chapter  4
20 Pages

The international context of democratic reform in Turkey


How important is the international context in determining a transition to democracy in societies without a democratic political tradition? Classical social contract theory assumes that political structures emerge from bargains from within society: hence, as Phillippe E. Schmitter notices, it assumes that ‘democratization is a domestic affair par excellence’, so that the academic literature on democratisation has ‘largely reflected this nativist tendency’. However, as he goes on to argue, the establishment of democratic government in the formerly communist countries of eastern Europe during the 1990s would hardly have been imaginable without the collapse of the USSR’s previous regional hegemony (Schmitter 1996: 27). Geoffrey Pridham extends this proposal to cases in southern Europe (Greece, Spain and Portugal), arguing that the ‘simultaneous process of democratic transition’ in these countries drew on a ‘common geopolitical environment’, aided by the role of the then European Community as an integrative organisation. He cautions that although ‘the salience of the international context of democratic transition may be … easily recognised, analysing its real impact or influence on this process is no easy task, either theoretically or empirically’ (Pridham 1991: 1-2) The problem is illustrated by the fact that, while the collapse of communism produced a transition to what has become consolidated democracy in most of Eastern Europe, it has failed to do so in most of the former USSR. The implication is that, either domestic conditions and historical traditions were quite different in the two sets of cases, and critically influential, or that the international context was quite different – for instance, that the goal of European Union membership was not held out to the former Soviet republics outside the Baltic, so they had little external incentive to democratise. Clearly, a full explanation requires careful examination of both the internal and external factors, weighing the relative importance of each. To put the argument very crudely, we might be able to establish the rela-

tive importance of external and internal factors by comparing cases where the external environment was (a) neutral (or maybe even anti-democratic) with (b) those in which there was a positive international pressure for democratisation. If there were important moves towards liberalisation in instances of (a) but no such moves in instances of (b) then we could decide

that the international context had no influence on democratisation; per contra, if cases of democratisation corresponded fairly closely to an international context which favoured it, we could conclude that there appeared to be a positive relationship between democratisation and the international environment. Even then, caution would need to be exercised. There may be doubts, for instance, as to whether the international environment was positive or otherwise, and coincidence does not prove causation. What constitutes democratisation may also be regarded as highly problematic. For present purposes, it would be useful to assume that it includes such things as the establishment of the rule of law, and equality before the law, as essential preliminaries to the evolution of democratically elected government, and of individual and collective civil rights.