Two steps forward one step back: Turkey’s democratic transformation
Turkey began to be counted among democracies long before democracy was elevated to the level of being the only respectable form of government in the world after the demise of the Warsaw Pact and the fall of the Soviet Empire. Ruled by a single party since its founding in 1923 and a track record of two failed experiments in initiating opposition parties, Turkey might not have come to mind as the most outstanding candidate to make a transition to political democracy after the Second World War. Yet, by all accounts, it managed to achieve a peaceful transition to political competition during the 1946-50 period. At a time when many of the underdeveloped countries, as well as those becoming independent as a result of decolonization, were becoming targets of a rivalry between the ‘Free World’ and the ‘Communist World’, the Turkish success was quickly seized upon by the advocates of political democracy as a model demonstrating that moving to democracy in a developing country was possible. The case of Turkey was studied and analyzed to uncover the secrets of democratic transition.2 Within a decade, it became evident that the smooth transition did not necessarily lead to smooth operation. Turkey went through a long period of democratic breakdowns, military governments, and returns to civilian rule between 1960-83. Since 1983, the country has been spared military interventions and has been going through a process such that democracy appears to be on its way to becoming the only game in town. This chapter will analyze the processes through which Turkey has evolved
into a reasonably democratic system. Two intertwined processes may be discerned in Turkey’s democratization. First, the several stages of democratization, breakdown, and restoration have all begun with a major political problem that needed to be addressed and solved. The particular solutions devised, however, while taking care of the initial problem, led to the emergence of another major problem that could not be solved within the existing political framework. We will be looking at the stages of evolution of Turkish democracy with this problem-solution-new problem in mind.3 Second, solutions have been devised within the broader framework of paradigms. It will be argued that Turkey has shifted from a security maximization to a prosperity maximization paradigm, and that along with such a paradigm shift, democratic consolidation may have become more likely.