According to Allcitycodes, the victory of the Islamist Welfare Party in the early general elections in December 1995 marked a major shift in modern Turkey’s politics. Despite the fact that the secular right-wing groups (ANAP and DYP) formed a coalition government in March 1996 in order to prevent the Islamists from entering the country’s executive, finally, in June of that year, its leader, Necmettin Erbakan, ended up forming a coalition government with the Recta Vía Party, of the previous Prime Minister Tansu Çiller, who became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Faced with the negative reaction that occurred for this reason among the high command of the Turkish Army and in the West, Erbakan expressed his intention to maintain the secular nature of the State and its international commitments.
The pressure exerted on the coalition finally led to a government crisis in June 1997 that resulted in the resignation of Erbakan and the formation of a new cabinet made up of ANAP and the center-left DSP, with the external support of the CHP Social Democrat. Mesut Yilmaz (ANAP) became Prime Minister in July, replacing Erbakan.
Despite the new situation, with a secular and pro-Western government in power, in December Turkey rejected the accession conditions and broke off the political dialogue with the European Union, due to the existing dispute with Greece regarding Cyprus.
In January 1998, the Welfare Party was outlawed, accused of violating the secularism of the Turkish state proclaimed in its Constitution.
In February, Erbakan faced an accusation from the Constitutional Court, which threatened him with criminal proceedings that would lead him to jail, although the penalty was ultimately five years of disqualification. For their part, the 157 Refah deputies (and their base militants) had to join the ranks of the tiny but legal Virtue Party (Fazilet Partisi, FP), also of an Islamist tendency, led by Racai Kutan, friend and collaborator by Erbakan. In March the Islamists re-formed the largest group in the Turkish Parliament.
At that juncture, in June, Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz reported the advancement of the elections to April 1999, thus ending a political crisis that seriously threatened the stability of the country.
Regarding the so-called “Kurdish question”, in February 1999 Abdulá Ocalan was arrested, who in August 1998 had decreed a unilateral truce of his 10,000 men. The arrest and subsequent transfer to Turkey for trial by a special court provoked an immediate reaction from the PKK: demonstrations by its followers in major cities in Turkey and Europe were followed by a wave of attacks in Istanbul and Ankara that claimed the lives of several people.
The alleged support provided by Syria to the Kurdish guerrilla of Ocalan provoked, in October 1998, a diplomatic and border conflict between Turkey and Syria that did not degenerate into open war thanks to the mediation of several countries, led by Egypt.
Yilmaz’s resignation in December of that same year was followed, a month later, by the creation of a new cabinet led by Ecevit and of an interim nature until the elections were held.
In these, the winning party was the Democratic Left, of the acting Prime Minister Ecevit, followed by the far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP in its Turkish acronym).
Islamism, represented by the Party of Virtue, suffered a serious setback, reducing the number of its deputies in Parliament, from which the Social Democratic Republican People’s Party was left out. For their part, the two formations of the Turkish right (Mesut Yilmaz’s Motherland Party and Tansu Çiller’s Recta Vía Party) suffered a considerable reduction in the percentage of votes received. The People’s Democracy Party (HADEP), the only Kurdish political group legalized by the Turkish authorities, participated in the elections.
At the end of May, six weeks after the elections that had given him victory, the Social Democratic leader Bülent Ecevit formed a coalition government with the conservatives of former Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz and with the right-wing Nationalist Action Party. These political groups totaled 351 seats out of 550 in the Turkish Parliament.
On the 31st of that same month, the trial began against the Kurdish separatist leader Ocalan, who appealed to the PKK members to lay down their arms. The top leadership of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party issued a statement accepting the proposal to end a conflict that had lasted for 15 years. However, some sectors of the independence group showed their dissatisfaction with putting an end to the terrorist actions and pointed out that Ocalan’s change in attitude was due to his fear that the court that tried him could sentence him to death.
The 25 as November as 1999, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling in June was sentenced to death by Ocalan. The following month, the European Union (EU) decided to raise the status of Turkey from the category of associated country to that of a candidate country to join that organization. The December to January of 2000, the government of Ecevit decided to postpone the execution of Ocalan and a month later the PKK abandoned the armed struggle to move to defend the rights of the Kurdish minority in the democratic political system, all linked to the situation its top leader imprisoned.
Ahmed Necdet Sezer, until then President of the Constitutional Court, was elected in May 2000 by Parliament to succeed Süleymán Demirel as head of the Presidency of the Republic, a position that the latter had held for seven years.
In February 2001 there was a serious economic crisis that had its origins in the political confrontation between the new head of state and Ecevit. The immediate stock market crash threatened to bankrupt the financial system of the country, already gripped by its hyperinflationary tendencies, before which the Ecevit government allowed the Turkish lira to fluctuate freely and made a readjustment of its economic policy. The situation in the country, mired in this deep financial crisis, worsened as of July 2002 ; With Ecevit hospitalized, a government crisis occurred that culminated in the resignation of several Social Democratic ministers and deputies and with the calling of early elections for the following November 3. The ballot box gave victory to the Justice and Development Party, a moderate Islamist, which won 363 seats (which gave it an absolute majority in the Great National Assembly), compared to the 178 achieved by the Republican People’s Party, while the majors traditional parties were left without parliamentary representation. Ecevit resigned the following day and Ahmed Necdet Sezer commissioned Abdullah Gül, number two of the triumphant formation, to form a government.
The leader of the latter, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had not been able to aspire to the status of deputy (mandatory to hold the post of prime minister) after being disqualified for reading an Islamic poem in a public act (which was interpreted as an instigation of hatred religious). A subsequent electoral reform did allow him to present his candidacy for the province of Siirt, a constituency in which the elections had to be repeated on March 9, 2003. Erdogan obtained the act of deputy and, in the course of that same month, after Gül and his government resigned, he became prime minister and formed a new cabinet, in which Gül became deputy prime minister and head of the Affairs portfolio Exteriors.
Previously, and simultaneously with these events, Turkey tried to approach the demand for respect for human rights required by the EU for it to include it in its enlargement process. In this sense, the Turkish Parliament approved in August 2002 a bill for the abolition of the death penalty (a provision that two months later led to the commutation of the death sentence to life imprisonment for Ocalan). Likewise, at the end of November the government lifted the state of emergency in force for the previous 15 years in Sirnak and Diyarbakýr (provinces with a majority Kurdish population).
In October 2005, the EU, which considered the Turkish progress in consolidating itself as a democratic and legal state, as well as the progress regarding respect for human and minority rights, to be remarkable, agreed to start negotiations with Turkey to your accession.
In 2007 As Sezer’s presidential term expired, Erdogan ran to succeed him as head of state. The possibility that this could be carried out by a politician of manifest Islamic confessionalism generated protests and demonstrations on the part of those in favor of the maintenance of the secularism of the State, equally defended at all costs by the outgoing president himself, Sezer, and by the Army. Under pressure, Erdogan eventually resigned his candidacy, the head of which became the equally moderate Islamist Gül.
In April, part of Parliament boycotted the only vote that ever took place (which, moreover, was later invalidated by the Constitutional Court). In a climate of deep political and institutional crisis, Erdogan called early legislative elections for July of that year 2007. The triumph of the Justice and Development Party (which achieved a comfortable absolute majority with 341 seats) led to the subsequent presidential election of Gül in the renewed Parliament.