Turkey’s Democratic Struggle under AKP Government: 2002-2010

This featured Paper is compiled from the notes of Mr. Sedat Ergin, a notable journalist and columnist in Turkey, from the speeches he gave at various conferences and seminars abroad before September 2010. Mr. Ergin is currently working as a columnist at daily Hürriyet and he is the former Editor-in-Chief of the daily Milliyet. He has edited and approved this Paper in person, and opened it up to discussion. No new content or interpretation has been added to it with regard to the developments that took place in Turkey after the Turkey’s Constitutional referendum on 12 September 2010. In this sense, it can be read as a general assessment of Turkey from 2002-2010.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power during the 2002 elections-a year after its establishment, and as of November 2012, it completed its 10th year in power. Lately, many studies have been made and articles have been written regarding the 10 years of AKP rule. One of the prominent emphases made by these assessments is the claim that AKP in last two years have shifted its line and has started to follow completely different policies and stances. Given this shift in policies, the AKP has been a matter of constant controversy and currently many various interest groups that had supported the government has started to withdraw their support and increase their criticisms directed towards AKP. It is possible to observe that the points prominent in criticisms of the last period against the AKP government have not only been put forward in this last two years, but also emphasize points made by many writers previously.

This article by Sedat Ergin actually indicates that he had verbalized his warnings and solution offers in advance of the problems that have been a subject of heated and contemporary debates in Turkey of 2010 and afterwards, but still only being presented as “just developed”. This compilation composed without adding any of the developments occurred after September 2010, and indicates that the debates on increasing tendencies of authoritarianisation and problems about democracy have been emphasized and explained extensively in before by Mr. Ergin and others.

The article gives vital clues to the reader about Turkey’s current political condition, while presenting openly the anticipations and assessments of its progress from 2002-2010. What makes the article even more significant is that although it sheds light on Turkey of 2002-2010, it actually identified in the right time and provided solutions for the problems of Turkey in 2013 and how to cope with them. The article still is a reserved and contemporary assessment about how to look for solutions before it is too late by its analyses and suggestions on many issues being vocalized in the current political discourse of Turkey.

Turkey’s Democratic Struggle under AKP Government:
2002-2010 

Introduction

This paper examines Turkey’s political realm before the general elections of June 2011. Since the political scene in Turkey is constantly held captive by one crisis after another, this paper is an attempt to assert a historical perspective that has the potential to lead a deeper understanding of the current situation. In this regard, the paper can be seen as a means to overcome the problem of what might be called a ‘political amnesia’.

This paper deals with a number of issues including the positive steps towards democracy as well as the inhibiting discourses and practices towards the essence of democracy.   I define the democracy in the Turkish context as a: ‘democracy in paradox’, characterised by a fluctuation between high expectations and low returns, good intentions and limited practical implementation, and moving constantly forward and backward. It is possible to argue that the culmination of paradox has been a less overt transition to a new type of authoritarianism.

PM’s Call on Media Magnates: “Fire Critical Columnists”

On February 26, 2010, Prime Minister Erdoğan delivered a speech before a party meeting in İstanbul.  A major portion of his speech was devoted to all the advancements that happened to Turkish democracy under his government since 2003.

Prime Minister Erdoğan seemed to be dissatisfied with the press criticism about an earlier meeting about the arrested generals, which was held at the Presidential Palace, with President Gül, and the Chief of the General Staff General Başbuğ.

         “At this point, I have to give a warning. ” said Prime Minister Erdoğan :  “They have no right to create tension in this country; just yesterday, we held a trilateral summit, a meeting, chaired by our President. Now, there are interesting press commentaries on that meeting like ‘How can they hold a trilateral meeting with the President, how could the Chief of Staff possibly attend such a meeting, how could you possibly call a meeting attended by the Chief of Staff a ‘Presidential Summit’. Could it get any more ridiculous?”

             “These comments are so despicable, they are inconceivable. Well then, will they   contribute to this country or will they continue their efforts to   create tension in this country? Is it wrong for a President to meet with, the nation’s Prime Minister and the Chief of Staff to evaluate matters? These are presidential rights given by constitution. They even oddly interpret these in their columns. This has no place within the confines of decency and manners. No such approach will be allowed in the government processes.”

 Thereafter, the Prime Minister made a call to the media magnates:

            “I am, therefore, addressing the newspaper patrons; there is no way you can say, ‘Not much I can do, they are columnists, I can’t control them.’   You have to say, ‘Look pal, you are responsible for this.’ Why; because no one has the right neither to create tension nor to damage economy in this country. . We will not allow it.”

            “Those who hand the pens to these people should say: ‘sorry pal, no room for you in our shop’. Because, those who deserve to be displayed, are put on the shop window.”

            “You are signing the pay checks of those columnists. If the markets are down by six and a half per cent, it’s quite apparent who is behind all this. And that’s why, I say, please, everyone should know where to draw the line, and should know that well. Therefore, at this point, I am issuing my warning, this is something I have to do.

I took the liberty of giving highlighting these lengthy excerpts from his speech, because I strongly believe that this statement provide a deep insight into our Prime Minister’s mentality, and are very reflective of his understanding of democracy, freedom of the press, and what kind of treatment should be extended to critical voices in the media.

In Western democracies, newspapers have to be financially sound business ventures to ensure independent reporting; yet they cannot be seen as ‘shops.’ Newspapers are not grocery stores and columnists are not products for display in the windows.

Our Prime Minister’s furiousness at columnists is not new. Anger towards columnists is a common practice of his. For example, early in December 2009, when he was angry with columnists and argued that: “Turkey will be more peaceful if columnists write less frequently.” and that “In the past, a columnist would write once or twice a week. But, in the present  columnists can write every day, even every half hour. What talent!,” said the Prime Minister while addressing his party group.

 A Democracy Assessment on a Broken Pair of Scales

This speech by Prime Minister Erdoğan was very striking, because it was a speech devoted to democratic advances under his government.  It was, to say the least, ironic that a speech devoted to the topic of “advancing democracy” was also the medium for conveying a message to media employers to prevent columnists from criticizing the government. It is a request that is not compatible with the basic principles of democracy.

This micro level irony is, in a way, very representative of the macro level confusion pertaining to the Turkish democracy. In this big picture one would witness two dominant paradoxical trends.  On the one hand, there are indeed positive trends which confirm the enhancement of Turkish democracy. On the other hand, there are trends that are diluting and eroding the Turkish democratic experience.

The Turkish political scene has been divided by a major debate on the assessment of these trends. The politicians, the media, and the intelligentsia are divided with respect to their interpretation of democracy’s direction. And in my humble opinion, I tend to think that ironically both trends are relevant and in fact coexist. However, both sides of these arguments can be substantiated with facts. This may defy conventional perceptions but many developments in Turkey very often defy conventional patterns of thinking and classical stereotypes.  If we put these trends on a pair of scales, which side would tip the balance?

Positive Trends: Kurdish Opening 

Let us begin with the positive side of the scale: Since 1999, Turkey has been a candidate for full membership in the European Union and has to meet the Copenhagen political criteria.  This engagement in the EU process has brought about a dynamic process of political reform and democratization, although the pace of   the process has not been consistent at all times.  In the first half of the last decade the pace of reform indeed moved on a fast track. Yet, in the latter part of the decade the pace slowed down and at times came to a halt.

A long list of  changes in the Turkish laws have been introduced which led to major reforms in the political system, specifically in the areas of rule of law, freedom of expression, protection of minorities, lifting barriers on expression of ethnical and cultural aspirations, civilian control over the military, etc.  On top of the list stands the Kurdish question. A major turning point has been achieved in this everlasting problem of the republic during the last decade.

“The Kurdish opening” initiated by the government of the Justice and Development Party in the summer of 2009 in my view was one of the boldest steps in recent Turkish history. The opening had yet to be translated into a comprehensive set of specific measures; but irrespective of the content of this opening, the fact that a genuine momentum has been generated, is important in itself, and it will serve as a catalyst in solving this intractable problem.  Tackling every problem requires a first step.

Hopefully this would be the beginning of an irreversible process.  Yet, it needed to be very carefully engineered and pursued.  Building a broad consensus was indispensable   for the success of the process.

I believe the opening suffered a major stumbling block due to welcoming of a group of terrorists coming from the PKK bases in Northern Iraq at the Habur Gate. They were all freed by the Turkish authorities. There were mass celebrations of thousands of PKK sympathizers at the border and the mood was one of jubilation. This was perceived and portrayed as a victory by many Kurdish activists. This led to resentment among large segments of Turkish society.

Yet, the future of the opening still remains unclear. The general perception was that the government is pursuing the project with a considerable degree of caution.  Even the name of the project has been changed from “Kurdish Opening” to “National Unity Initiative”. It was no secret that Mr. Erdoğan, as a politician, is aware of the public reaction to the Habur incident.  Besides, it was not a secret that many AKP politicians   were not pleased with the Kurdish opening. Even in his discourse, Mr. Erdoğan still remains firmly committed to the opening he initiated. For instance, he held a breakfast with all leading singers in Istanbul in which he made an appeal to secure their support for this project.  These celebrities enjoy the highest bipartisan constituency in Turkey. At least this effort might have been useful to ease the public misgivings about the opening. Even though there was no substantial progress towards the solution of the problem, recognition of the problem and keeping the problem high on the agenda were indeed two steps forward.

Demands of the Alevi Community

Another sphere where one could cite progress is the recognition of Alevi Community’s cultural rights.  The AKP government undertook a similar opening (as with the Kurds) to address the problems of the Alevi community. A series of workshops were held under the direction of a state minister in which many representatives of the Alevi community were represented. The outcome of this process was outlined in a report which was presented to Prime Minister Erdoğan.

Nonetheless, not all representatives of the Alevi community joined this process.  Some influential Alevi groups protested and interpreted the process as a deceptive act of the government. Also, the recommendations outlined in the final report were received with controversy.  Many Alevi groups claim that the report fails to meet the demands and the expectations of the community. For example, despite the insistence of the Alevis that their Cem Evi (Gathering Houses) should be officially accepted as a places of worship, the report did not grant such status.

Personally I was not satisfied with the outcome, yet I have to acknowledge that organizing workshops, despite all its shortcomings, was still an encouraging attempt in the right direction. .  No other governments in the past had been able to demonstrate the political will to tackle this issue, including coalition governments with social democrat partners who had many Alevi ministers among their ranks.

Civil Control of the Military and Ergenekon

One fundamental area of improvement was in the field of civil control of the military;  especially, after Turkey’s candidacy was officially declared by the EU, a series of reforms have been introduced with the effect of curbing the powers of the military establishment, and thereby making Turkey more compatible with the European democracy standards. The Military’s role and its influence in the decision making structures in the state apparatus, including the National Security Council, has greatly been curbed. However, in this sphere there is still  more to be covered. In particularly in terms of transparency and civil oversight of the military spending, additional reforms are called for.  Turkish taxpayers do have the right to know how every lira is spent under the military budget.

Another important development was bringing those behind the coup attempts before the courts. Despite all claims of forged documents and legally heavy handed moves by prosecutors, many cases have been raised against retired and active duty generals and soldiers of lower ranks. I hold my reserve as regards some of the controversial legal actions, but still one could conclude that the military is no longer the untouchable element in society. This was another major change that had been unthinkable till a couple of years ago.

In this framework, the Ergenekon investigation which has uncovered networks targeting democratic stability has been crucial.  However, the investigation has been the source of a major political controversy. The Prime Minister publicly declared that he was the prosecutor of the Ergenekon case. The main opposition leader declared to be the lawyer of the defendants in the trial. The whole investigation has become captive to politics. In my view, the Ergenekon investigation was justified, at least in the initial phase. The uncovering of huge amounts of military explosives and hardware do not attest to good intentions.   Yet there was growing criticism that the investigation has also been used to silence several prominent opposition figures from the press and academia.  Another criticism of the investigation was the lengthy pre-trial detention of suspects and the infringement of their legal rights as well as the lack of procedural safeguards, as stated by the prestigious Helsinki Watch.

The open ended nature of the investigation was another source of concern. The length of the investigation till the court order remains uncertain. We had enough reason to presume that the prosecution was not in a rush and it would expand the investigation with new waves of arrests and indictments. As there was a growing consensus that the investigation should be pursued all the way ensure democratic stability. At the same time “it must be conducted in full respect  to judicial procedures and the rule of law” as stated by Olli Rehn,  the former Commissioner of Enlargement of the European Commission.  In fact, he felt the need to underline the fact that some serious infringements indeed had taken place.

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Harmony in Democratic Chaos?

There was a broad public debate in Turkey on almost all critical issues. There were no longer any taboos and almost every sensitive topic is the subject of debate: be it the role of religion in the public sphere, the role of the military or the rights of the Alevi community, identity issues. A critical approach to some practices of the early years of the republic also was surfacing. This all showed that pluralism was indeed gaining ground in Turkish society. This debate could be frustrating at times, but perhaps only  Turkish democracy  could show the resilience  to absorb  a debate on such complex and difficult problems, many of them  having deep roots in history, religion and ethnicity, many of them possessing the potential for conflict.

The fact that the country was still at the stage of an ongoing internal immigration process with conflicting social dynamics makes this challenge even greater.  In many cases problems such as the Kurdish issue and growing religiosity reflected themselves as the offspring of these social cleavages. To sum up, I claim that Turkish democracy is the most chaotic democratic experience on this planet. This makes it challenging and frustrating, yet at the same time fascinating from an intellectual point of view.

Negative Trends on the Scale 

Since we have covered most of the positives now we may proceed to the negative side of the scale.  On this side of the equation, there is also a long list. First of all, serious problems remained in the area of human rights, such as increase in torture cases, beatings, abuse, and violence against women by the security forces, as documented by the EU progress report and the annual human rights report of the State Department of the United States.

Secondly, there were still many laws and regulations that prohibit freedom of expression. There were hundreds of cases pending against journalists. Journalists still face great obstacles to independent journalism. A leading investigative reporter Nedim Şener who disclosed the blunders of the police and the gendarmerie in the assassination of the prominent Turkish-Armenian writer Hrant Dink in 2007 has been prosecuted on charges of revealing state secrets and faces with 32.5 years of imprisonment. Ironically, the sentence which has been requested for the assassin of Hrant Dink, Ogün Samast, was 20 years. Thereafter, Nedim Şener was acquitted from this case.

Thirdly, many citizens are concerned about wiretappings. The general perception was that it is indeed widespread.  Papers were full of stories, unethically revealing contents of illegal wiretappings. With respect to authorized legal wiretappings, prosecutors, in flagrant violations of the laws, very often do not delete those parts of the transcriptions which do not have relevance as evidence, and declared every aspect of defendants’ private lives in their indictments. As a result, private lives of hundreds of defendants have been made public in recent years.  That is how the private lives of most of the Ergenekon defendants were exposed to the public. That is how we learned that Ergenekon defendant, the leading columnist Mr. İlhan Selçuk was a regular observer of Fashion TV channel and that he did not miss the Rio festival.

It was also revealed that around 50 judges and prosecutors who were suspected of connections with h the Ergenekon network had been tapped upon the request of the Ministry of Justice; yet nothing was found that would connect them to illegal networks. This example shows that use of this method by the government had already gone beyond reasonable limits for a country which is governed by the rule of law.  Systematic and uncontrolled exposition of the wiretappings’ transcriptions has helped to create an environment of fear.

New Pattern of Authoritarianism

This trend could perhaps be seen as one of the reflections of the emergence of a pattern of authoritarianism which was unfolded in Turkey.

As I have already covered, Mr. Erdoğan’s attitude towards critiques and opposition reflected an illiberal mindset exemplified by his calls to media owners to silence critical voices. Defining Erdoğan as an autocrat is convenient when thought with the growing consensus in the international press.  During 2010, editorials in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post have all criticized him for his autocratic or authoritarian tendencies.

Under the AKP government, Turkey has moved into a system of democratic authoritarianism in which an elected Prime Minister increasingly manifested autocratic tendencies.  Some political scientists would call it electoral authoritarianism. Democratic authoritarianism as a term is an oxymoron. But our part of the world is full of such ironies.  A long list of actions and statements by Prime Minister Erdoğan which attest to this pattern of behaviour can be stated.  Some examples are:  his heavy handed treatment of the press;  his calls for boycotting of newspapers; his press office’s cancelling the accreditation of reporters;  his lashing out at intellectuals who signed a petition on the Armenian issue ; his scolding of the business community leaders who called for a program to curb the adverse effects of the economic crisis, and the list goes on. In my point of view, these examples are signs of an illiberal mindset.  In each of these examples there is a common pattern: his growing intolerance for opposition in some area.

A true democracy is all about opposition.  Any basic definition of democratic culture begins with respect to opposition. If tolerance for opposition is taken as an objective criterion for assessing the quality of democracy I doubt that Turkey would get a passing grade on its report card. Turkish political scene thus challenged the stereotype of thinking which has prevailed in many Western circles in recent years, namely that Mr. Erdoğan was indeed victimized by the authoritarianism of the state apparatus in Turkey. As the role of the military continued to diminish, it was increasingly becoming apparent that authoritarianism of a civilian nature has been replacing it.

From Power Concentration to ‘Checks and Balances’ Mechanisms

I think the fundamental problem facing Turkish democracy is the concentration of power at the hands of Mr. Erdoğan. A true democracy is all about separation of powers with strong checks and balances.  Unfortunately, a major shortcoming of the Turkish democratic experience is that checks and balance mechanisms are not strong enough and it still lacks a strongly entrenched democratic culture.

A genuine democracy can function only if it is constructed over a strong and sound checks and balances.  Unfortunately, Turkey’s weak democracy was already crumbling before the 2011 elections. The executive branch holds full control and absolute authority over the legislative branch. One leader held all the strings in his hands on the issue of which laws should be enacted and with which content they should be enacted.

I do not contest the need for a major reform of the judiciary in Turkey. I also do not challenge the criticism that some of the judiciary’s rulings are indeed problematic. But still any arrangement that gives similar authority to the executive over the judiciary it is bound to terminate the concept of separation of powers.

Can the Fourth Estate Check the Government?

In true democracies one of the leading guarantors of checks and balances is the so-called “fourth estate.” A free press that is totally independent from government authority is a sine quo non requirement in a functioning democracy. The role of the press has always been a controversial issue in Turkey. But changes in the ownership of the media had the effect of aggravating the independent functioning of the media sector. The strange fashion in which the second biggest media group of the country was handed over to a government friendly business group in a public auction has become a source of controversy.

The controversy stems from the fact even though three bidders had originally registered, at the last moment, two third of the bidders withdrew from the official auction. That left the auction with only one bidder. It still remains a mystery why those two bidders withdrew. As a result, the contract went to that group with the initial offer of the government authority without any competition, for roughly 1.2 billion dollars. The CEO of the business group that secured the contract happened to be the son-in-law of the Prime Minister. The way this sale was financed is also noteworthy. Since commercial banks refused to grant loans on the grounds that it was too risky, state controlled banks took the risk and provided a credit line of 700 million dollars, with 250 million dollars coming from the Qatar Investment Fund.

As this auction underlines, Turkey is moving away from being a level playing field.     One of the objectives of being a full member of the EU was to create a business environment regulated by objective rules that would guarantee fair competition among all the competing business parties. An economy where some major contracts are awarded without any government auction -or through auctions with sole bidder- cannot be called as a level playing field. This environment was not in conformity with EU standards.

New business groups who were closely associated with the government entered the media sector. Any new investment in the media sector should be welcomed, but it also has to have a competitive environment. The diversification of ownership in the media is imperative for any democracy since it directly effects dissemination of information to the public.  More media outlets, meaning more communication channels would help to guarantee that all ideas and all the news will reach the public. However, in Turkey, the change in the media ownership did not necessarily ensure more objective journalism; on the contrary we saw a tendency to refrain from reporting material critical of the government. Reporting corruption stories has been a risky journalistic activity.

From Corruption Stories to Tax Penalties 

I can refer to a striking example in this regard. The light house scandal broke out in Germany in the autumn of 2008, after a German prosecutor indicted a group of defendants having links with people associated with the AKP.  The court in Frankfurt came up with a verdict and three people were sentenced, with two of them are still serving prison terms.  This story simply was not reported by those media outlets supportive of the government. When our group of papers ran these stories, the Prime Minister launched a campaign against us and called for a boycott of our papers.

Those media groups who were not refraining from independent reporting usually   ended up with huge financial penalties.  I do not think it would be proper for me to dwell on the tax penalties imposed on the media group that I work for, but the total of penalties levied against us exceeded 4 billion dollars and a vivid testimony of the price of independent reporting.  The penalty exceeded the total value of the entire Doğan Group. Prime Minister Erdoğan publicly confessed that the tax penalty before it was officially levied was brought to his attention and that he cleared it. This statement was a proof of the political considerations behind the penalty.

Did such penalties bear a chilling effect on journalists? Yes they did. It bore a chilling effect not only on journalists but also on the business community as well. I have worked as an editor of one of the Doğan Group’s major papers, and I personally experienced the chilling effects of such tax penalties.  The chilling effect continues to resonate in the Turkish press.  I am happy that I am no longer an editor, as I know well the difficult environment in which they have to make their decisions. In the final analysis,  this all means that if the press refrains from independent reporting and criticism, its function to check the government will be in jeopardy.   This, in my view, would harm democracy.

Democracy by Appointment

I think another major deficiency of the political system was that it did not have the ability to produce alternatives. This put the Turkish political system in a continuous state of flux. This deficiency simply stemmed from the fact that internal structures of political parties were not democratic. In this respect, I believe that a significant portion of the problems facing Turkish democracy did not stem solely from the military establishment or the judiciary as claimed, but also from the fact that the civilian components of our democracy did not have a democratic nature.

Currently, the political party and the election law designed by the military regime in 1982, mostly remain intact. These laws bestowed unprecedented authority and powers to party leaders. And party leaders, despite all the harsh words and strong sentiments, directed vis-a-vis one another-were in total harmony on one specific issue, that is, their determination to keep these laws in place. The intermediary institutions between the electorate and the decision making and the opposition mechanisms of the country are the political parties.  The internal structure of these institutions is not democratic. The absolute decision maker is the party leader who calls the shots.  Ostensibly, the leaders are elected by the delegates, but since the leaders have full authority to determine the delegates, no party leader can be removed unless he decides to withdraw. Every deputy in parliament is appointed by the party leader. His political future depends on his or her party leader, and their allegiance to the leader takes precedence over their allegiance to their conscience. In a way, it is democracy by appointment.

A striking example can be given from the incumbent party-AKP. In 2009, the AKP held its district conventions in every city. In every convention, party headquarters supported a specific candidate. As a matter of fact, in the majority of those conventions there was only one candidate, one list which was endorsed by the party’s central headquarters in Ankara. In some cities there were candidates who contested the official candidates put forth by the party leadership. And in some cases they won. You may wonder what happened afterwards. The mandate of those elected local party leaders was nullified by the party headquarters. Simply, they were discharged and replaced by appointed local leaders who were loyal to the party leadership.

For one second, let us conceive of a scenario in which the Turkish model was adapted to British politics. Consider a model where all deputies of the Labour Party and the Conservative Party would be handpicked by the leaders of these parties without by-election. Would it have been received as a democratic model? No way.  But what would be inconceivable for British democracy, indeed and for most of other European democracies, is indeed the reality in Turkey. This is a sphere which needs to be thoroughly reformed within the ongoing EU process.

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When EU Perspective is Off the Track  

This whole picture becomes gloomier as Turkey continues to lose its EU vocation and this had alternative costs. It has ramifications in the political system, in the reform process, in the democratic culture and in the foreign policy arena as well.   As the full membership talks lost momentum, public support for the EU dramatically eroded.

This all took place against the background of a major polarization in the country since 2007. So, in the absence of a clear perspective, the vacuum was filled by increasing conflict and growing divisions in the society. State institutions and the judiciary have become part of those divisions. In other words, those divisions were reflected within the state institutions as well. In fact, a significant portion of the Turkish society, especially the urban residents of the country’s major cities, had misgivings that secularism was in danger. Some of those misgivings might have been exaggerated, but the fact is that they did exist and deserved to be addressed. It is true that religious conservatism gained also ground in all spheres of life in Turkey under the AKP government. By 2010, Turkey was more conservative than it was in 2002.

In Lieu of Conclusion: Need for a New Consensus

What did this picture before 2011 tell us? What kind of message did those contradictory trends send in terms of  the future of the equilibrium?

Turkey looks like a river with strong streams going in different directions. And when you talk about Turkey you should also take into account the deep currents which never surface. For example, the divisions in the country naturally would have to reach a new equilibrium. The duality and the polarization would not be sustained forever. This has consumed Turkey’s energy and its resources and it did not help political and economic stability as well. To reach equilibrium it is necessary for all the players to reach a grand compromise and internal reconciliation. This is not be possible with the current confrontationist attitude where the parties try to resolve the conflict in their favour through a zero-sum game approach.

Also, the EU had a very critical role in this effort.  I doubt that the EU leaders fully understand the complexity of the problem here.  Yet how the EU will handle Turkey in the future will have profound effects on which way the pendulum will swing. Nonetheless, to what extent subsequent developments justified those predictions is the subject of another article.

Mr. Sedat Ergin, Columnist at daily Hürriyet newspaper and former Editor-in-Chief at Milliyet Newspaper

Please cite this publication as follows:

Ergin, Sedat (April, 2013), “Turkey’s Democratic Struggle under AKP Government: 2002-2010”, Vol. II, Issue 2, pp.27-38, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, ResearchTurkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=3076)

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7 thoughts on “Turkey’s Democratic Struggle under AKP Government: 2002-2010

  1. Hıfzı Deveci

    Yazarın geniş değerlendirmeleri için teşekkürler.
    Fakat bu güzel yazının birkaç önemli eksiği var.
    En başta, 2011-2012 dönemini dışarıda tutmuş olması eksiktir. Yaşadığımız şu son iki yıl yazarın değerlendirmelerini yanlışladığı için değil, (tersine kuvvetlendirmiştir); ama bu iki yıl içinde yazarın pek üstünde durmadığı başka olumsuzluklar yeşerdiği için.
    Kürt sorununun çözümü çabaları, Habur deneyimini bile aratacak kadar çapaçulluk içinde götürülmekte. Böylesi bir meselede kesinlikle söz hakkı olan muhalif kesimlerin fikirlerine “değersiz hezeyanlar” olarak bakarak aşağılamaya çalışan bir anlayış hakim. Toplum kesimlerini ikna çabaları, aynı toplum kesimlerini açıkça “fikirsiz kalabalıklar” olarak gören bir düzlemde yürütülüyor.
    Yeni anayasa yapım çalışmaları da aynı kalitede. Son iki yılda ortaya iyice çıktı ki yeni anayasa yapımı bir “demokratikleşme” değil, tam tersine “otoriterleşme” projesidir. Burada “silahların susturulması” bir “nihai amaç” olmayıp, “başkanlığa giden yolda bir ihtiyaç” olarak görünüyor.
    Yazının ikinci önemli eksiği, değerlendirmelerdeki “orta yolcu” dildir. Böyle bir dil sosyolojik tezlerde uygun olabilir; ama günümüz Türkiye’sinde mevcut tehdit ve tehlikeleri bu dille anlatmak onları hafifletmektir. Daha net, kararlı, gördüğünü açıkça anlatan bir dil kullanılmalıdır. Olan biteni olumlular-olumsuzlar diyerek teraziye koymak, tehlikeleri hafife almak olacaktır. Örneğin, “yargı süreçlerinde bazı olumsuzluklar olmasına rağmen” diye başlayan bir cümle, bütün hukuk dışılıklara meşruiyet kazandırır. Net biçimde söylenmesi gereken şudur:
    1. TÜRKİYE HIZLA BİR ORTADOĞU DİKTATÖRLÜĞÜ OLMAYA SÜRÜKLENMEKTEDİR.
    2. TÜRKİYE İÇİN TEHLİKE “BÖLÜNME” DEĞİLDİR, ASIL BÜYÜK TEHLİKE ÇÖZÜLMEDİR!

    Reply
  2. John Peet

    This is an excellent commentary and brief by Mr. Ergin! I enjoyed reading it and followed the step by step journey of AKP government. The past reminds and restores itself. It gives a roundup of the news in Turkey, and indicates how things might get out of control under an absolute power. Remember the famous British saying; power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely! Hope Mr. Erdogan will take a lesson from his mistakes and such warnings and do the best for Turkey. Turkey is at the edge of making a great contribution to the region and becoming a new credible power as well as ruining everything including herself’s prosperity and future. Critical issue is others, including the opposition and media bosses should help him, NOT by absolute obedicence, but by providing a free media with independent commentaries! Thanks for sharing this!

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  3. Nancy Willstone

    Mr. Sedat Ergin’s article is very instructive to understand the recovery process of Turkey following the coalition governments of the past, and the economic crisis in 2001. However, single party government turned into one man government, and this article humbly clarifies the inconsitent policies of the Ak Parti in the last decade. Erdogan’s Turkey is like a jigsaw puzzle, good jobs and bad jobs seem to travel hand in hand! But, it is obvious Turkey is heading toward worse policies in recent years. Another assessment of the AK Parti after 2011 election should be written asap!

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  4. Philip Shankland

    Why do the opposition parties have their own ‘shadow cabinets’? This article can be read as a summary of what the opposition has done in Turkey, too. AKP struggled, made several policy trials, evaluations, pressures, but where is the opposition? Why did not they attack on the ruling party through the channels and mechanisms it used!!! Anyway, it is a good analysis on Turkey’s last decade, thanks indeed!

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  5. http://2.gp/q2qR

    I do not know if it’s just me or if perhaps everybody else experiencing problems with your blog. It seems like some of the written text on your posts are running off the screen. Can somebody else please comment and let me know if this is happening to them as well? This might be a issue with my internet browser because I’ve had this happen previously.
    Kudos

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