chapter  5
20 Pages

Party system and democratic consolidation in Turkey: problems and prospects

WithSABRI SAYARI

Political parties have existed in Turkey since the last decades of the Ottoman Empire during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. However, a party system with universal suffrage, free and honest elections, and multiplicity of political parties emerged only in the late 1940s following the transition from an authoritarian single-party regime to democracy. Thus, Turkey represents the case of a country of relatively early party formations but one of late democratization in its historical development. It is also worth noting that in the post-World War II era, Turkey was one of the first countries in the ‘developing world’ to experience a regime change from authoritarian rule to democratic politics. Yet, despite this early start, the consolidation of Turkish democracy has encountered serious problems, as evidenced most notably in the three regime breakdowns through military interventions in 1960, 1971, and 1980. In comparison with the transitions to democracy in Southern Europe during the late 1970s and early 1980s, for example, where consolidation took place within a relatively short time following the end of authoritarian rule, the consolidation process in Turkey has taken a very long time and it has not yet reached its final phase. Turkey’s protracted unconsolidated democracy has had a major impact on the development of the country’s party systems as well as on the survival or demise of individual parties during more than six decades of electoral politics.