The first systematic study of the evolution of Islamic politics in Iran and Turkey, based on primary documents from both countries.
Moderation theory describes the process through which radical political actors develop commitments to electoral competition, political pluralism, human rights, and rule of law and come to prefer negotiation, reconciliation, and electoral politics over provocation, confrontation, and contentious action. Revisiting this theory through an examination of two of the most prominent moderate Islamic political forces in recent history, Muslim Reformers in Iran and Turkey analyzes the gains made and methods implemented by the Reform Front in the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Justice and Development Party in Turkey.
Both of these groups represent Muslim reformers who came into continual conflict with unelected adversaries who attempted to block their reformist agendas. Based on extensive field research in both locales, Muslim Reformers in Iran and Turkey argues that behavioral moderation as practiced by these groups may actually inhibit democratic progress. Political scientist Güneş Murat Tezcür observes that the ability to implement conciliatory tactics, organize electoral parties, and make political compromises impeded democracy when pursued by the Reform Front and the Justice and Development Party. Challenging conventional wisdom, Tezcür's findings have broad implications for the dynamics of democratic progress.
- List of Tables and Figures
- List of Abbreviations
- Preface and Acknowledgments
- Chapter 1. Introduction
- Chapter 2. From Islamists to Muslim Reformers: A Theory of Political Change
- Chapter 3. Muslim Reformism in Comparative Perspective
- Chapter 4. Muslim Reformism: Engagement with Secularism and Liberal Democracy
- Chapter 5. The Guardians and Elections in Iran and Turkey
- Chapter 6. A Moment of Enthusiasm in the Islamic Republic
- Chapter 7. Elusive Democratization in the Secular Republic
- Chapter 8. A Tale of Two Elections
- Chapter 9. Conclusion
In the summer of 2002, the headquarters of the Justice and Development Party (JDP; Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi) was hardly a well-known address. Visitors to the newly constructed building located in the Balgat district of Ankara were few in number and had easy access to leadership cadres. The relationships were personal within the party; all divisions worked closely with one another. The party, led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and founded by a group of politicians who split from the Islamist movement, had around fifty parliamentarians and was in the opposition. The party leadership had an ambitious political vision. The JDP would have a democratic governance structure, establish rigorous ethical standards for its members, actively fight against corruption, realize social justice by redressing income inequalities, and become a leading actor of Turkish democratization, which gained new impetus with the increasing prospects of Turkey's membership in the European Union (EU). The public was receptive to the JDP in the aftermath of Turkey's worst post-World War II economic crisis. The tripartite coalition government, which had ruled the country since the April 1999 elections, started to unravel and called for early elections. The JDP fully capitalized on this golden opportunity and swept the polls just fifteen months after its foundation. Erdoğan became prime minister in March 2003 after the ban on his political activity was revoked. The once-quiet headquarters was soon swarmed by people from all over the country who had their own expectations, requests, and hopes. Meanwhile, in the eyes of many outside observers, the JDP was a perfect example of "moderate Islam" demonstrating the compatibility of Muslim faith with democratic and peaceful governance in the post-September 11 era of tensions and conflict.
Another "moderate face of Islam" was already in "power" to the east of Turkey, in a rather unexpected setting, the Islamic Republic of Iran. Mohammad Khatami, a middle-ranking cleric and former minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, was the underdog candidate in the 1997 presidential elections. He had few financial and organizational resources at his disposal; he was not the preferred candidate of the Islamist guardians, who controlled key positions of the political regime. Yet he emerged triumphant from the 1997 presidential elections, a victory that took many observers by surprise. Khatami adopted a modest posture, toured the provinces in hopes of reaching the ordinary voters during his campaign, and developed a discourse integrating themes of civil society, popular participation and rule, and rule of law. He seemed to offer a genuine choice to many Iranians who enthusiastically went to the polls. President Khatami set up a new platform called the "Dialogue of Civilizations" and repeatedly expressed his desire to improve Iran's relationship with the West, including the United States. His presidency inaugurated a new period in which demands for democratic reform were voiced and found public following. Less than three years after Khatami's victory, his followers loosely organized as the Reform Front (hereafter Rf; Jebhe-ye Eslahat or Jebhe-ye Dovom Khordad) and gained the control of the parliament after defeating their rivals in the 2000 elections. For many, these two victories revealed the widespread discontent with the Iranian regime and public desire for substantial political change. The Islamic Republic of Iran, which came into existence following the Revolution of 1979, would be reformed from within. For the first time in the modern history of the Middle East, popularly elected politicians who promised to synthesize democratic governance with Islamic principles gained political prominence.
Ironically, the two countries that hosted the rise of the strongest reformist Islamic oppositions in the Middle East were the secularist Turkish regime and the Islamist Iranian regime. Whereas the secularist worldview restricted public expressions of religion, the Islamist worldview established the hegemony of a particular version of religion over the public sphere. This chapter first defines the historical puzzle of Muslim reformism in these two countries. After summarizing plausible explanations that focus on either Iran or Turkey, I offer a comparative explanation informed by moderation theory. I then introduce a revised version of theory that contributes to a better scholarly understanding of the evolution of Iranian and Turkish Muslim reformers. In the last two sections of the chapter, I discuss the methods used and provide an overview of the book.
The Historical Puzzle
This book follows the trajectory of the RF in Iran and the JDP in Turkey from the early 1990s to the last half of the first decade of the twenty-first century (see Figure 1.1). The RF in Iran and the JDP in Turkey represent the forces of Muslim reformism. They share certain common characteristics. The RF and the JDP, the Muslim reformers, accept the inviolability of political pluralism, competitive elections, and human rights while seeking a political role for Islamic symbols, norms, and faith. Meanwhile, they represent diverse positions on issues such as gender equality; the application of Islamic law; the sociopolitical status of vulnerable groups, including non-Muslims and ethnic minorities; and relations with Western countries. Hence, their espousal of rights is often more restrictive and more inconsistent than that of political actors fully committed to liberal democracy. Second, they reflect the rise of postideological thinking among Islamic cadres. Many Iranian and Turkish Islamists who had previously denounced democracy as culturally inauthentic and institutionally redundant emerged as staunch advocates of democratic reform. A prominent activist and intellectual in the Turkish Islamist movement put this transformation in perspective:
The core idea of modernization in Iran and Turkey has been the state's engineering of social consciousness and transformation of social relations. . . . Islamism adopted this authoritarian tendency in both countries. Islamists aimed to capture the state and reorganize society. Only in the early 1990s did Islamists start to develop a liberal and rights-oriented reading of Islam.
The primary focus of the book is on groups of political elites who formed powerful organizations, occupied key governmental positions, and articulated visions of common good that often put them at odds with the nonelected guardians (discussed in detail in Chapter 5), who command considerable political power. Other political actors are included in the analyses as long as they affect the ideas, interests, and behavior of these political groups. The book primarily addresses a historical puzzle (see Table 1.1): Why did the strongest Muslim political reform movements in the contemporary Middle East emerge in Iran and Turkey, which substantially differ from each other in terms of political rule, religious establishment, socioeconomic structure, cultural past, and international linkages? Also, why did the evolution of Iranian and Turkish Muslim reformers follow a similar trajectory?
Iran and Turkey have many differences. First, the historical evolution of Islam in Iran and Turkey has followed substantially different paths. Canonical differences and the historical rivalry between the Hanafi school of Islam—dominant in Turkey since the Ottoman times—and the Jaafari school of Twelver Shiite Islam—the state religion of Iran since the sixteenth century—are tremendous. However, Islam being Sunni in Turkey and historically lacking an autonomous clerical establishment has not necessarily made religious movements in this country less or more democratic than in Iran, where Shiite Islam, with its powerful clerical establishment, is the predominant religious denomination. Second, since 1923 Turkey has been a secular republic in which the role of religion in public life is highly regulated, whereas Iran since 1979 has been an Islamic republic with state enforcement of Islamic morals in public life. Politics are expressed within the limits of a secularist paradigm in Turkey; in Iran, Islamist principles usually determine the parameters of political discourse. Third, Turkey has had more than fifty years of parliamentary democracy, albeit interrupted by military interventions; Iran's brief experiences with parliamentarism, starting in 1906 and repeating again in 1951 and 1979, were followed by the consolidation of autocratic rule. Fourth, Turkey since the late 1940s has been allied with the United States, whereas the Iranian regime since the revolution has been the main antagonist of the U.S. government in the region. Turkey currently seeks membership in the EU; the Iran-EU relationship has been characterized by tensions and uncertainty. Yet these political differences have not prevented the almost simultaneous rise of Muslim reformers in both countries in the late 1990s. Finally, Iran and Turkey have little in common in the way their economies are structured and how that impacts regime stability. The Iranian economy is highly regulated, oil based, and characterized by heavy state involvement in all aspects of production. The business sector has no autonomous capacity to push for political and economic liberalization. In contrast, Turkey has an open and diversified economy that was beset by erratic growth rates during the 1990s. The business interests have organizational independence and in the past often advocated democratic reforms as necessary to limit arbitrary state intervention.
The simultaneous rise of Muslim reformism in Iran and Turkey also defies the expectations of theoretical perspectives that exclusively focus on the relationship between political and religious authority and political theology, which involves religious justifications for legitimate political authority. Differentiation implies that religious and political entities are mutually autonomous from each other and independently govern their own affairs. Additionally, the relationship between these two entities can be characterized by either consensus or conflict. Political theology either espouses liberal-democratic ideas or backs authoritarian regimes. Liberal democracies tend to have high levels of differentiation and consensual relationships between religious and political authority. In contrast, in the Muslim world, the states have been mostly integrationist and political theology has had strong authoritarian tendencies. In fact, the integrationist and repressive regimes in the Middle East and Central Asia "have radicalized already conservative Muslim movements by suppressing their legal, nonviolent participation . . . and sequestering them from the moderating influences of democratic competition, compromise, and public argument." In this sense, liberal democracy is more likely to be achieved in regimes with high levels of differentiation between religious and political authority. Similarly, religious actors are more likely to become agents of democratization in differentiated regimes. Whereas the Turkish regime is categorized as having conflictual differentiation, the Iranian regime is classified as consensual integrationist, like Saudi Arabia's. Hence, they are anathemas to each other. While this theoretical perspective plausibly expects the growth of a strong Muslim political reform movement in Turkey, it does not offer any insights regarding the rise of the most ambitious Muslim political reform in Iran. After all, Iran and Saudi Arabia have a similar type and degree of differentiation. Moreover, the predominant political theology in Iran, velayat-e faqih (guardianship of the jurists), is not more hospitable to liberal democracy than that in Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism. The fact that Iran has some institutional features in common with Turkey and different from Saudi Arabia may provide a more satisfactory understanding.
Before laying out the explanatory framework developed in this book, it is instructive to briefly discuss narratives that aim to explain the rise of Muslim reformers in either Iran or Turkey. Three such narratives exist for each country. Iran is the only country where Islamists were able to lead a mass uprising and establish a theocratic regime. However, with the advent of the 1990s, signs of popular discontent with state policies and of public apathy toward the ruling ideology increased. The regime's enforcement of Islamic morals; failure in dealing with high levels of unemployment, especially among the youth; and inability to transform oil wealth into economic prosperity all contributed to public discontent. In these respects, Iran was not very different from many other Middle Eastern regimes where incompetent governance fueled support for Islamist movements. Opposition movements in Arab countries often perceived further Islamization as a panacea to sociopolitical problems. Different from these countries, however, in Iran, Islamists were not ruled but ruled. Ex-revolutionaries who were disillusioned with the Islamist experiment formed the backbone of the nonviolent and loyal opposition to the Islamic Republic. Islamists in other countries would not undergo a similar metamorphosis because they did not achieve their ideal of an Islamic state. The shortcomings of the Islamic state are a primary cause for the popularity of Muslim reformist platforms. This is a valuable perspective that well captures the transformation of revolutionaries, who had been believers in the notion of an Islamic state, into the dissidents of the Islamic Republic. Yet this perspective does not tell anything about the rise of a new generation of believers who remained adherent to the Islamic state and rose to power with the 2004 parliamentary and 2005 presidential elections.
Another perspective focuses on the historical evolution of Shiite traditions. Ruhollah Khomeini's theory of velayat-e motlaq-e faqih, the absolute rule of the clergy, which became the blueprint of the constitution of the Islamic Republic, represented a radical innovation in Shiite theology. Shiite tradition defined the role of the clergy as a collective guardianship in the social and legal sphere, not in the political sphere. The Islamic Republic set this tradition aside and institutionalized the rule of politically committed clergy. However, clerics and religious intellectuals who were discontent with the Islamic Republic challenged this departure from tradition. They were concerned with the corruptive influence of politics on clerics and on public religiosity and the exploitation of Shiite Islam as a justification for authoritarian rule. Because of their religious credentials, they effectively threatened the regime's monopoly over Islamic discourse. Sunni countries would not have a similar intellectual movement because clerical authorities in these countries were historically subordinated to the state. As a result, they would not be in a position to actively support or lead democratic opposition movements. This perspective accurately identifies the inherent tension between Shiite traditions and the notion of an Islamic state ruled by the faqih. However, neither the disillusionment with ideology nor traditional Shiite perspectives can be the necessary conditions for the rise of Muslim reformism, as they were completely irrelevant to the similar developments in Turkey.
Yet another perspective focuses on the rise of the RF as a powerful opposition movement by specifying institutional factors that distinguish Iran from more stable authoritarian countries. According to this viewpoint, the lack of a single ruling party undermined elite cohesion and made institutional mediation of elite disputes very difficult in the Islamic Republic. "Ruling parties thus resolve conflicts in a positive-sum fashion . . . When parties have declined or disappeared, intra-elite conflicts escalate, and leaders polarize into competing factions. . . . The realignment of previous supporters of authoritarianism with the opposition presents a structural opportunity for democratization" (italics added). While this perspective rightly focuses on how political opportunities inherent to the factional nature of political rule in Iran facilitated the rise of the RF, it has two shortcomings. First, it just asserts that the RF failed to take full benefit of these opportunities because the movement preferred "accommodation over confrontation." It does not offer any explanation for why the RF made the choice of "accommodation." Additionally, the viewpoint does not adequately discuss the ideological trends that were mostly autonomous from political opportunities and accompanied the rise of the RF. Hence, analytical focus should also include the organizational resources and ideological worldview of the RF. Next, it can be disputed whether factionalism inherent to the Islamic Republic generated a "structural opportunity for democratization." After all, it can be argued that electoral factionalism actually hindered the development of a mass-based opposition movement, limited the scope of elite defections, and prevented distribution of targets of public discontent and blame.
It is also possible to identify three influential perspectives that seek to explain the emergence and rise of Muslim reformers in Turkey. The first focuses on Turkey's rather unique secular heritage. Turkish secularism not only limits religion's role in public life; it represses parties and social movements that politicize the public's religious sentiments, and bans political parties that defy the restrictions on the public roles of Islam. Consequently, according to this point of view, the "moderation" of Islamists in the 1990s can best be explained as a product of the secularist character of the regime. The founders of the JDP who had previously been members of the Islamist parties banned by the Constitutional Court realized the infeasibility of Islamist goals in Turkey. They decided to reinvent themselves as centrists to avoid repression. Hence, Turkish Islamists became more democratic than their counterparts elsewhere in the Middle East because the secularist guardians disciplined them. The fundamental weakness of this perspective is that it misreads the Islamist response to state repression. In fact, Islamists had already become quite "moderate" before the state crackdown. Moreover, reformists who had emerged from within the Islamists continued to challenge the Turkish version of secularism.
A second viewpoint, which also underlines the uniqueness of Turkish experience, argues that the rise of Muslim reformers occurred in spite of secularism. According to this view, Anatolian Sufism informed how Muslim Turks and Kurds made sense of sociopolitical affairs and contributed to social stability and cohesion. While Sufi beliefs and practices showed great variety, they generally shunned Islamist platforms. The pious middle class practicing Sufi Islam greatly benefited from economic liberalization and Turkey's increasing integration into the global economy with the advent of the 1980s. The JDP leaders established strong networks with the pious middle class and recruited its members to leadership positions. The rise of Muslim reformers in Turkey in the 1990s can best be understood as an effect of the tolerant, pluralistic, and civic characteristics of Anatolian Sunni Islam. The JDP's leadership cadres generally adhere to Sufism, and the party's rise represented continuity with Turkish Islamic traditions. The main problem with this perspective is its assumption of a direct connection between Sufi beliefs and political behavior. The effects of organizations and institutions on behavior are ignored. Furthermore, the viewpoint depicts a quixotic portrayal of Turkish Sufism and ignores its more authoritarian characteristics.
A third approach focuses on the effects of EU-induced democratization in Turkey. Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, Turkey has achieved considerable progress in fulfilling the EU's Copenhagen criteria, which include democratic reforms, respect for human rights, the rule of law, and the protection of minorities. The JDP, which has formed the Turkish government since November 2002, actively pursued a reformist agenda and undertook major policy initiatives to augment the chances of Turkey being admitted to membership in the union. Consequently, the EU decided to open up formal negotiations with Turkey in December 2004. The JDP realized that EU reforms would weaken the secularists, including the military, and solidify civilian control of the armed forces. Besides, the success in achieving progress toward EU membership would translate into intense public support for the party. While the JDP became an advocate of Turkey's membership to the EU out of self-interest, it also unintentionally came to accept the EU rules and norms that severely limit the scope of Islamist influence. Hence, the EU's extensive leverage over and linkages with Turkey were the primary causes of "moderation" of the Islamists. It is clearly true that pursuing the EU membership process reinforced the reformist tendencies of the EU, restrained military involvement in politics, and contributed to Turkey's democratization. At the same time, this perspective conflates the causal sequence between the EU process and the JDP's moderation. The EU process did not "moderate" the JDP; the party was already moderate enough to pursue an energetic EU policy, albeit temporarily. In summary, none of these three factors peculiar to Turkey can qualify as the necessary conditions for the rise of Muslim reformers, as they are not pertinent to developments in Iran. So it would be misleading to talk about either Iranian or Turkish exceptionalism.
A Theory and a Comparative Explanation
Conventional explanations that focus on the characteristics unique to Iran and Turkey fail to offer a satisfactory answer to this comparative puzzle. An explicitly comparative perspective based on an elaborate theoretical framework would identify causal dynamics that were at work in both cases. This book draws on moderation theory to develop a comparative understanding of the evolution of Muslim reformism in Iran and Turkey. Moderation theory was originally developed to explain the democratic evolution of Socialist parties in Western Europe. According to this theory, Socialist parties would, over time, accept democratic processes and norms, since they remained an electoral minority and would have to compromise with non-Socialist parties in order to become part of governments.
The book revisits moderation theory and offers a more nuanced analysis of its causal mechanisms. Moderation can be defined on two analytical levels. Ideological moderation can be defined as a process through which political actors espouse ideas that do not contradict the principles of popular sovereignty, political pluralism, and limits on arbitrary state authority. In most cases, it entails the continuous expansion of boundaries of internally consistent and justifiable political action. Behavioral moderation concerns the adaptation of electoral, conciliatory, and nonconfrontational strategies that seek compromise and peaceful settlement of disputes at the expense of nonelectoral, provocative, and confrontational strategies that are not necessarily violent but may entail contentious action. Moderation theory, as articulated in this book, has three distinct causal mechanisms: (1) the effects of free electoral competition; (2) the effects of state repression; and (3) the effects of organizational resources (see Chapter 2 for an extensive discussion). The theory primarily analyzes how these three effects shape political behavior.
The basic idea, which is similar to the median voter theorem, is that once radical political groups, who are committed to the overthrow of the political system, are organized as vote-seeking parties, electoral considerations would make these groups abandon revolutionary goals. This is because revolutionary and extremist platforms usually fail to mobilize pluralities, not to mention majorities. Radical groups organized as electoral parties need to appeal to the greatest number of voters to remain politically viable and win elections. Second, radicals remain suspicious in the eyes of the regime elites who command superior coercive mechanisms. Radicals need to pursue cautious and conciliatory policies toward these elites to avoid their wrath. The logic of political survival necessitates that radicals avoid openly confronting the elites. These two mechanisms are well established in moderation theory and are supported by examples from Europe and Latin America. The third mechanism, the effects of organization, is less articulated. This is rather surprising because the origins of moderation theory can be traced at least back to Robert Michels' analysis of the German Social Democratic Party, the first mass party that inspired all other Socialist parties. The effects of organizational resources on party behavior are central to Michels' analysis. An organizational perspective suggests that the maintenance of the organization and its authority structure becomes the priority overriding all declared goals. In the case of radical groups organized as electoral parties, revolutionary goals become unreachable simply because of the lack of organizational resources. An electoral party, by definition, is a very unlikely candidate to challenge the political regime and bring about its fall. Electoralism, defined as the strategy of exclusively pursuing votes to achieve and sustain political power, requires professionalism, expertise, and competency in certain kinds of political action, such as campaigning and patronage distribution, rather than in others such as civil disobedience and participatory decision making. Furthermore, the way in which authority is distributed and produced within the organization greatly shapes its behavior. Organizations with centralized and hierarchical decision making or with fragmented and loose linkages do not necessarily foster democratic forms of political participation.
These three effects of moderation theory have great relevance for a scholarly understanding of the evolution of Muslim reformers in Iran and Turkey. The relatively competitive nature of politics in these two countries in comparison to Arab countries, with the partial exception of Lebanon, has been critical to the rise of Muslim political movements with strong democratic dispositions. While many countries have Muslim movements that can be characterized as moderate, the latter flourish under relatively pluralistic and free political circumstances. In other words, moderates become more visible and effective in regimes with relatively high degrees of political inclusion. This is how the first mechanism of moderation theory works in Iran and Turkey. Turkey has a long history of free multiparty elections dating back to 1950. Since 1969, the Islamists have participated prominently in public debates and every parliamentary election except in 1983. While they challenge the secular character of the regime, they prioritize legality over illegality, subversion, and violence. Since the early 1970s, electoral commitment has been a characteristic of the Turkish Islamists and has facilitated the rise of Muslim reformers, that is, pious politicians who espouse public expressions of Muslim identity and are committed to electoral competition and political pluralism. Similarly, parliamentary and presidential elections have introduced a degree of uncertainty and change to Iranian politics that is absent in authoritarian Arab regimes. The advocates of Muslim democracy are faced with the daunting task of challenging the regime's monopoly over Islam and articulating more democratic and liberal versions of Islam. Elections do not involve only competition for votes but also competition for the mastery of public opinion. In a competitive political environment, citizens have easy access to different sources of political information and opinion through mass media such as newspapers, radio, and the Internet, and official interpretation of events can be challenged and even ridiculed. The relatively high levels of electoral competitiveness in both countries offered a suitable environment for the rise of Muslim reformers. Iranian and Turkish Muslim reformers mobilized public support and occupied positions of power as a result of electoral competition. They developed platforms that had mass appeal, and their responsiveness to popular demands made them victorious at the ballot box. While Muslim political actors are capable of moderating their goals and strategies no less than Socialist or Catholic parties, reformist trends are more likely to become predominant and persuasive in pluralistic political settings.
Meanwhile, the threat of state repression has been a constant source of anxiety for Muslim reformers in both Iran and Turkey. Despite their ideological differences, the Iranian and Turkish regimes are both characterized by a guardianship of bureaucratic elites that restrains the activities of popularly elected political elites. The RF has to appear more Islamist than it actually is, the JDP more secularist, because their survival depends on their ability to portray themselves in the image of ruling regimes. Yet the RF's caution did not spare it from repression. The RF candidates were systematically disqualified from running in elections. The RF-affiliated press and civil-society organizations remained under constant pressure and were banned in many instances. The JDP barely escaped the fate of the Welfare Party (WP; Refah Partisi) and the Virtue Party (VP; Fazilet Partisi) from which its leadership cadres came when, in July 2008, the Constitutional Court warned but did not dissolve the party on the grounds that it was a focal point for antisecular activities. Muslim reformists had to appease the regime elites who remained deeply suspicious of the "real intentions" of the RF and the JDP. The fear of state repression and the logic of organizational survival considerably restricted the range of policy choices available to Muslim reformists even if they came to power through popular elections. Yet state repression did not necessarily generate radicalization, as opportunities for political inclusion were not completely missing. In Iran, the RF remained the legal and loyal opposition after it lost the control of the presidency and the parliament. In Turkey, the JDP consolidated its power by sweeping the polls in the 2007 parliamentary elections, and it remains the predominant political actor.
Finally, the way in which the RF and the JDP organized had substantial implications for their decisions at critical junctures. The RF remained an amalgam of factions rallied behind Khatami and lacked a strong organizational framework to channel and direct mass discontent and participation. The factions did not necessarily coordinate their actions and often pursued strategies that made collective planning impossible. In sharp contrast, the JDP rapidly crystallized into a highly centralized and hierarchical party dominated by its leader, Erdoğan, who had the ultimate say in all important party decisions. The JDP had an impressive and professional organization that reached even the most remote areas of Turkey. Yet, in both cases, organizational resources did not support democratic forms of autonomous political participation and greatly restricted policy choices available to the RF and JDP leaderships. Once these organizational structures were established, neither the RF nor the JDP was capable of developing strategies that would have reformed the political system they had been highly critical of.
Moderation theory assumes that ideological change follows behavioral change. This assumption has great appeal, as it implies that extremist political worldviews based on binary distinctions between good and evil do not necessarily block the establishment and consolidation of pluralistic politics. Hence, even enemies of democracy may unintentionally develop strong democratic commitments once they are allowed to participate in democratic process. The best protection of democracy is found in democratic practices that allow for inclusion of undemocratic actors, not in "militant democracy," which restricts political participation. This book tends to adopt a more skeptical position regarding the claim that ideological transformation follows once strategic interests are altered. The relationship between ideological and behavioral moderation appears to be more complicated than recognized by moderation theory for three reasons.
First, moderation theory is likely to misidentify the causal sequence between ideological and behavioral change. Radicals' decision to participate in legal political process (i.e., contesting elections, dismantling clandestine organizational frameworks, etc.) is unlikely to happen without extensive internal deliberation, discussion, debate, and conflict. Even the decisions that are primarily driven by strategic interests need to be ideologically justified. Otherwise, they would not be sustainable and would be likely to generate internal splits and crises of authority. Radicals' political inclusion succeeds only when they are willing and ideologically ready to make the compromise with the ruling regime. They should have already had a relatively moderate worldview to be able to justify their participation in a legal political system in their ideological discourse. The "declared goals" of radical transformation may remain the same on paper, but "real goals" have already changed before the decision to participate. The participation decision requires ideological justification that would not emerge from a worldview that rejects any relationship with the regime as ideologically blasphemous and unacceptable. Hence, groups that decide to participate are usually not that radical in the first place. For instance, social democracy differed from Communism in twentieth-century Europe in that the former accepted the rules of electoral competition, the supremacy of parliamentary rule, and the necessity of cross-class alliances. These choices were very different from the Leninist theory that dismissed parliament as an impotent institution, preferred a vanguard party model over a mass party, and predicted the imminent collapse of the capitalist order. Most importantly, these differences were not just ideological adjustments to changes in strategic interests and structural opportunities. Social democracy was built on extensive and deep theoretical controversies, starting with the disagreement between the "orthodoxy" of Karl Kautsky and the "revisionism" of Eduard Bernstein. Similarly, the question of why revolutionary Communism continued to arouse deep passions and commitments among so many political activists in post-World War II democratic France and Italy, which offered very strong institutional and socioeconomic incentives for ideological moderation, cannot be explained by moderation theory. In this sense, moderation theory may not be immune to the trap of tautology, that is, arguing how institutional incentives moderate political actors who already abandoned radical worldviews. Moderation, by definition, implies ideological change. Yet that change is not necessarily generated by dynamics identified by moderation theory. Moreover, ideology maintains the identity of the group in the eyes of its members and supporters. Any political action that cannot be justified in ideological terms would alienate members and supporters.
Second, the roots of ideological change are often found in factors that are not captured by moderation theory. Ideological change may take place in diverse political settings as a result of a combination of factors that are not analyzed by moderation theory. A variety of intracountry and international factors may be conducive to it. Countries with vast differences, from Egypt to Indonesia, have witnessed the formation of the Muslim reformist phenomenon since the 1990s. In particular, political inclusion has been neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for ideological moderation in Iran and Turkey. In both countries, the expansion of a pluralistic public sphere that spurred debates among Islamists and disagreements between Islamists and other political groups enabled ideological change and contributed to the emergence of Muslim reformers. Institutional incentives reinforced and accelerated, but did not cause, ideological moderation.
A third and related reason concerns behavioral moderation in the absence of strong institutional incentives and a lack of behavioral moderation in the presence of strong institutional incentives. Neither of these developments would be expected by moderation theory. Two recent and important works demonstrate that moderation of Islamists takes place even under continuing authoritarian rule. Carrie Wickham argues that the leaders of the Wasat Party engage in "democratic learning" in response to their continued repression. This learning was also a result of participation in autonomous associations, collaborative interaction with secular opposition, and travels abroad. Similarly, Jillian Schwedler rightly criticizes moderation theory for not explaining "why some political actors become moderate while others in similar circumstances do not." She argues that public political space became more pluralistic and offered new opportunities for activism and interaction in both Jordan and Yemen in the 1990s despite the fact that both regimes remained authoritarian. She explains why Jordanian Islamists became ideologically more moderate while the Islah Party in Yemen did not by highlighting the differences in political opportunity structures (monarchy vs. presidency), internal group structure (democratic vs. fragmentary), and ideology (justification of new political practices vs. no such justification). Both Schwedler and Wickham conceptualize ideological moderation as a process distinct from behavioral moderation, which can be caused by factors that are beyond the scope of moderation theory. This book builds on their conceptual approach.
The RF was formed by left-leaning revolutionaries who had been politically marginalized in the Islamic Republic in the early 1990s, following the death of Ruhollah Khomeini. They found sanctuary in official and semiofficial think tanks and research institutes, universities, bourgeoning civil-society associations, and media outlets. They gradually abandoned the ideological rigidity of their revolutionary years and became critical of what they called absolutism and ideological excessiveness. They were influenced and joined by a group of intellectuals who increasingly became critical of the ideological worldviews that were predominant in prerevolutionary and early postrevolutionary years. These intellectuals questioned the notion of revolutionary struggle in the name of social justice and reconstruction of societal relations by the all-powerful state. The East European revolutions and disillusionment with the outcome of the Iranian Revolution stimulated these intellectual trends that increasingly engaged with the democratic notion of popular sovereignty and the liberal-democratic notions of rule of law, human rights, and political pluralism. The presidency of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (r. 1989-1997) inaugurated an era of socioeconomic reconstruction, partially lifted the siege mentality that dominated Iranian public life during the war with Iraq (1980-1988), and contributed to the formation of a more pluralistic public sphere. The intellectual trends, which formed the reformist-religious discourse, became more pronounced and influential in the late 1990s and actually outlasted the RF. The core of this discourse has been the difference between "Islam as a revealed religion and the hermeneutics of Islam as popularly understood over time." When the revolutionaries-cum-reformists eventually experienced a political revival in the late 1990s, they were already ideologically moderate. The electoral victories of Mohammad Khatami and the RF basically popularized, electrified, and reinforced the reformist discourse. Hence, ideological moderation did not simply follow behavioral moderation as moderation theory would expect. There was no simple process of ideological adjustment following changes in strategic interests. Rather, ideological transformation has accompanied, if not preceded, behavioral change and had its sources in political developments that are not identified by moderation theory. In fact, ideological moderation was taking place in public discussions and debates when the leftist revolutionaries were excluded from the political system. Moderation theory, with its limited focus on institutional and organizational factors, would miss the critical dimension of political change in contemporary Iran.
Turkish Islamism as represented by the National Order (Milli Görüş) political parties since 1969 was not that revolutionary to begin with. The overthrow of the state authority through violent means was never central to the ideological worldview of Turkish Islamism. Moreover, Turkish Islamism was primarily organized as electoral parties seeking votes and participating in the legal political order. The Islamist parties had parliamentary representation, joined coalition governments, and won municipal elections even before the victory of the WP in the 1995 parliamentary elections. Nonetheless, the Islamists' notion that democratic governance was majoritarian was hardly compatible with liberal-democratic notions of limits on state power and inviolable individual liberties. Islamist intellectuals and activists gained increasing public visibility and a greater following in the early 1990s when the Turkish public sphere was expanding. Private media channels that offered critical alternatives to the official regime line flourished; associational life that had been destroyed by the 1980 coup was revitalized; political views proliferated. Just like their counterparts in Iran, they engaged with liberal-democratic ideas and gradually shunned the goal of an all-encompassing Islamic state. By the time the WP reached the peak of its political power, it hosted a variety of political positions ranging from illiberal sharia rule to liberal criticisms of restrictions on public expressions of religious and ethnic identities. The WP's ideological worldview was ambivalent and flexible enough to simultaneously support conflicting positions. Interestingly, and unlike the effects of military rule on Islamists in the early 1980s, military repression in the second half of the 1990s did not radicalize the already moderating Islamist movement. Rather, it sharpened the ideological divisions within the Islamist movement and accelerated the marginalization of uncompromising Islamist positions. The WP's successor, the Virtue Party (VP), became an advocate of the EU, expansion of human rights, and popular political participation. Electoral opportunities clearly favored and reinforced the reformist trend, which was independently organized under the rubric of the JDP in 2001 and swept the 2002 elections. The reformists, who generally belonged to a generation that reached maturity in the 1970s and 1980s, collectively decided to adopt more moderate positions that justify a greater range of political action as a result of debates and discussions. Their strategic interests coincided with their ideological preferences, which had been becoming more moderate since the early 1990s. Consequently, moderation theory would misread the transformation of Muslim politics in Turkey for two reasons. First, ideological moderation was not simply an unintentional by-product of behavioral modification in Turkey. Second, the Islamists who were less willing to abandon rigid ideological worldviews failed to capitalize on electoral opportunities and increase their popular support. The Felicity Party (FP; Saadet Partisi), established by Islamists in 2001, remained true to its ideological commitments at the cost of staying in the margins of politics. As this example shows, political inclusion has not been sufficient to engender ideological moderation.
The Paradox of Moderation
This book also engages with the implications of moderation for the advancement of democratization: In what ways did moderation of the Islamists contribute to the democratic opening-up in Iran and consolidation in Turkey? The conventional assumption is that the rise of moderate Islamic forces is a necessary if not sufficient condition for the establishment and sustainability of democratic rule in the greater Muslim world. The rise of Muslim reformists as the centrist political forces is often interpreted as having the potential of neutralizing the "Islamist threat" in the broader Muslim world. They are also portrayed as strong evidence for the compatibility of Islam and democracy. These moderate Muslim actors are promoted as a force that can block the expansion of Islamic radicalism and establish good relations with Western governments. In particular, the JDP is portrayed as the "moderate force" representing "Muslim Democracy," which "offers the whole world its best hope for an effective bulwark against radical and violent Islamism." Similarly, moderation induced by inclusion is thought to foster democratic commitments. "Political participation under normal conditions indeed appears to favor moderation and strengthen the commitment to the democratic process." I disagree with these sweeping conclusions that associate "moderate Islam" with democracy and call for a more nuanced approach. Moderation turns out to be a double-edged sword that may not be conducive to democratic transition or consolidation. The implications of moderation are not necessarily conducive to democracy for two reasons. First, there is no convincing empirical evidence that the rise of Muslim reformers is inevitably accompanied with the decline of Islamists. Both groups simultaneously may expand their sphere of influence in certain historical periods, as happened in Turkey in the early 1990s. In Iran, the rise of popular radicalism represented by Mahmoud Ahmedinejad immediately followed the demise of the RF's popularity. Besides, Muslim reformers may prefer to enter into coalitions with the Islamists at the expense of secular and liberal political forces. Second and more important, the process of moderation may entail strategic decisions and a preference for certain tactics over others that stall or even impede the process of democratization. In this sense, moderation at the behavioral level implies that risk-aversive strategies and electoral tactics are given priority over bold strategies and nonviolent but contentious tactics such as grassroots mobilization and civic disobedience. Political legality and recognition by the regime involve trade-offs. Once Islamists are integrated into the political system by moderating, they are likely to implement platforms that seek to compromise with, if not appease, the guardians of the regime and avoid tactics that would increase political tensions. Ironically, they are unwilling to challenge authoritarian practices as long as these practices do not harm them. Electoral calculations, fear of state repression, and organizational constraints all make them politically risk aversive. Yet democratization calls for less compromising positions and more confrontational tactics, especially at crucial junctures when opportunities for political change are unprecedented. Pragmatism and a willingness to compromise that emanate from political inclusion are not always conducive to democratization. Popular mobilization that involves mass demonstrations and building coalitions with political forces demanding change is central to democratic achievements. Radical political forces that effectively challenge the rulers may be the agents of democratization. In fact, moderate political actors may miss crucial opportunities for democratization, given their myopic group interests and organizational considerations. Their failure to take advantage of these opportunities stems not from their ideological worldviews but rather from strategic interests, which prioritize organizational survival, and a dearth of organizational resources and tactics, which can sustain contentious action. Hence, the critical task for Muslim reformers is developing organizational capacity and political alliances to make political power more accountable, more equally distributed, and less hegemonic. The paradox of moderation is that a willingness to make political compromises, the ability to organize as electoral parties, and a preference for conciliatory tactics over confrontational ones do not necessarily facilitate and enable democratization. Under certain conditions, moderation actually undermines democratic achievements. Besides, as Cihan Tuğal shows, moderation of Islamic radicals, who have been absorbed into the existing political system, in Turkey entails their embracing of hegemonic forms of neoliberal economic policies in place of platforms prioritizing social justice.
This emphasis on the implications of behavioral moderation distinguishes this book from previous research on the process of moderation. Both Schwedler and Wickham focus on ideological moderation, a process they normatively find positive. Schwedler defines moderation as "movement from a relatively closed and rigid worldview to one more open and tolerant of alternative perspectives." Similarly, Wickham talks about ideological moderation as a process that entails "abandonment, postponement, or revision of radical goals that enables an opposition movement to accommodate itself to the give-and-take of 'normal competitive politics.'" As stated above, this book offers a similar understanding of ideological moderation. However, it also analyzes the dynamics of behavioral moderation, which ultimately influence the outcome of political struggles and decide on policy choices. Such an analytical emphasis is missing in Schwedler's and Wickham's works primarily because the IAF (Jabhat al-Amal al-Islami) in Jordan, the Islah in Yemen, and the Wasat in Egypt remained opposition parties with no direct influence on governmental policymaking. The RF and the JDP provide a better pair to test the expectations of moderation theory, as both political parties won elections and actually formed governments. Furthermore, this comparative study of these political actors demonstrates that sustainable democratization often requires cross-cutting linkages and alliances between state and societal actors. Conceptual frameworks that are based on rigid state-society dichotomies fail to appreciate the importance of these linkages and alliances for the expansion of rights.
A distinguishing characteristic of both the RF and the JDP was their rise to power shortly after their foundation. This had the unintended consequence of hampering the process of institutionalization that would have taken place in parties that remained in opposition during long years. This observation is consistent with the theoretical expectation that "parties that gain national power immediately after their formation—thus undergoing organizational consolidation while in power—[tend] to become weak institutions." When the RF gained control of both the presidency and the parliament, it was composed of more than a dozen factions loosely connected to each other in their common opposition to the asymmetrical distribution of political power in Iran. Furthermore, these factions had very fragile linkages with the populace. With partial exceptions, they lacked nationwide grassroots organizations and a collective identity. Their main source of power emanated from newly gained elected public offices and media outlets. These offices gave them influence over policymaking and public opinion, public visibility, and international connections. They were very willing to compromise with the regime guardians and their hard-line allies so that the RF actors would be allowed to keep these offices and remain included in the political system. Compromises, back-door negotiations, and measured complaints soon transformed into appeasement of the guardians, who quickly realized that the RF was very vulnerable. The guardians suppressed the reformist media outlets, disqualified RF candidates from running in the elections, and increased repression on the RF's societal allies, including the student, women's and union movements, and the dissident clerics. The RF could not help these actors pursuing rights agendas lest its delicate relationship with the guardians be irreparably damaged. When the RF realized that it had no leverage over the guardians other than its perceived popularity, it was too late to pursue a more contentious and broad-based popular strategy. The RF simply lacked the organizational resources to initiate it. Once it fell from political power, the RF had no strong civil-society associations to mobilize sustainable public support and push for political change. Behavioral moderation proved to be costly and brought about the demise of one of the most promising Muslim reformers in the world. Besides, the growing tensions between the United States and Iran in the post-September 11 geopolitical context and Iran's looming suspicions of a regime change sponsored by the United States did not help the RF, which was continuously hard-pressed to prove its loyalty to the Islamic Republic.
The JDP found itself in government in a much more favorable environment. The relationships with the EU were progressing and promised to liberalize Turkey's political governance. Meanwhile, the regime guardians led by the military command decided to tolerate the JDP government and did not take an uncompromising stance, as they had done vis-à-vis the WP. Later, some groups, including high-ranking military figures, unsuccessfully tried to dislodge the JDP from power by employing a strategy of tension. Yet these groups never received support from the military high command, which partially explains their failure. The JDP government also achieved sustainable high levels of economic growth that contributed to its popularity. Meanwhile, the JDP gradually matured into a leader-dominated, highly centralized, patronage-distributing party that encouraged a culture of corruption and discouraged democratic forms of political participation. As a result, the JDP leadership was not accountable to its grassroots base, most of whom were seeking selective incentives (i.e., material benefits, status, and power). These "careerist" party members were willing to tolerate the leadership's compromises and deviations from its declared positions. The lure of political office and the desire not to provoke the ever-suspicious regime guardians soon made the JDP more interested in perpetuating its power than in consistently pursuing an agenda of reform at a time when the structural opportunity for democratization was unprecedented in Turkey. The party consolidated its power over state institutions and exerted increasing control over the media, unions, business, and professional associations. Instead of reforming the state institutions, such as the authoritarian Higher Education Council, the party aimed to dominate them. It was also unwilling to expand political opportunity structures that would help societal actors with rights agendas, which came to play a more influential role in the twenty-first century. Like the RF, the JDP was not eager to establish confidence-based strategic alliances with these actors, including liberals, marginalized identity groups seeking greater political representation, labor unions, and social movements and rights associations. The times when the JDP was willing to redress political injustices (e.g., Kurdish demands for ethnic rights or Alevi demands for religious rights) were for electoral reasons, and it failed to translate its promises into consistent policies. At critical junctures, the JDP leadership wavered and preferred to adopt a risk-aversive, cautious, and pragmatic strategy that aimed to make compromises with the regime guardians. Most astonishingly, the JDP quickly abandoned its declared goal of enacting a new constitution in the aftermath of the 2007 elections. A new constitution would be a major contribution to the consolidation of democratic rule and would facilitate the formation of a human rights culture. The JDP leadership circulated a draft constitution but soon withdrew it. A new constitution would directly defy the interests of the regime guardians, and the JDP decided not to take that risk. The party barely survived when the Constitutional Court was just short of the qualified majority decision that would bring about the JDP's dissolution. Moderation was a safe route that the JDP leadership did not want to leave. It was just not a good way to expand rights.
The data collected herein come from a variety of original sources that include ethnographic observations, interviews, electoral results, printed material in local languages, public opinion surveys, and macro-level socioeconomic and demographic data. The data collection started in spring 2002 and was completed in spring 2009. Combining qualitative and quantitative methods has two primary benefits in the study of Muslim reformers. The effective use of qualitative methods, such as participant observations and in-depth interviews, enables the identification of the micro-level processes that characterize decision making at the elite level. These methods illuminate the dynamics by which actors form preferences, articulate interests, and make decisions. It would be unrealistic to claim that this methodological orientation fully identifies causal process and mechanisms. Preferences and interests may remain unobserved. Still, the focus on how actors perceive their preferences and articulate their interests generates a mutually informing process between theory building and empirical study. It makes the theory more sensitive to empirical observations and refines it. The value of quantitative methods lies in presenting an objective depiction of the context that is independent of the perceptions of the actors. For example, party elites might develop a new platform in response to their perception of the electorate's preferences. However, this perception might be out of touch with the actual voting behavior and public opinion. This study analyzes available electoral results, public opinion surveys, and demographic data to describe the actual existing circumstances under which Muslim reformers operate. Consequently, the study aims to present a compelling causal story informed by theoretical debates while being sensitive to the particular characteristics of each case.
The data collection efforts in Iran started in early 2003 and continued until spring 2009. I visited Iran on six different occasions: in winter and spring 2003, summer 2005, summer 2006, spring 2008, and spring 2009. I collaborated with the Social Science faculty at Tehran University to conduct surveys of a representative sample of Tehran residents in August 2003 and December 2007. The surveys asked questions about political attitudes, orientations, religiosity, and cultural norms of the citizens. I designed the survey instrument and supervised the fieldwork of the public opinion polls. Additionally, I was a participant observer in the 2005 presidential elections and 2008 parliamentary elections. I interviewed campaign workers, journalists, and ordinary citizens; observed the campaigns; and systematically followed printed and electronic Persian news sources, especially during the elections. They provided useful information about RF strategies and the general composition of Iranian politics. I also obtained official statistics on electoral results and socioeconomic and demographic indicators.
I conducted ethnographic work on the JDP from summer 2002 to spring 2003. During this period, I had the opportunity to closely observe the JDP as it evolved from a nascent opposition party to the strongest party of Turkish politics. I was a participant observer in the November 2002 elections and March 2003 by-elections in the southeastern province of Siirt. I interviewed leading party politicians, party members, and ordinary people from diverse social backgrounds. During the campaigns for the November 2002 elections, I visited thirty-five provincial capitals (Turkey has eighty-one provinces), attended twenty party rallies (fifteen of them being JDP rallies), and various party meetings. I conducted a similar study during the July 2007 elections focusing on the JDP's campaign. I joined vote-canvassing efforts of several parties, observed political rallies and meetings, interviewed politicians, party activists, and voters. I continued interviewing politicians in the aftermath of the elections. As in Iran, I obtained official statistics on electoral results and socioeconomic and demographic indicators and compiled a huge archive of printed and electronically published material in Turkish. I also used ecological inference analysis to generate voter transition tables in Turkey. Finally, I used the World Values Surveys (WVS) to investigate the social and cultural context from which Muslim reformers emerged in comparative perspective.
An Overview of the Book
The remainder of this book is divided into eight chapters. Readers who are primarily interested in moderation theory and how this theory is applied to the Iranian and Turkish cases may want to concentrate on Chapters 2, 6, 7, and 8. The next chapter discusses moderation theory, introduces the theoretical framework, and applies it to the Iranian and Turkish cases. It also discusses how the Christian Democratic experience can be relevant in understanding Islamic political actors. Chapter 3 first surveys the literature on the relationship between Islam and democracy from a methodological perspective. It then discusses Muslim political attitudes in some detail. It also briefly explores the historical processes through which Muslim reformers emerged and identifies the basic characteristics of Muslim reformers. Chapter 4 offers a theoretically guided and historically informed discussion of Muslim engagement with secularism and democratization, and the ambiguities of Muslim reformism.
Chapter 5 describes the institutional environment within which Muslim reformers operated in Iran and Turkey. Two defining features of the regimes were guardianship and the dynamics of electoral competition. The postrevolution and postcoup constitutions, in Iran and Turkey respectively, empowered guardians at the expense of elected governments. While the guardianship set the parameters of the Muslim democratic experience, popular elections defined new opportunities for Muslim reformers.
Chapters 6 and 7 offer analytical narratives that discuss the evolution of Muslim reformers in Iran and Turkey, using the guidance of the theoretical framework developed in Chapter 2. Chapter 6 serves three purposes. The rapid rise and just as rapid fall of the Iranian reformist movement were equally unpredicted. The election of Khatami to the presidency in 1997 was no less surprising than the election of Ahmedinejad in 2005. First, it narrates the ideological transmutation experienced by the leftists after their political defeat and disillusionment with the result of the revolution in the 1990s. Next, it analyzes the rise of the RF and its dilemmas as a legal opposition movement in the Islamic Republic. Finally, the chapter explains the demise of the RF as a consequence of these dilemmas. The electoral strategy of reform pursued by the RF ultimately undermined its organizational capacity and eroded its public standing.
Chapter 7 studies the rise of the JDP as the main center-right party in Turkish politics. The JDP came to power in 2002, just a year after its establishment. The chapter has three goals. It first sheds light on the factors that contributed to the foundation and rise of the JDP. Particularly important were the divisions within the Welfare and Virtue Parties, state repression, and the dynamics of electoral competition. The chapter then continues with a discussion of the JDP's organizational basis and its evolution into a leader-dominated, vote-maximizing, patronage-distributing centrist party. The chapter concludes with an analysis of the JDP government policies on issues critical to democratization in Turkey and an explanation of its declining reformist orientation.
Chapter 8 analyzes the results of the July 2007 elections in Turkey and the March 2008 elections in Iran on the basis of ethnographic research. It focuses on campaign issues and strategies and sheds unique light on the dynamics of electoral competition in both countries. It also engages with the question of how these elections affect strategies and evolution of Muslim reformers. Chapter 9 concludes with an analytical summary of the experience of Muslim reformers in Iran and Turkey and reflections on recent developments in these two countries.
“Tezcür’s work is very reader-friendly, which is a rare quality for books that have ambitious conceptual frameworks. The author’s ability to weave his fieldwork interviews with statistical data is impressive.”