Day: October 6, 2017

A More “Democratic” Turkey? Part 1

The Turkish electorate just resoundingly passed a referendum with 58 percent of the vote that could very well end Turkey’s definition of democracy. Turkish democracy is not like other versions of democracy; well, maybe not until now. This week we will discuss how Turkey’s unique style of democracy came into existence. Next week, we will delve into why I believe this referendum is the most troubling development in Turkish politics in recent memory. The Man. The Vision. Modern Turkey, born out of the progressive vision of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk after World War I, bears little resemblance to other nations formerly part of the Ottoman Empire. This difference could be because it was the center of the Ottoman Empire and change came quicker to the seat of power; or, more likely, it could be due to the revolutionary visions of Ataturk. As Stephen Kinzer points out in Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future , Iran and Turkey went through almost simultaneous revolutions at the beginning of the 20th century. Reza Shah, Iran’s revolutionary leader, imposed modernism and Western principles upon his people without asking, much as Ataturk did in Turkey. The difference is that Ataturk was able to institutionalize his vision of a more representative ‘democracy’ of sorts that would transition over time once people got used to the idea, while Reza Shah had trouble letting go of the power...

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A More “Democratic” Turkey? Part 2

Last week we discussed how Turkey’s unique style of democracy came into existence. In the second part of this series, we will explore the underlying problems and repercussions of the recent referendum vote where 58 percent of voters supported a referendum that limits the political power of the military and places the judiciary square in the palm of the ruling Islamist Justice and Development (AK) Party. Western electorates are not like the Turkish one. In the West, the fundamentals of Jeffersonian democracy hold strong because the hedge against a manipulative, weak, unpopular, corrupt, etc. government is the ever-present promise of elections. In the United States, this fear of elections (more specifically a fear of getting voted out of office) has led to the 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year election cycle that is arguably not healthy. This is the exact opposite problem that Turkey faces today. Well-organized, grassroots campaigning in rural and poor areas of Turkey has solidified a religious base for the AK Party. Previously not very interested in politics, these Turks have been drawn into the electoral process by the promise and, in most cases, delivery of services for the poor: cleaner cities and functioning bureaucracies. To their credit, the AK Party has delivered these things and there is a reason why they continue to be popular amongst a section of this largely religiously conservative population. This group is much more...

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