Conservatism in Turkey

Conservatism in Turkey (Turkish: Muhafazakârlık) is a national variant of conservatism throughout Turkey reflected in the agendas of many of the country's political parties, most notably the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), which describes its prevailing ideology as conservative democracy.[1] Elements of Turkish conservatism are also reflected in most parties situated on the political right, including the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). In Turkey, it is often referred to as Türk tipi Muhafazakârlık (Turkish-style conservatism).[2]

Turkish conservatism is distinct from conservatism in other countries in that it is predominately at odds with the established state structure, tending to be critical of the founding principles of the Turkish Republic whereas most forms of conservatism tend to endorse the principle values of the state. Ideals predominately at odds with conservatives, such as secularism, statism, populism and the existence of a social state are enshrined within the Constitution of Turkey. Turkish conservatism is rivalled mainly by Kemalism, based on the ideology of Turkey's founding President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who brought about several social reforms influenced by a progressive pro-western agenda following the collapse of the deeply conservative Ottoman Empire. However, Kemalism has also been described as a form of conservative nationalism as it endorses and safeguards the established traditions of the Turkish state.[3]

Conservatism in Turkey tends to be inspired and strongly influenced by political Islam, with conservative values arising from local orders, Islamic tarikats and village traditions.[4] Turkish conservatism therefore tends to be more socially conservative, religious and in favour of strong centralised leadership, therefore often being characterised as authoritarian by critics.[5] Turkish conservatives also tend to show greater approval to the return of Ottoman culture as opposed to the western-inspired culture and values originating from the Republic era.[6]

Recent surveys continuously show that conservatism in Turkey enjoys strong political support, predominantly in the central Anatolia region and rural areas where village and local traditions remain strictly enforced. In 2012, only 8.6% of Turks described themselves as 'entirely non-conservative' as opposed to 12.6% in 2006.[7] Research by Kadir Has University showed that 39.2% of Turks described themselves as conservative in 2013, falling to 35.4% describing themselves as either conservative or religious in 2015.[8]


  1. "Turkey: from conservative democracy to popular authoritarianism | openDemocracy". Retrieved 2016-07-30.
  3. "Turkey's Liberals, Religious Conservatism, and Kemalism". Retrieved 2016-07-30.
  4. "The New York Times". Retrieved 2016-07-30.
  5. "Turkey's Creeping Authoritarianism: Is the Resistance Enough?". Retrieved 2016-07-30.
  6. Piri Medya. "Millet biziz, devlet biz - SERDAR TUNCER". Retrieved 2016-07-30.
  7. "Conservatism in Turkey becomes more mainstream, survey shows - LOCAL". Retrieved 2016-07-30.
  8. "Türkiye Sosyal-Siyasal Eğilimler Araştırması – Kantitatif Araştırma Özeti" (PDF). TÜRKİYE ARAŞTIRMALARI MERKEZİ, Kadir Has Üniversitesi. 4 February 2016. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
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