According to the latest survey, out of all the measures enacted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) over the course of its more than 17-year-long tenure in the Turkish government, the abolishment of the country’s headscarf ban is the best known.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has constantly instructed his party members to clearly explain policies adopted and implemented by the party to the country’s citizens. In light of this, the party ordered a survey to be conducted to assess the knowledge of citizens about the AK Party’s policies and practices. The survey consisted of 12 questions and was shared across social media.
Accordingly, the abolition of the headscarf ban is the best-known practice of the AK Party governments among participants. Some 97% of participants knew that the infamous ban was abolished by the AK Party government in order to provide women with equality of opportunity in education and public institutions.
The headscarf ban in Turkey was first implemented widely in the 1980s but became stricter after 1997 when the military forced the conservative government to resign in an incident later dubbed the Feb. 28 “postmodern coup.”
It was gradually lifted for students in universities after 2010, while the ban for public employees was lifted in 2013.
The issue of the headscarf ban held an important place in public and political debates in Turkey throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
The AK Party government led by then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was a pioneer in terms of resolving the country’s headscarf dispute, which forced millions of Muslim women to choose between their faith and their education or career.
A democratization package aimed at guaranteeing the democratic rights of all citizens was introduced, along with new laws and amendments to existing ones, to ensure women wearing headscarves could receive education and work as public servants.
The least known practice implemented by the AK Party is free access to the ombudsman institution in case of a breach of human rights by the public institutions. Therefore, citizens can appeal against any human rights violation for free without going to court. Only 56% of the survey’s participants knew this practice.
Some 96% of the participants also knew that the election of the president through popular vote and the free access to all health facilities’ emergency and intensive care units have become possible with the initiatives of the AK Party governments.
Other well-known practices are the establishment of the Emergency Support Hotline for Women (KADES), an app that serves as “an emergency button” for women threatened with domestic violence, the right of individual application to the Constitutional Court, the inclusion of all citizens into the basic social security program and the abolition of bans on the use of different languages in education.
Transforming Turkish politics for the last 18 years, the AK Party has become the most successful political party in modern Turkey’s democracy history. Only one year after its foundation, the AK Party brought enormous achievement in the first general elections, garnering 34.3% of the vote in the Nov. 3, 2002, elections and earning 363 seats in Parliament.
Since then, the AK Party has never lost an election. Under the AK Party administration, Turkey has witnessed rapid development in many areas including economy, democracy, individual liberties and rights, health and educational services in a stable political environment.
In the presidential elections of 2018, Erdoğan became the first democratically elected president in Turkey’s new system of presidential government by receiving 52.4% of the votes. The presidential government system, which was also promoted by the AK Party, was ratified in a referendum in 2017 as 51.4% of voters supported the constitutional change.
Erdoğan was also the first president elected by the people in the 2014 presidential elections by taking 51.8% of votes. Moreover, in the last 18 years, two presidents and four prime ministers were elected from the AK Party.
Having millions of members, the party’s voter base also includes millions of people from different political backgrounds. Since it won the majority of votes in its first election, it sequentially increased its voters in all subsequent elections.