chapter  7
21 Pages

Democratic consolidation and civil society in Turkey


Turkey, in the last decades, has been undergoing significant changes and transformations lived and felt in each and every sphere of life. As a country carrying on accession negotiations with the European Union, Turkey has embraced a proactive foreign policy ranging from contributing to peace and stability in the Middle East to becoming a new ‘energy hub’, being one of the architects of ‘the inter-civilization dialogue initiative’, envisioning a world based on dialogue, tolerance and living together. Its regional power role in world politics has become more important with its active, multidimensional foreign policy as well as its identity as a modern secular nation-state with parliamentary democratic governance, secular constitutional polity and a primarily Muslim population (Keyman 2009). However, besides this active, multi-dimensional, pro-peace foreign policy and the global attraction that it has brought, internal politics in Turkey have recently become subject to political impasses and societal polarization; the interactions between the state elite and the elected governments have increasingly been patterned by conflict. From assassinations to post-modern military coups, from party closures to the rising power of reactionary nationalism, Turkey has been confronted by serious problems leading to domestic instability. Hence, the transformation process has been marked by a paradox: global attraction and visibility versus domestic instability and polarization. The solution to this paradox lies in fact in the consolidation of democracy

in Turkey. The global dynamics and active multi-dimensional foreign policy alone cannot pave the way to the settlement of political and social polarization that has been generating severe obstacles to living together as a plural and multi-cultural society. The growing complexity of Turkish modernity and politics indeed necessitates governance based on democratic consolidation, realized through a discourse and regime of citizenship founded upon the equal rights and freedoms of diverse identities. In this chapter, we will seek an answer to the question of democratization, the solution to which requires the consolidation of democracy not only as a political regime, but also as a process by which state, society and individual relations are regulated. In doing so, we will discuss democracy and its consolidation in Turkey by focusing specifically on civil society.