Consolidation and Deepening of Democracy in Turkey

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Turkey’s democracy journey, commencing with its transition into the multiple party system, has survived up until today desipite some interruptions. Turkey has attached much emphasis to democracy and its elections for more than fifthy years and this, with time, has strenghtened the perception of democracy in the country.

Especially the EU harmonization law package that was passed by Turkish Grand National Assembly during the years 2002-2004, is the proof of Turkey’s determination in boosting its democracy up to the level of the western countries.

In today’s Turkey, almost all parts of the Turkish society and political parties state their commitments to democracy and do not advocate any regime other than democracy.

In a society, democracy can be first realized when individuals’ demands and aspirations for democratic system of government come out. Added by the effects of the internal and external dynamics of a country, this is followed by the reveal of the potential for democracy in the society. It is at this point that a change towards democracy starts. In the globalizing world, democracies do not approve homogenous communities that make decisions concerning the government of the countries or fundamental rights. But instead, what they propose is those communities that are open to multiculturalism and that are heteregoneous. With such a change, as opposed to the past, people that are of different ideologies, different ethnic and religious roots can have a voice in the government of their countries. As it has been in any process of change, certain groups, which do not want to lose the power and the privilege they acquired prior to democracy, have always appeared within any country and they have tried to slow down or halt this process of democratization.

Before attaining their existing level of democracy, most countries have undergone certain experiences, problems and accordingly found some solutions to these problems. All of these, combined, have led to the formation of a whole of universal norms. However much there have been some differences from one country to another, all societies experiencing the process of democracy have generally undergone similar processes.

As a consequence of the past experiences, the notion of democracy has improved in Turkey, yet it has not been able to consolidate and deepen in the minds of people. Consolidation and the deepening of democracy in Turkey as such can be realized through the reflection of the existing universal norms of democracy into the Turkish legal system and through their internalization by the people themselves. Thus, it is of utmost importance to reflect these universal norms and values in the legislations and regulations, firstly being in the constitution; thereby creating the chances for consolidating and deepening democracy in Turkey. In this sense, it is also an important attempt to define the level of the relations between state-community/individual for the same end.

One of the best indicators for the consolidation of democracy in a country is the intellectual transformation the country has attained compared with the former periods of that country. Deepening of democracy can not be realized only through reflecting the universal norms of democracy and law in the Turkish legal system. The problem Turkey faces in its democracy journey derives from the fact that it has not been able to reflect the universal legal norms and democracy norms in its legal system. What’s more, the norms that have been accepted by Turkey’s legal system have not been able to achieve the intellectual transformation. Under the deprivation of this intellectual transformation, although commitment to the universal democracy norms is steadily shown,  certain differences in their implementation may appear because of the divergence in their interpretation. Therefore, in Turkey, even though the related parties take the universal norms as the reference in their domestic political issues, the same norms have lead to different political attitudes since those universal norms have not been internalized.

Like the other countries that have undergone the process of democratization, Turkey comes up with the same experiences. Within this context, there appear some groups that aim at slowing and preventing the consolidation and deepening of democracy in Turkey. It is this group of people that stand as the biggest obstacle of Turkey in implementing the above-mentioned intellectual transformation and in reflecting the universal norms in its legal sysytem.

It is clear from the democratization experiences of the other countries that groups, which make use of the status quo, have actively fighted against consolidation of democracy. In particular, given the countries in the Southern Europe, one can clearly see that military coups have been one of the most widely used methods. Additionally, some bureaucrats, who have been content with the existing situation of their countries, have struggled to slow down the process of a change. They have even collaborated with criminal organizations and gangs. In this idrection, as it was in the example of Italy, groups that are against democracy have acted with gladio-like organizations, established illegal groups and strived to stop or slow down the development of democracy so that they could retain their privileges. The anti-democratic atmosphere resulting from the military coups, lawlessness and the chaos –products of the those groups- have all delayed the afore-mentioned process of intellectual transformation. As a result, people’s belief in democracy weakens while those indecisive individuals are heavily influenced by anti-democratic tendencies.

At least for the last three decades, relations between politicians, bureaucrats and gangs, which came to light especially in the 1990s of Turkey, have delayed the consolidation of democracy in Turkey. In particular,increasing number of unidentified murders in the middle of the 1990s and intervention of the militray officials in politics have drawn such a picture in which both state institutions and politicians are portrayed as weak. With recent legal jurisdictions in Turkey, claims of military coup have been sucrutinized and the gangs that try to stop the democratization of the state institutions have been investigated. For the consolidation and deepening of democracy in Turkey, It is of most importance for the country to inquire into the existence of a formation that is similar to the gladio in Italy and if there exists, it should be revealed accordingly. Unfolding the ties between politicians, bureaucrats and gangs, searching for the coup plans, unravelling the dirty businesses would weaken the hands of the groups that are against democracy in Turkey, thereby accelarating the intellectual transformation process in the country. That these anti-democracy groups lose their influence will  facilitate to have more democratic institutions and a society along with deeping the concept of democracy in the minds.

It would be of use to assess the developments in Turkey from this perspective. At this point, each and every person who aspires to see the consolidation and deepenig of democracy in Turkey should do more than just supporting the norms of law and democracy on a discourse level. What they should do is to reflect this in their attitudes and to perform coherence between their sayings and acts.


Translated by Hacer Şartepe

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