Over the years, Turkey has faced political upheaval since its emergence as a separate country. Democratization and westernization was introduced by the People’s Republican Party or (PRP). Attempts have been made to form opposing parties to follow a purely democratic system. The first attempt was to form the progressive Republican Party and second attempt was made to form the free Republican Party. However, both failed due to the strong influence of the single ruling party, which followed the desire of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to form a strong foothold of kemalism and their full stronghold over the state.
Kili (1980 pp. 381-404) describe that the Kemalist foundation as that the Kemalist reforms aimed at bringing the nation-state of turkey to the advance level of the states of the world. The reforms aimed at strengthening the new central authority and focused on aspects like nation building and secularization of the Turkish society and state. Also, it highlighted the aspect of realizing the political participation and to bring about the changed in the socio-economic structure of the country
It emerged as an authoritarian state after World War II with electoral democracy since a lot of questions were raised on the ruling party. Proper Elections were held, and political parties were formed and took part in it, and alternation took place in the government with respect to the results, thus started the multiparty system. Despite that, Kemal Ataturk still under the control of a remarkably strong and powerful army following the principles of the kemalist foundation set all of this democratic process up. According to Zubaida (2011) Turkey as a model of democracy stated; the Turkish electoral democracy was mainly disrupted by the military coups and the strong elites, whenever they posed a threat to the Kemalist model or faced any challenges or any sort of intensification of social conflict and violence. The military intervened in three eras mainly, 1960, 1971, and 1980 and most recently in 1997.
In 1983, Turgut Ozal came into power, a former worker at the World Bank, with strong beliefs in Islam, introduced many policies that brought about changes in Turkey. He believed in globalization and introduced policies that opened up its institutional reforms, economy and privatized many of the firms, which had been ignored in a highly military controlled economy. This was the most influential era in the history of turkey, as the modernization had started taking place and introduction to globalization let Turkey to a new level. As stated by Keyman & Kanci (2011) in their article a tale of ambiguity: citizenship, nationalism and democracy in Turkey, that the exposure of globalization in turkey led to a new level and form that time globalization has been constituted as an important reason for the transformation process of turkey. The squeeze between the local dynamics and the global forces came into existence. Thus in the period of 1980’s and also 1990’s the process of modernization not only involved democratization but also the globalization process too.
In Addition to that in December 1999, turkey had been granted a status a suitable candidate for the European Union membership. Since then, Turkey has been going through a process of transformation in every area. This process is known as the process of Europeanization. As per Keyman & Kanci (2011), Europeanization took place in all the government structures, democratic and cosmopolitan models, cultural diffusion, individual and societal interactions and policy adaptations.
In a period of 8 decades turkey went through numerous processes, starting from the democratization by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk which was formed initially as a single ruling party than converted into Multiparty, than modernization took place and turkey became global and currently it is focusing on Europeanization since 1999. This transformation process had a great effect on Turkish nationalism overall. There is still an ambiguity whether this can be considered as a positive outlook or a negative outlook.
Turkey has played a pivotal role and an example for the contemporary Islamic world by displaying the deepening democracy, flourishing economy and highly independent foreign policies. The existence of the democracy and Islamism, turkey became a symbol for the Middle Eastern countries, mainly the Arabs. The existence of two features in the Turkish economy has been remarkably impressive for the Islamic world. Firstly, it is negotiating to be a member of the EU and secondly, despite that it has not lost its independence. The political and the economic development of Turkey are following the European model. This helped turkey a lot in modernization and implementation of a true democratic state. Also, one of the factors was that, unlike other Middle Eastern countries, turkey did not have any colonial legacy and thus it was easy to adopt western concepts. The democratization had proved to be beneficial for turkey in a way that it changed its international image (Erdemit, 2007) . Turkey’s surprised many Arabic nations when it did not support the US led war in Iraq. Despite that, it managed to maintain its close relation with the US. Furthermore, it did not hesitate to criticize Israelis attack Lebanon. Democratization was an encouraging process to take a step forward and Turkey had set an example for the Arab countries that a true democratic state is entitled to their opinion and their foreign policy cannot be influenced by the outside powers. In 2010 turkey was marked as a country that fulfils the criteria for the EU membership on the basis of it maintaining free and fair elections and showing a lot of progress in the judiciary and the fundamental rights (Ozcan, 2000 pp. 199-278).
Atasoy (2011) describes the democratization process in turkey and the positivity it brought. According to her, the freedom to express had increased and opposition had emerged, and there had been diversification and the decentralization the media and information had increased. Also need communication related technologies had taken place. Furthermore, she stated that the dynamic and globalizing economy of Turkey had empowered new political parties and increased the level of transparency.
In addition to that the democratization, modernization and globalization brought a lot of economic stability and growth in the country. There was the emergence of middle class consumers and reliance on consumer credit increased, thus in order to sustain their living standards stability of economic growth became immensely influential. Also, the statistics show that the over the decades the GDP of Turkey rose immensely, especially during 2002-2011, exceeding $10000. The financial rating ratings increased, and it is estimated that Turkey will be the fastest growing economy amongst it members by 2011-2017. The democratic deepening had exposed the judges, officers and military. They were elites who had dominated and had a unusually strong influence over the politics of the country and believed in following Kemalist foundation. They were against the concept of Westernization and resisted change. Thus, the democratization process had brought about a significant, positive change in turkey and it raised it international image as a strong developed country (Erdemit, 2007).
However, this topic has always been debatable that whether it has caused the positive impact only or adversely affected the Turkish economy. The answers remain that every ideology has two sides. Similarly, the democratization process in turkey created some challenges and problems for turkey. This has been indeed a highly debatable topic whether this system is flawed or not.
It is argued by some that those who are in favour of this environment and believe that democratization can lead to success have examined the quality of the Turkish democracy. Furthermore, Czajka (2011) highlighted that the assessment of turkey as a democratic state is taken at a face value whereas the structure and institutions associated with the democracy are taken at their measures and thus assessment of each of these structures give an entirely different picture.
The biggest problem is the banning of the political parties and candidates. In turkey, the minorities’ parties are ignored. These include the Kurdish and pro Kurdish, as they cannot access any representation in the government. According to the statistics three political parties and one hundred individual candidates are banned to engage in any political activity.
Furthermore, the current ruling party AKP had desired to make fundamental changes in the constitution in which the military had been replaced by the civil constitution. However, the measure is no adequate enough to implement democratization. According to Agnes, the party had lacked enthusiasm for compromise and consultation on constitutional reforms during the electoral campaign.
Another problem, which has been ignored during the democratization process, is the human and civil rights. Turkey has an extremely poor record and has an extremely weak human and minority rights system. Over the decades, the rights of citizenship of the ethnic and religious minorities have been ignored and thus it makes it be an undesirable democratic model for Middle Eastern countries. Even though, some of the situation the human rights has been improved, it still continues to be unusually harsh and difficult, and a lot of work needs to be done. The current government is attempting to resolve some of the issues, but it will take a lot of time. Thus, the denial of the political identity and basic rights of the minorities created an immense gap between the Turkish political system and the perfect model of democracy. According Mousseau (2006) in his article he stated that turkey had weak civil and political record despite a democratic environment. The cases of violation of human rights exist in the internal human rights organization. The author further states, that the country turkey had been lacking a strong liberal culture and the realization of the value of the liberalization. Despite the fact, it had been operating electoral and institutional democracy since 1950, economic and political instability still existed.
Leading to high levels of political violence, at the same time, many people have not been able to acquire individualist, liberal values to defend individual rights since they cannot develop economic and cultural independence from traditional identities.”
In addition to that, Cindoglu, Boynukara, Akyuz, and BekaroÄŸlu (2007) discussed in their article that despite being a democratic state turkey has failed to address the gender equity and sexual liberty issues. This question has been raised since its negotiations with EU. The authors concluded that the individuals from which interview was conducted still had a conservative point of view that women should be given too much independence and liberalization and domestic violence was a common issue that existed in turkey’s society. Furthermore, the issue of sexual identity has not been acknowledged despite such westernization.
Rouleau (1993) in his article the challenges to Turkey said that the Turkish system does not recognize the existence of the minorities or any ethnic or religious groups. The citizenship is based on the individual rather than ethic group or identity. Thus, there is no difference between the Turks and the Kurds. Also in the government records the size or geographic distribution of the Kurds has been missing. The author further highlights the impact of this ignorance of the radical minority can threaten the country’s cohesion as the Kurdish problem had been increasing dominating the domestic politics of turkey.
Turkey has gone through an extraordinarily long process of transformation and suffered many downs. However, this conflicting issue still remains undecided, and turkey should work on that.
Furthermore, media have been playing a pivotal role in the politics of Turkey. They have undermined the consolidation of democratization in Turkey. The journalist in the country has over decades competed with elites and shares their ideas of ruling and governing policies implemented by the Turkish government. Journalists have been a highly influential group; thus it can be said that the journalist has become the second stated elites after the politicians to influence the government policies. According to the authors Heper and Demirel, in their article ‘the press and the consolidation of Democracy in Turkey, discussed that the journalists have influenced the politics of turkey badly and have created tensions in many situations. They have not made any efforts in resolving the religious and ethical claims, in fact, worsened the situation. This has created an adverse effect on the economy of Turkey.
The above issues were flaws that existed in the institutional structure that was affiliated with democracy in Turkey. Apart from these one of the biggest issue that has been face by turkey is the Islamism-Secularism Debate. According to this with the modernization of Turkey, it has created a distance between Islam and democracy. Many had not liked the adoption of the western policies. One of the cases included the lifting of the ban on female universities students who wore headscarves.
According to Atasoy (2011) Secularism is hugely supported and accepted in Turkey; many complications have risen to the authoritarian imposition. There are no more than 10 percent of hardcore Islamists and are contained within the rule of law through liberal democracy. The distancing of itself from Islamism has caused the electoral success of AKP. Some people believed that I has been caused by the increase of Islamists
Thus, this issue has created a lot of problems for the Turkish economy on the whole in Middle Eastern countries. In addition that polarization has increased due to the democratization process. There has been a shift of power from one ruling party to many parties. This leads to a lot of unavoidable conflicts. This is mainly between the newly empowered masses and the old parties who had been guiding and influencing the government for years.
Other challenges that have been faced by the government are the civil-military relations. This has created a lot of tensions between the two. The interference of the military has affected the democratic life of Turkey. As an exceptionally strong force in politics, military has played an immense role in creating problems in the development of the civil society. It is also believed that the military has created strong opposition when it comes to the minority rights and the religious freedom due the strong belief by the military that the Kurdistan Workers Party poses a threat to the country.
There some strong group that pose a threat to the democratization of the country these include the jurisdiction, military coups and the other influential groups that do not want turkey to become a democratic nation. These groups are closely related and have extremely strong ties and together they are aim to stop the deepening of the democratic environment.
Turkey has gone through a process of democratization like many countries, and it has experienced similar problems. It seems that certain groups are creating problem for turkey to grow and they aim at slowing down the democratic process and preventing the consolidation of democracy. These groups are the biggest obstacles that turkey is facing right now. It is essential to unfold the ties of these groups and reduce their autonomy. This will help in losing their influence and development of the democratic institutions and thus a true democratic setup will be established. There is a different point of view of several authors on what should be done and what situation turkey is in right now.
According to Rouleau (1993), turkey is facing two extremely different visions; one is of the Kemalist republicans, who support the military. According to him if the Turkish people had to choose between the EU and the army they would choose the army. The other group is the Kemalist democrats, who are proud of the concept their founder brought but also believes that democracy, should be practiced with westernization and modernization. The question that the author has raised is that in this conflict will turkey be able to settle for and become the member of the European Union. The EU has stated that turkey has to change and concentrate on some of the reforms to become a member. As turkey is facing two different ideologies, this is still to be decided what is to be done.
On the other hand Keyman (2011), has a different point of view in his article, whereby he thinks that the historical context of the clash between the elites, mainly military and the judiciary has been exceptionally strong and is hindering the democratic environment of the country. Furthermore, the newly emerging middle class is also gaining a lot of attention. The author believes that turkey needs o focus on such issues to improve the democratization process in general, as these can have an adverse affect on the Turkish political system and thus the Europeanization.
Ozcan (2000) suggest in his article ‘local development, decentralization and consensus building in turkey’ that turkey should focus on building local democracy. This can be achieved through strong and credible state. This will further improve the image of turkey internationally and can be a gateway to the EU.
The current situation that exists in turkey is that they are negotiations to become the EU member and thus they have to revise some of their policies. These issues include the minority rights, freedom of religion and the civil-military relations. The most recent development in the minority rights issue. Legal reforms have been designed, whereby the minorities have the right to speak their own language, publish their own newspaper and have their own TV channels. Also, Kurdish is being taught in schools. The Turkish government is also working on the issue of religion as it is losing its popularity in the Middle Eastern countries. It is believed that the membership of EU is for the purpose of serving the civil society and improves the market economy and deepens the democratic roots. At the same time, it is believed that this will help turkey in understanding the Muslim community, as well. Furthermore, EU membership will encourage turkey to focus on the human rights issue and give freedom of religion and also eliminate the military role and thus increase the power of the civil society. To fulfill the requirements, the government of Turkey has been trying to improve its legislative reforms.
To conclude, Civil Society has been playing an immense role in the promotion and development of the human right and the democratic environment of any country. It is necessary for turkey to work through the challenges that it faces in the democratization of the country. It is still debatable that whether turkey is a true democratic state or not and if it can be set as a role model for Middle Eastern country. The need for turkey to maintain Islamism has been highlighted by many authors but ignored by the Turkish government. It is necessary for turkey to address all the issues discussed and find possible solutions for that. Turkey has come through an exceptionally long process of democratization with different stages over the period of 8 decades and still has an extraordinarily long way to go. In addition to that it can be ignored that where these issues have been raised turkey has benefited a lot from this democratization process. Economic booms, prosperity, globalization, a strong image in the international environment and consideration from the EU to be their member are notable achievements that any country can be labelled with. Furthermore, turkey is expected to be largest growing economy in the next 10 to 15 years. This is an everlasting debate as to which side is heavier, whether there has been more negative or positive impact. Thus, we can say that turkey should continue with the democratization process and try to eliminate the issue it faces.
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