Museums are institutions dedicated to the collection and preservation of artefacts, but they are also sites of national production that contribute to shaping the nation’s collective memory. Sometimes, history exhibited in museums becomes the centre of cultural wars that are not fought on battlefields, but on information panels and showcases: devices where the national past is contested, rewritten, and exhibited. With the coming to power of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the institutional representation of Turkish national history was subject to significant changes. Conforming with the national ideology of the AKP, recently built museums focus more on Turkey’s Ottoman and Islamic heritage, and less on similarly important ones such as the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and the more recent Kemalist traditions.
This article deals with how populism as a global phenomenon manifests itself in Turkish politics. It argues that the core element of populism alla turca is anti-intellectualism, and that although populism has traditionally been a component of the discourses of major actors in Turkey, on both the right and the left of the political spectrum, in its current form, its content is in large part anti-intellectualism. It is an ideological apparatus consciously used by those in power to reproduce and strengthen the neoliberal conservative hegemony in Turkey which has been installed and consolidated during the rule of Justice and Development Party since 2002. It also claims that the phenomenon of populism and its increasing popularity – theoretical and practical – needs to be linked to the concept of hegemony.
The elections of June 7, 2015 had the effect of a political earthquake. Turkey’s ruling AKP conceded a sharp drop of 9 percent (from 49.9 to 40.9 percent), losing, after 13 years in power the overall majority of seats. It was the first time the ruling party saw a dramatic fall in support. The AKP’s losses seem even more dramatic considering the opposition parties’ underrepresentation in media and the ruling party’s abuse of public resources.
On 20. January 2012, the Parliament of the Republic of Turkey passed a law concerning new rules and procedure by which Turkey’s future head of state would be elected. According to this law, Turkey’s next head of state was to be elected by popular vote, in lieu of the Parliament, for the first time since Republican Turkey was founded. Based on the official election results, the former Prime Minister and head of the ruling party, the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP), Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was elected in the first round as the 12th President of the Republic of Turkey for a period of five years, wining more than 52% of the votes on 10. August 2014. The other two candidates were Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu and Selahattin Demirtaş, who received 38.44% and 9.76% of the votes respectively.