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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2010

6 - The Soft Intervention of 1997 and the Islamist Social Movement


This chapter analyzes how the narrowing down of a political opportunity structure (POS) forces movement entrepreneurs to frame new strategies for the movement's mobilization. In the 1995 general elections, the Welfare Party (WP) became the party of government by receiving the highest vote share. This led movement entrepreneurs to overestimate the movement's power vis-à-vis the secular-democratic state structure. Statements and activities of Islamist activists and WP members of parliament that contradicted the secular principles of the state led to the soft military intervention (countermobilization) on February 28, 1997 and the closure of the party by the Constitutional Court in January 1998.

Despite the military intervention, the Islamist movement, which had firmly established itself in the country in the years following the 1980 coup, could not be eliminated. The strong organizational networks established by the Islamist movement ensured its survival. Islamist entrepreneurs having realized the narrowing down of the POS after the events of 1997, reframed the movement under the banner of a new political party, the Virtue Party (VP). The VP dropped the political rhetoric of the “Just Order” in order not to be considered by the secular state as a continuation of the WP. The Islamist entrepreneurs within the VP, unable to call for a Just Order as a result of the countermobilization of secular state institutions, now attempted to exploit the issue of Turkey's possible membership in the European Union (EU) as a new political opportunity.