The failed July 15 military coup in Turkey was a long time in the making. Its aftermath is the final act in what may be viewed as the devolution of Turkish democracy into an authoritarian state. Turkey is a country where citizens’ demand for democracy has steadily grown over the last 15 years. A long period of competitive parliamentary elections and political liberalization created hope that democracy had become enshrined in Turkey’s political culture. Everyday citizens embracing democratic governance as the only legitimate form of government are required for any democracy to be successful. When citizens do not demand democracy, preferring a strong authoritarian leader as in Russia, there is little hope for democracy to flourish. As part of the Comparative National Election Project at Ohio State University, we surveyed nearly 1,200 Turkish citizens about their views on democracy in early 2015. Respondents expressed a large demand for democratic governance. Three-quarters of respondents consistently rejected each of the four types of authoritarian rule (one-party, strong man, military, religious) about which we asked. About four out of five (78 percent) respondents stated that democracy was preferable over any other form of government.
Yet, public demand for democracy is only part of the equation. Democratic values must also be adopted by elites and the country’s most important institutions. The “institutional supply” of democratic governance must satisfy the public demand. Otherwise political instability may occur. Though Turkey had been making steady progress toward becoming a fully fledged democracy, it has backslid in recent years. Turkey may be best described as a hybrid regime that is a mix of democracy and authoritarianism.
The governing Justice & Development Party and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been at the center of this democratic backslide. With control of both parliament and the presidency, they have worked to reshape Turkey’s political and societal institutions to permanently preserve their power. In recent years they have moved Turkey increasingly toward authoritarianism. They have cracked down on press freedom and attacked online dissent. Erdogan manipulated the last parliamentary election by reigniting the conflict with Kurdish separatists. As a conservative religious party, the AKP has actively worked to Islamize Turkish society.
Erdogan has disregarded the constitution by taking on extra-constitutional powers for the largely ceremonial presidency. Those in parliament who oppose his autocratic dreams have been purged from his own party or targeted for prosecution.
Full Article: The tragedy of Turkish democracy in five acts – UPI.com.