The congresses held by political parties are the best opportunity for them to present their national and international messages to the public regarding the policies they want to implement, and their pledges. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party), founded two decades ago, is holding its 7th Ordinary Grand Congress today. In addition to the three extraordinary congresses it held previously, this will be its 10th congress to date.
The three extraordinary congresses in question were not held as a result of an outlandish situation engendered by a deep argument, dispute or conflict within the party; but on the contrary, they were held in relation to role changes. These were congresses that required President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to abandon his position as the chair of a party he had founded and led after being elected by the public for the first time, and then his return to the party as chair following the changes that took place.
The AK Party, founded two decades ago, came to power only 15 months after its founding, and it has been governing the country on its own since then. Hence, AK Party congresses also set the stage for assemblies during which efforts are made to detect and rectify the shortcomings of an understanding governing Turkey, and the most realistic and feasible vision of Turkey is presented to the world. Every congress has a different slogan. The first slogan in October 2003 was, “Everything is for Turkey, This Light Will Not Fade.” In the following congresses, the slogans, “Turkey’s Party, Turkey’s Leader,” “Together We are Turkey,” “Great Nation, Great Power, Goal 2023,” “New Turkey Together,” “With Love as Strong as the First Day,” “New Breakthrough Period, Democracy, Change, Reform,” have determined the general direction of each congress as well as their policies.
As a reformist, with its innovative, pro-change, pro-democracy characteristics, the AK Party always focused on being “Turkey’s party” by embracing and developing the entire country, while prioritizing justice. Though it positioned itself as conservative in terms of identity, its reformist and revolutionist characteristics are more prominent. The slogans it uses and the mottoes that summarize the party programs are also a great embodiment of this.
Over a span of 20 years and 10 congresses, they entered many elections, adding a whopping number of names to the ranks of the party from the government and the local administrations. This number constitutes a significant population, whose paths somehow crossed with the AK Party. Surely there is communication with them, and they contribute to the AK Party’s philosophy, understanding and political practices. Beyond anything, this represents a major human capital.
The 7th Ordinary Congress is being held in an atmosphere where the AK Party, having spent 19 years of its two decades in power, has its most compelling reform packages on the agenda. The Congress is aimed at improving human rights and freedoms and making investments more convenient in the fields of justice, judiciary and economy. However, the fact that strongest criticism against the packages is, “It makes no sense that they are still launching reforms despite being in power for 19 years,” is ironic. Reform is not a political one-size-fits-all step and then completed; it is a political style.
Unfortunately, the fact that the opposition parties that have been around for the last 19 years have no stronger criticism regarding the reform packages, or that they have no counter-suggestions is a structural situation. We witnessed in the previous Istanbul municipality, which changed hands in the last local elections, the sort of risk posed by those who systematically oppose every effort in the event that they may come to power. There is almost no municipal administration in Istanbul. It is an administration that makes its presence felt with its scandalous failures alone, and exterminates itself with the automatic actions of a system that was established in the past.
A 19-year rule is a difficult period to emulate based on the way democracies function. During such a time span, issues that the current government cannot overcome will come to the fore. The opposition will take advantage of this and present itself as an alternative – most of the time, and win the battle. The reason this has not happened in Turkey is because the AK Party government has overcome the problems it pledged to solve, and thus gained the people’s trust, while one other reason is the fact that the opposition has not exuded any confidence that it can do better.
We are not at a different point today. As a matter of fact, achievements that nobody with a conscience can ignore have been made in this 19-year term. These achievements need to be further strengthened on Turkey’s trajectory, elevating the country above contemporary levels. Turkey has recently proven that it has reached the threshold of contemporary civilization and that it passed it in leaps and bounds in the health field, in the defense industry field, as well as in several other industry branches.
The AK Party has determined what is necessary for this march to continue as the slogan of its 7th Ordinary Congress set to be held today: “Trust and Stability for Turkey.” May the 7th Ordinary Congress benefit Turkey and the world.