Justice and Development Party (Turkey)
The Justice and Development Party (Turkish: Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP), abbreviated officially AK Parti in Turkish, is a conservative and populist political party in Turkey. As of 2021 the party is the largest in Turkey and has been in power almost continuously since 2003, with its leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, prime minister or president during most of this time, and still president as of 2021. The party suffered a setback in the 2019 local elections, losing Istanbul and Ankara and other large cities, in addition to losses attributed to the Turkish economic crisis, accusations of authoritarianism, as well as alleged government inaction on the Syrian refugee crisis.
Founded in 2001, the party has a strong base of support among orthodox Muslims and arose from the conservative tradition of Turkey's Ottoman past and its Islamic identity, though the party strongly denies it is Islamist. The party originally worked with the Islamic Gülen movement, positioned itself as a pro-Western, pro-American, pro-liberal market economy, supporting Turkish membership in the European Union. (As of 2021, the US is threatening sanctions against the AKP government for its purchase of Russian missiles. AKP broke with the Gülen movement after the 2013 corruption investigations of officials in the AKP, and the Gülen movement is now classified as a terrorist organization in Turkey.)
The party has been credited by many with passing a series of reforms from 2002 to 2011 that increased accessibility to healthcare and housing, distributed food subsidies, increased funding for students, improved infrastructure in poorer districts, privatized state-owned businesses, increased civilian oversight of the powerful military, overcame economic crises and oversaw high rates of growth of GDP and per capita income.
The AKP government has also lifted bans on religious and conservative dress (e.g. hijab) in universities and public institutions, helped Islamic schools, brought about tighter regulations on abortion and higher taxes on alcohol consumption. This has brought allegations that it is covertly undermining Turkish constitutional secular principles (the Turkish constitution forbids sharia in the legal code or religious political parties, and courts have banned several parties for violating secular principles) and led to two unsuccessful court cases attempting to close the party in 2002 and 2008.
More recently, in 2013, nationwide protests broke out against the alleged authoritarianism of the AKP government, the party's EU accession negotiations have stalled, the AKP government has been accused of crony capitalism, and criticized its plans to centralized power in the Turkish state, and restrictions on civil liberties such as temporarily blocking access to Twitter and YouTube in March 2014.