Published July 06, 2013
ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey's assertive foreign policy, promoting itself as a role model for the Muslim world, has received a setback after the military intervention that unseated Egypt's Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, analysts say.
Turkey's Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), which faced down the most widespread protests in its 10-year tenure, had forged close alliance with Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.
The Egyptian army's ouster of the country's first democratically elected leader has raised eyebrows in Ankara, which has ambitiously promoted itself as a regional powerhouse and model democracy in the Middle East.
"Working myself in the Middle East, I doubt there ever was a global 'Turkish model' in the eyes of the Egyptians," Marc Pierini, a scholar at Carnegie Europe, told AFP.
"The only model Egyptians see in Turkey is the economic policy where Turkey has indeed achieved both discipline and growth since 2001," he said.
Under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's control, seen as increasingly authoritarian, the AKP has won three election victories in a row since 2002 having presided over a burgeoning economy, ending an era of rocky and unstable coalition governments punctuated by military coups.
Once Israel's closest ally in the Muslim world, Erdogan's government has taken advantage of an Arab vacuum in the wake of popular uprisings in the region to foster its soft power and a supposedly successful model of blending democracy with Islam.
At his party's annual congress in September, Erdogan told a crowd packed in an Ankara sport hall: "We have shown everyone that an advanced democracy can exist in a predominantly Muslim country. We have become a role model for Muslim countries."
Morsi was among more than 100 foreign guests at that congress which gave Erdogan the ticket for party leadership for a third and final time as the Turkish strongman is expected to run for president in elections next year.
A day after the army ouster of Morsi, Erdogan cut short a holiday to hold an emergency meeting with his intelligence chief and ministers.
On Friday, he condemned the Egyptian army intervention, saying: "Those who rely on the guns in their hands, those who rely on the power of the media cannot build democracy.... Democracy can only be built at ballot box."
Ozdem Sanberk, a veteran diplomat and former foreign ministry undersecretary, believes that Turkey has not lost its credentials to become a role model "but the AKP's foreign policy diagnosis toward the Muslim world has proved to be wrong."
"In the Middle East... Turkey has been alienated. It is clear as of today that Turkey does not know the Middle East unlike it claims," he told AFP.
Turkey's key Middle Eastern allies, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, were quick to congratulate Morsi's successor, caretaker president Adly Mansour.
Under the AKP's rule, Turkey established partnership councils with Syria, Iraq and Egypt.
But now Turkey has cut off ties with Syria, after its former ally President Bashar al-Assad's deadly crackdown on popular dissent.
It is also bogged down in tensions with Iraq after refusing to hand over fugitive Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, found guilty of running death squads.
"It's very risky to make diplomacy in the Middle East," said Sanberk.
"The reason is that relations are being established not with the peoples but with the dictators and when the rug gets pulled right from under dictators, problems emerge."
Despite their harsh criticism of the army's actions, Turkish leaders hinted they would not break ties with the new leadership emerging in Egypt after the military uprising.
-----------"Morsi failure, AKP's unique success"--------------
Analysts said what happened in Egypt after days of bloodshed and protests demanding Morsi's resignation, would put the AKP and Erdogan on the defensive, especially after mass anti-government demonstrations by mainly secular Turks opposing creeping Islamism and the government's increasingly authoritarian agenda.
Henri Barkey, professor of international relations at Lehigh University, insists though that the AKP remains a formidable party "and still an effective one."
"In some ways Morsi's failure demonstrates and emphasises AKP's unique success," he told AFP.
Erdogan's AKP has sought to curb the powers of the military, which has long considered itself as the self-appointed guardian of Turkish secularism and staged four coups in half a century, throwing hundreds of army officers behind bars for alleged coup plots.
But the number one lesson from Morsi's failure that all governments and movements need to heed is that confining democracy to elections does not work, according to the analysts.
"The interim lesson we can take from the last 12 months in Egypt is that the ballot box cannot resolve the country's complex issues without being complemented by an inclusive dialogue between the various segments of the society," Pierini said.