Posted by Rafiq A. Tschannen
ISTANBUL — For many in the Arab world, Turkey embodies something of an elusive ideal: an Islamist-based democracy with a strong economy.
A survey published Thursday by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, a non-governmental think tank, found almost 80 per cent of respondents in the Middle East had a favourable view of Turkey, and three out of five considered the country a model for a modern Islamic state.
Following last year’s Arab Spring uprisings, an unprecedented wave of popular revolt that swept the Arab world and led to the ouster of a string of dictators, many analysts are wondering if Turkey serves as a useful example of what a moderate Islamist democracy looks like.
The country is seen as having “reconciled two dynamics: economic growth and a democratic system put in place by an Islamist-derived party”, Turkish foreign policy expert Sinan Ulgan said.
Turkey, a secular Muslim-majority country that straddles Europe and Asia, is viewed especially favourably by many in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, countries in which Ankara backed the sprawling Arab Spring protest movements which led to the toppling of their dictators.
Turkey’s economy has staged a strong recovery after a severe recession, with gross domestic product growing 8.9 per cent in 2010 following a contraction of 4.7 per cent the previous year.
GDP rose by a record 9.6 per cent during the first nine months of 2011.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP Party, the Islamist-based party that has been in power since 2002, won a broad victory in June parliamentary elections, gaining 50 per cent of the votes.
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