we have founded a new ministry.
To improve the physical-social features of residential areas and to turn different features of our cities into trademarks is our priority. We imagine our country as a whole, not distinguishing between rural vs. urban, developed vs. undeveloped, etc.
While establishing new cities, with high-standard living conditions, we will continue to protect the historical heritage of our cities.
It is also our goal to transform our cities and make them friendly to children, the disabled the elderly and others.
Just as the AK Party governments have implemented the largest afforestation campaigns, we will continue to increase greening policies in the city centers.
The World and Our Foreign Policy Vision
Ten years ago, we set out on a journey with passion and dedicated ourselves to a noble ideal. That ideal was to make Turkey one of the key players of global politics and a major actor for regional peace and stability.
When we spoke of this ideal, some accused us of adventurism and daydreaming. Some disbelieved us and said we cannot make Turkey a global player and regional actor when her economy was in shatters and she had problems with everyone. But we never hesitated.
Because we believe in a great and strong Turkey. The country is our love and the nation is our foundation. The Turkish nation alone is the source of our legitimacy and strength.
As AK Party, our foreign policy mission is to fulfill our historic responsibility and pass on the trust to future generations and do so on the basis of our history, culture, civilization and our 2023 Turkey vision.
There will be some inevitable changes in the current global political and economic system, the UN structure of governance, and the relations between countries and nations around the world. Our goal and mission is to place Turkey among those countries that will shape the new global system.
Our greatest asset on this path is our firm belief in our nation and the affection and trust which our nation has shown to us.
As AK Party, we do not consider Turkey and its foreign policy in a uni-dimensional way. To the contrary, we apply a multidimensional and multidirectional perspective to Turkey’s historical depth, civilizational geography and make use of the political and economic stability of the last ten years under AK Party.
Turkey is fast becoming a center of attraction and a focal point of international relations and global politics. We are building a new global vision in partnership with all political actors that pursue a positive political agenda in our region as well as in the world.
This new vision has already overcome the misgivings of the past, given a new confidence to our nation and enabled us to vastly expand our foreign policy.
As a regional power and global actor, Turkey today is self-confident in all of its endeavors, follows a unique vision, and operates in its region not with any threat perception but with a perspective of peace, stability and partnership.
Turkey is not party to any conflicts in its region; rather, it is sought after for contribution, vision and mediation. With its democratic standards and economic development, Turkey has become a token of regional peace and stability.
We believe that Turkey is destined to play a historic and critical role in its region and the world. We have based our foreign policy on two main principles. First of all, we have based our policies on an accurate assessment of regional and global developments, taken necessary steps in a timely manner, devised our policies with a long-term perspective, and acted with a sense of commitment to our values and principles.
Secondly, we have followed a dynamic foreign policy and reinterpreted Turkey’s history and geography from the vantage point of our strategic depth in the world. We have executed our foreign policy by developing our own vision, strategy and ideas.
When we came to power in 2002, we redefined one of the key principles of Turkish foreign policy as tipping the freedom-security balance to the advantage of individual and societal freedoms. We gave a major struggle to achieve this.
In this regard, we implemented revolutionary reforms for Turkey’s full membership in the European Union (EU), which we consider to be our strategic goal. Despite unfair obstacles put before us, we said we will redefine the Copenhagen Criteria as “Ankara Criteria” and move forward. Because we believe in the EU membership not as an end in itself but as a process by which our nation will achieve the universal standards of democracy that our people deserve.
Today, full membership in the EU remains our strategic goal for our 2023 Vision. We are determined to fulfill our responsibilities despite the unjustified bumps on the road.
We consider our relationship with the United States of America and NATO based on equality and equal partnership. Like with other countries, we will continue to strengthen our partnership with the US on the basis of mutual interest and partnership.
Today, no one can impose its own agenda on Turkey; rather, everyone seeks Turkey’s partnership to set a common agenda.
One of the primary goals of AK Party Governments over the last ten years has been to improve Turkey’s standing in the international order and increase its prestige, visibility and activism.
As a result of a pro-active foreign policy made possible by democratization and economic performance, Turkey’s image has completely changed in the region and the world.
Turkey is now seen as a source of inspiration from Morocco to Afghanistan. Turkey has become a major player that contributes to peace and stability in its region and the global order.
Ten years ago, Turkey’s participation in international organizations and meetings was a matter of no importance. Today, Turkey’s presence is felt in every major forum, meeting and summit, and Turkey is effectively represented in all of the major multinational organizations.
In 2002, the total number of Turkey’s diplomatic missions around the world was 163; today we have 202 diplomatic missions. This number will soon reach 219. Turkey is represented through its diplomatic missions from Tanzania and Ecuador to Myanmar and Colombia. We will soon become the fifth country in the world in terms of the highest number of diplomatic missions.
One of our key objectives has been to develop relations with our neighbors and strengthen our role from the Balkans and Caucasia to Central Asia and the Middle East. To that effect, we have introduced a new paradigm and left behind the old habits of foreign policy and international relations based on security threats. We have followed the well-known policies of “zero-problems with neighbors”, “security for everyone”, “economic integration”, and “multiculturalism and peaceful co-existence”. And we have reaped the benefits in a short period of time.
We have taken many steps to improve relations with our neighbors, to solve inherited, chronic problems and to establish peace and security in our region. We have established the High Strategic Cooperation Council mechanism with such countries as Bulgaria, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran. We also made an agreement with Georgia to allow our citizens to visit our countries with their IDs rather than passports.
Starting with our immediate neighbors, we have lifted the visas. By 2012, the number of countries with which we have lifted visas mutually has exceeded seventy. We will continue to work on introducing a visa-free regime for Turkish citizens to travel to EU countries.
We have worked tirelessly to help the national process of reconciliation in such countries as Iraq, Somalia, Palestine, Lebanon and Kirgizstan.
Turkey’s international humanitarian aid is reaching today a vast geography. It is enough to remember Somali alone. Our nation has opened its heart to the people of Somalia and run a major aid campaign. Today, a new period has begun in Somalia.
Our voice is being heard in places where global consciousness has kept silent. We raised the suffering and persecution of Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine region of Myanmar and will continue to do so to find a peaceful and long-term solution.
Energy is another important component of our foreign policy. While energy has become a source of tension and conflict, we see it as an instrument of peace. Our energy policy complements our comprehensive and pro-active foreign policy and helps us develop a common agenda with our neighbors. Regardless of political relations, we give utmost importance to energy policies with other countries. As Turkey’s political and economic stability deepens, her weight in the field of energy is also increasing.
A New Conception of Geography
Our strategic depth and pro-activism in foreign policy is not limited to the Middle East region. From the Balkans and Caucasus to Africa and Central Asia, we see all countries as potential partners with which we can build a better future. Those countries also have a strong desire and strategic outlook to have partnership with Turkey.
The reason for this is our ability to make use of our historical heritage, translate it into the context of today’s global politics and deepen mutual understanding and partnership through concrete projects.
Likewise, we have deepened our political, economic and cultural relations with those countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia with which we have a special bond of religion, language and culture. To develop a future vision, we have established the Turkish Cooperation Council. We will continue to be an active player in these regions of the world with the same outlook and determination.
Starting with Central Asia, we have established high-level relations with all of the Turkish Republics. We have launched major initiative in Africa. Our Africa opening, which began ten years ago, has today become one of the cornerstones of our global foreign policy.
The Alliance of Civilizations Initiative, which we launched together with Spain in 2004, has become the largest international organizations in terms of its members after the UN. The Alliance is gaining strength everyday as a global platform for the peaceful coexistence of different cultures and civilizations. Turkey’s leading role in this area and the Alliance will continue unabated.
As we saw in the cartoon crisis several years ago and now with the reprehensible film about our beloved Prophet, there is an urgent need for an international initiative and joint effort to fight against the rising tide of Islamophobia and to establish peace and harmony between different cultures and civilizations. Islamophobia is a very dangerous trend that poisons relations between Islamic and Western societies. Just like anti-Semitism, Islamophobia is a form of racism and a crime against humanity. In this regard, we began a comprehensive initiative to classify Islamophobia as a hate crime and will pursue it to the end.
We accept the European Union project as a success story. After decades of great wars and conflicts, a project like the EU to unify all European nations could have been possible only with a grand vision for the future. Today, people refer to the EU project when they talk about peace, solidarity and economic development in other parts of the world.
It is AK Party that has put for the first time Turkey’s 50-year old checkered relationship with the EU in a comprehensive strategic context and made it part of its strategic outlook. AK Party has taken concrete steps to realize the EU vision in tandem with Turkey’s needs and priorities.
Legal reforms and new regulations have been passed as part of the EU’s acquis communautaire and they have raised ad strengthened Turkey’s democratic standards.
AK Party’s strategic goal is full membership in the EU. We will not accept any option other than full membership. Despite the obstacles originating from the EU itself, our political will and determination which we demonstrated in 2005 for negotiations remains strong and will not change.
Over the last seven years since we started accession talks, we have taken bold and realistic steps. We expect the same from the EU, i.e., to act with the vision and leadership that created the EU. It is a contradiction of EU’s own principles to make Turkey an instrument of European domestic politics. This attitude creates a sense of mistrust and suspicion in the Turkish public. EU leaders should show courage and leadership and the negotiations should move forward.
The Arab Revolutions
Our brothers and sisters in the Arab world have taken a brave and revolutionary step and got rid of their dictators. They established the will of the people as the basis of politics. By doing so, they changed the course of history.
Their revolutions have not only redefined politics on the basis of the will of the people but also overcome centuries-old prejudices against the Middle Eastern people. They have shown to the world that no system can survive on injustice and oppression.
Bou Azizi’s burnt body, Tahrir’s voice, Libya’s fire and the demand for freedom, justice and dignity have destroyed the old mindsets, outlooks and vocabularies. The Arab youth, the trailblazers of the Arab revolutions, have changed the course of history and opened up a new horizon for the world. The world has once again remembered the importance of dignity, self-esteem and belief in freedom.
At this critical juncture in the modern history of the Middle East, AK Party has stodd with the people against the status quo and oppression and supported the people’s legitimate demands for change.
Three principles have guided our approach to the Arab revolutions:
· Change in our region is inevitable. No regime that oppresses and kills its own people and excludes the vast majority of the people from political participation can have a chance to survive.
· This process of change must take place peacefully and with national consensus.
· Both the transition period and the post-revolutionary phase should include all members of the society without discrimination and exclusion.
The first principle refers to the need for change, the second to the will of the people, and the third to pluralist and inclusive politics. It goes without saying that each country has its own specific circumstances and they should be taken into account.
AK Party pursued a dynamic politics in this historic period. We implemented our principles while taking into account the new emerged dynamics and factors.
What we said in Tunisia, we said the same thing in Egypt. We upheld the same position in Libya and supported the people’s legitimate demands for change. Today, we uphold the same principle in regards to Syria. We firmly believe that the Syrian people deserve justice, freedom, dignity and prosperity as much as others.
When the events started in Syria, we urged the regime to carry out serious reforms and establish national dialogue and consensus. We made every effort for a peaceful transition by holding special meetings, telephone diplomacy and through special envoys. But instead of listening to its people’s demands and working for peaceful change, the Syrian regime chose to kill its own people.
Against the Syrian regime’s brutal policies of killing, collective punishment and political games, Turkey took a clear stance in solidarity with the people of Syria. We opened our borders to thousands of refugees fleeing their country. As a human and moral responsibility, we have accepted our Syrian brothers and sisters into our country and will continue to do so until the Syrian conflict is resolved.
We attach utmost importance to Syria’s territorial integrity, political sovereignty and societal harmony. Like in the rest of the Middle East, all members of Syrian society are equal regardless of their religion, sect or ethnicity. They are our brothers and sisters. As an honest friend and neighbor, Turkey will continue to work for a free, fair, democratic and prosperous Syria.
AK Party’s foreign policy is based on pursuing a positive agenda without precondition and prejudice. We reject any sort of prejudice against any nation and any country. We have no quarrel with any nation, country or group of people and we believe we can solve our political differences through dialogue and diplomacy. We reject policies that advocate division and tension in our region.
No one has a right to exclude any country from regional political order.
We firmly reject those approaches that seek to turn differences in the Muslim world into a source of conflict and war.
We see the recent events in our region as a process of normalization. Turkey is making peace with its own history and geography. As a result, our relations with the peoples and countries in the region are also becoming normal again.
This is part of a larger process of normalization of the social and political dynamics of the Afro-Euro-Asian landmass. Needless to say, Turkey is at the center of this process.
Everyone will benefit from normalization and the spread of justice. No one should be afraid of the tectonic changes taking place in the larger region. Our Middle East vision is based on a ‘win-win’ philosophy and a policy of mutual empowerment whereby everyone wins. Our goal is to establish justice, equality and democracy as a principle of politics and diplomacy.
AK Party will continue to embrace all the peoples and colors of the Middle East and beyond regardless of their religion, sect, ethnicity, language and culture. We will continue to treat them as our equals and as our brothers and sisters. “Unity-in-diversity” remains our guiding principle. We will continue to strive to make the Middle East and North Africa a land of peace, stability, wealth, creativity, high culture and civilization.
Our policy on Cyprus has been clear all along. Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus have done their part to bring peace and stability to the island. They have supported and voted for the UN Annan Plan in 2004. But the UN and the EU have failed to fulfill their responsibilities and abandoned Turkish Cypriots. The Greek Cypriots have been rewarded despite their rejection of the UN plan.
We call for a fair solution that will be acceptable to all sides. Our conditions for negotiations are well-known. We will continue to stand by them.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is in the process of establishing a strong political system as a sovereign state. Its economy and social infrastructure are getting stronger. It is becoming a major center of attraction in higher education. Its economy is becoming less statist and more free market oriented.
Last year, the Turkish Cypriots passed a number of important legal reforms. They made major strides in tourism. These social and economic policies have made them stronger. As Turkey, we will continue to support the Turkish Cypriots.
We continue to provide financial aid to Cyprus. The new economic program of the last three years has increased investment and helped boost development. The new 3-year economic program will soon be ready.
We are working to transport water from Turkey to the island thought under-the-sea canals. The work for building two dams on both sides and the construction of the underwater canals is almost completed. These projects will be completed in March 2014. This project will also enable us to send electricity to the island. All of these will make Northern Cyprus stronger.
We attach utmost importance to the sensitivities of Turkey and Northern Cyprus in regards to the continental shell around the island. We will continue our oil and gas exploration work.
Our goal in all of these efforts is to make Northern Cyprus strong and self-sufficient and the Turkish Cypriots achieve peace and stability.
One of the requirements of our vision to become a regional leader and global player is to make our military defense system more efficient, deterrent and modern. Our national defense industry needs to further develop so that our armed forces can maximize its military capabilities.
Our defense industry has vastly expanded under AK Party governments. Gone is the time when Turkey was unable to manufacture even a simple rifle; today, we are capable of producing our own tanks.
We have established the infrastructure for a national tank called “ALTAY”. We have also begun test flights for our nationally produced UVs called “ANKA” that can go up to 10 thousand meters and stay on the air for 24 hours.
Part of our 2023 Turkey Vision is to be able to manufacture our major defense needs by ourselves.