chapter  22
18 Pages

Some observations on Turkey’s democratization process


Turkey is in the midst of a process of democratization. The political regime that emerged after the 1980 coup d’état produced a defective democracy of an illiberal and tutelary nature. Since the first elections held after the coup in 1983, Turkey has undergone important transformations during which – for both internal and external reasons – the regime’s democratization process has advanced. The most important of the external causes, of course, is Turkey’s candidacy for EU membership, which was solidly promoted by the 1999 Helsinki European Council, resulting in the opening of negotiations between Ankara and Brussels in October 2005. The EU’s influence has been notable, especially because it came to serve as a catalyst at a specific point in time for a broad political and social spectrum, contributing to a consensus in favour of far-reaching political reforms. Turkey’s candidacy to the EU and the need to fulfil the Copenhagen criteria fostered a deeper overall review of the Turkish political system. Until that time, advances in democratization had been characterised by piecemeal reforms. Indeed, the regime that resulted from the 1980 coup d’état did undergo

changes and experience a slow, progressive return to electoral normalcy. However, it did not manage to fulfil all of the criteria supposedly inherent in a liberal democracy, according to the terminology of embedded democracies put forth by Merkel (2004). This book makes it clear that, as in the Chilean case, Turkey underwent

an incomplete transition, since the military maintained prerogatives in the political sphere that allowed it to have the final say in the regime and held on to key spheres of power which were, furthermore, protected by the 1982 Turkish Constitution. All of this resulted in a defective democracy that was tutelary (controlled by the military establishment) and illiberal (in which there were severe limitations on the exercise of public freedoms and fundamental rights and the effective rule of law). However, especially in recent years, important transformations have taken place in this defective democracy. How should this process of transformation and change be analysed? We have chosen to use the theoretical framework of democratic consolidation, while qualifying that in Turkey, a process of democratic consolidation per se is not taking place.