Guest Column by Kemal Kirişci. Kirişci will give Friday’s Morning Lecture in the Amphitheater at 10:45 a.m.
As the Arab Spring spread from Tunisia to the rest of the Middle East early in 2011, the longtime opposition figure Rashid al-Gannouchi, also the co-founder and leader of Tunisia’s an-Nahda party, was among the many leaders who pointed to Justice and Development Party (AKP)-led Turkey as a model for guiding the transformation of the Middle East. Gannouchi maintained close relations with AKP and its leadership, which later became closely involved in Tunisia’s transformation efforts. Yet, after a May 2013 talk on “Tunisia’s Democratic Future” at The Brookings Institution, Gannouchi’s response to a question asking him which countries he thought constituted a model for Tunisia was striking because he did not mention Turkey. It is probably not a coincidence that he responded the way he did because the news about the harsh police response to the initial stages of the anti-government protests in Turkey was just breaking out. Subsequently, in an interview he gave to Jackson Diehl of The Washington Post early in June, he also took a critical view of both Mohammed Morsi and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for their majoritarian understanding of democracy, a view that he said an-Nahda renounces. So what happened to Turkey’s model credentials? What might have led Gannouchi to change his views so dramatically? Are there any prospects for Turkey to reclaim these credentials?