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Authoritarian Tendencies versus Democratization: Evidence from Turkey

  • Altinbas University


Democracy means much more than elections and institutions. At its most basic level, it is predicated on the diffusion of power within government and society. In a democratic regime, power is shared among different branches to ensure that no one branch becomes too powerful. Checks and balances are necessary to prevent the accumulation of power and to ensure healthy competition among the legislative and executive branches and an independent judiciary. In this context, the government is accustomed to the presence of an opposition and government leaders are conscious that they enjoy a temporary hold on power. However, a democracy also requires that power be distributed among civil society, the media, trade unions and other institutions to ensure that they are independent of state control. In this context, all ethnic and religious groups, genders or social classes are included in political life because democracy requires all members of society to have individual and political rights and it requires the protection of those rights (Haass, 2003, pp. 139–140).
Democracy means much more than elections and institutions. At its
most basic level, it is predicated on the diffusion of power within
government and society. In a democratic regime, power is shared among
different branches to ensure that no one branch becomes too powerful.
Checks and balances are necessary to prevent the accumulation of power
and to ensure healthy competition among the legislative and executive
branches and an independent judiciary. In this context, the government
is accustomed to the presence of an opposition and government leaders
are conscious that they enjoy a temporary hold on power. However, a
democracy also requires that power be distributed among civil society,
the media, trade unions and other institutions to ensure that they are
independent of state control. In this context, all ethnic and religious
groups, genders or social classes are included in political life because
democracy requires all members of society to have individual and polit-
ical rights and it requires the protection of those rights (Haass, 2003,
pp. 139–140).
Based on this perspective, this study attempts to analyze the demo-
cratic experience in Turkey during the respective periods in which the
Democrat Party ( Demokrat Parti , or DP; 1950–1960), the Motherland
Party ( Anavatan Partisi , or ANAP; 1983–1991
1 ) and the Justice and
Development Party ( Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi ; 2002–today) were in
power from a comparative perspective to determine the reasons impeding
the consolidation of democracy in Turkey. These particular periods were
selected because they represent the most stable periods in which Turkey
had the opportunity to achieve democratic consolidation. This chapter
asserts that the different factions regard democratization as an aspect of
Authoritarian Tendencies versus
Democratization: Evidence from
Jülide Karakoç
Authoritarian Tendencies versus Democratization 39
a larger power struggle rather than the ultimate aim because of Turkey’s
particular political culture. It claims that this culture has been shaped
by intolerance against opponents, a sense of distrust toward minority
groups and the existence of informal institutions called the deep state.
Democratic consolidation and political culture
As Schedler (1998, p. 91) points out, democratic consolidation requires
that the political regime is distanced from any threat of authoritarian
regression and that it functions well against any eventual reverse waves.
According to Przeworski (1991, p. 26), democracy is consolidated when
it becomes “the only game in town.” Some regimes are considered to
be in gray zones between democracy and authoritarianism. O’Donnell
(1994) calls these “delegative democracies,” which are not successful
in realizing institutional and governmental changes in order to avoid
a socioeconomic crisis despite their transition to democracy (Merkel,
2004; Levitsky and Way, 2002, p. 53; Diamond, 2002, pp. 21–22).
Diamond (2002, pp. 21–22) names these regimes “hybrid regimes,”
while Zakaria (1997) regards them as “illiberal democracies.” Finally,
Przeworski (1988, pp. 60–61) calls these regimes “tutelary democracies.”
As for Linz and Stepan (1997), in their analysis on the consolidation of
democracies in east and central Europe, South Africa, eastern Asia and
Latin America, they emphasize the development of a free and lively civil
society, a relatively autonomous political society, a rule of law, a state
bureaucracy that is usable by the new democratic government and an
institutionalized economic society as the conditions for creating demo-
cratic consolidation.
There are many works that examine the consolidation problems of
democracy in Turkey by using these theoretical frameworks. Some of
them regard the military’s involvement in the governmental process
as the principal obstacle to the consolidation of democracy (Cizre-
Sakallıoğlu, 1997; Narlı, 2000; Demirel, 2004a; Heper, 2005; Aknur,
2012). According to other studies, the impacts of political parties and
party systems are important factors to consider when examining the
consolidation process (Heper and Rubin, 2002; Güney and Başkan,
2008; Aslan Akman, 2012; Heper and Landau, 1991; Hale, 2002). There
are also the studies that focus on socioeconomic factors. Within this
framework, the impact of globalization of neo-liberal politics and the
influence of the modernization process are the prominent points (Öniş,
2005; Keyman and Öniş, 2007; Kuştepeli, 2012). Finally, some studies
point out the role of political culture in the consolidation of democracy
40 Jülide Karakoç
in Turkey. Of these, on the one hand are those based on the quantita-
tive study of field, which aim to investigate the factors related to the
political culture impeding the functioning of democracy (Kalaycıoğlu,
2008; Turan, 1984). On the other hand, we see some works examining
the state elites’ attitudes and values and how they affect democracy
(Özbudun, 1993).
What is the political culture? The political culture has become a
remarkable factor to consider in democratization literature following the
works of Almond and Verba (1963) and of Inkeles and Smith (1974): they
define beliefs, values and attitudes as the elements of political culture
shaped by life experiences, social class and education. Political culture is
also an important variable in the relationship between democracy and
economic development, as asserted by Lipset (1981, pp. 27–63), Inkeles
and Diamond (1980) and Inglehart (1990). Many of the works that
analyze the democratization process of countries around the political
culture concentrate on the role of the political elite. Within this context,
Dahl and Rustow argue that the values, norms and culture of competi-
tive politics are more likely to develop among a small elite. Regarding
democratic transition, they focus on the role of the elite and on the
political and structural factors shaping elites’ choices and shifts in values
(Diamond, 1993, pp. 2–3). Lijphart’s work on the Netherlands also
emphasizes that the emergence of democracy depends on elite accom-
modation (Lijphart, 1968, pp. 122–188). As well, O’Donnell, Schmitter
and Whitehead (1986) focus on the choices of elites in authoritarian
and democratic regimes.
Diamond defines political culture as “a people’s predominant beliefs,
attitudes, values, ideals, sentiments, and evaluations about the political
system of their country and the role of the self in that system.” Based on
Almond’s assumption indicating that the dimensions of political culture
can change in response to regime performance, historical experience
and political socialization, Diamond refuses a deterministic approach
of political culture. According to him, “political culture affects the char-
acter and viability of democracy,” but it does not solely determine it
(Diamond, 1993, p. 9).
Theories about the relationship between political culture and democ-
racy identify the growth of a culture of moderation, cooperation and
accommodation among political elites as a crucial factor for the devel-
opment and maintenance of democracy. Almond, Verba, Lipset, Inkeles,
and Dahl consider these orientations in political culture necessary for
democratic consolidation. Moderation and accommodation are impor-
tant because they “imply tolerance for opposing political beliefs and
Authoritarian Tendencies versus Democratization 41
positions, and social and cultural differences more generally […]; a sense
of trust in other political actors [ ... ]; and a certain civility of political
discourse and respect for other views” (Diamond, 1993, p. 10; Lipset,
1981, pp. 78–79; Almond and Verba, 1963, pp. 489–493; Dahl, 1971,
pp. 1–3). From this point of view, this study attempts to investigate the
elements of political culture impeding the consolidation of democracy
in Turkey. Far from taking a deterministic approach, this chapter will
discuss the policies during the DP, ANAP and AKP periods focusing on
the postures of these political parties, their activities during their periods
in power and the struggle for power.
Common characteristics of the three actors
Conservatism, as a philosophical and political attitude, argues that
the economic, political and social status quo must be protected to the
greatest extent possible. From this perspective, all three parties, as they
opposed the changes engendered by the new republic since its creation
in 1923, might be considered to a certain degree conservative. In fact,
the DP, the ANAP and the AKP believe that the new regime attempted
to dismantle an ancient social structure from the top down. They all
accused the founding secularist government of pursuing certain policies
that led the society away from its traditional values. Nevertheless, despite
their opposition to the detrimental influence of cultural modernism, all
of them accept the economic and technological aspects of modernism,
which demonstrates their pragmatism (O’Sullivan, 1999).
This pragmatism constitutes a common characteristic of these polit-
ical parties that differentiates them from those who observe the classical
conservative perspective. All of them pursue policies in line with the
positions of liberal producers and industrialists and other professional
groups. During the DP period, the free enterprise system was promoted
in opposition to the statist policy advanced during the 1920s (Celasun
and Rodrik, 1989, pp. 620–621; Karadağ, 2010, p. 12). Similarly, the
ANAP period was characterized by its leader Turgut Özal and his imple-
mentation of “the 24 January decisions,” which sought to include the
Turkish economy in the international free market (Önis, 2004; Heper
and Keyman, 1998, pp. 266–267; Önder, 2007). The AKP’s time in power
did not differ from these two previous periods in this regard. Since 2002,
economic liberalism has been an important aspect of the conservative
policies of the AKP.
2 Although the DP is politically a more centrist and
liberal party than the ANAP and the AKP, it is as liberal as the others at
the economic level.
42 Jülide Karakoç
Despite their conservative stance with respect to changes to the tradi-
tional values and culture, they all seem open to reform. This does not
mean accepting a novel idea or the complete removal of the old. This
attitude consists of being open to reforming old institutions. Such a
characteristic is common to the three periods. The parties did not go
beyond basic modifications of the status quo. During all three periods,
the governments conflicted with the military, a dominant actor on the
political scene and a defender of secularism. Nevertheless, none of the
parties confronted certain institutions of the deep state that are direct
results of military hegemony in the political sphere.
As for political liberties, the intolerance of opponents and distrust
for minorities are common across some periods of these three parties’
rule. In the late part of its rule, the DP evinced intolerance regarding
the political organization of the Kurds. In 1959, approximately 50
Kurdish intellectuals including Sait Elçi, Serafettin Elçi and Musa
Anter – called the “49’lar” – were arrested as they were active to form a
Kurdish consciousness in order to protect Kurdish language and culture
(Bozarslan, 2002, p. 852). The ANAP’s time in command, until Turkey’s
application for full EU membership in 1987, witnessed the long-term
detention of opponents to the government (Dağı, 2001, p. 22). Early in
the AKP party’s rule, from 2002 to 2009, the tendency was to present a
liberal attitude to all parts of society. At this time, they initiated projects
such as Alawite and the Kurdish opening, although these projects did
not succeed. However, from 2009 to 2014, the AKP adopted a harsh
stance against the opposition. During this period, even Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan targeted certain journalists to such an extent that
numerous effective journalists were fired (Hasan, 2012). Large media
outlets, which had previously been under military control, have begun
to cooperate with the dictates of the party in power. As will be examined
in the following pages, the government’s stance against the demonstra-
tors during the Gezi Park protests that began in May 2013 has been
very harsh. Moreover, Prime Minister Erdoğan suggested in November
2013 that new regulations could be drawn up to stop male and female
students living together, triggering accusations of religiously inspired
interference in citizens’ private lives. Erdoğan expressed, “As a conserva-
tive democratic government [ ... ] if a legal regulation is needed, we will
make the relevant regulations.”
3 It can be inferred from these observa-
tions that these three parties adopted the economic aspects of liberalism
more than its political aspects.
The policies implemented during all three periods vacillated between
liberalism and conservatism. In this respect, these parties do not conform
Authoritarian Tendencies versus Democratization 43
to the generally applied categorization of ideologies. The effort to catego-
rize the parties’ ideologies becomes obvious in the AKP period. Erdoğan
made it clear that AKP members considered their party a “conservative
democratic party.” In addition to this internal categorization, numerous
academic analyses have attempted to classify the AKP’s ideology. It is
obvious that the AKP differs from the DP and the ANAP through its
greater emphasis on Islam. Hale drew a parallel between the AKP and the
Christian Democrats in Europe. He concludes that, as are the Christian
Democrats, the AKP is a catch-all party that comprises different parts of
society, which makes it difficult to categorize (Hale, 2005, p. 296). He
also notes that, as with the Christian Democrats, the AKP has become
much more moderate over time. The importance assigned to moral
issues relative to socioeconomic ones is thought to be a common char-
acteristic. Hale (2005, p. 302) also considers a parallel between the AKP
and Christian Democrats with respect to their commitment to demo-
cratic values. Arguing that a right/left categorization scheme does not
apply to the AKP, Öniş thinks the AKP might be called a “conservative
globalist” party that struggles against a defensive, nationalist bloc (Öniş,
2009, p. 22).
Irrespective of how they are categorized, the important issue here is to
answer the question of why these parties seemed to be the actors most
committed to implementing democratization in Turkey. This political
posture should be thought of in light of their power struggle against
the secular military and civil elite. During the DP period, the excluded
and oppressed masses – such as conservatives, Islamists and workers
supported this political party to enjoy more liberal living conditions
than they had experienced during single-party rule. The DP appeared
to be capable of meeting these societal expectations. The Özal period
witnessed an acceleration of the trend toward economic liberalization,
which had been initiated in the 1980s. This process of economic liberali-
zation enabled the transformation of the conservative constituency. In
this context, society underwent important changes. Özal’s efforts during
his time in power with the ANAP, as with Adnan Menderes’s efforts
in the DP government, provided the marginalized and impoverished
masses opportunities that they had lacked during the previous period
when a privileged and secular elite had been favored. This marginal-
ized majority was characterized by traditional Muslim values and now
had the opportunity to enjoy economic privileges. Such developments
had significant political repercussions throughout Turkey. As a result of
changes in their socioeconomic conditions and new economic interests,
the political choices of the marginalized majority were also transformed.
44 Jülide Karakoç
They became focused on the pursuit of new opportunities for prosperity.
In this context, the newly enriched masses realized the importance of
democracy (Gülalp, 2001).
This societal transformation was also important for the AKP, the
constituency of which comprised the same masses, with respect to its
position vis-à-vis democracy. The AKP’s constituency included poor
socioeconomic groups and small businessmen who have an interest
in promoting democracy to maintain their economic status (Yıldırım,
2012, p. 2). Additionally, the “postmodern coup” of February 28, 1997
had an important impact on the AKP leadership’s position on democ-
racy. This so-called postmodern coup consisted of a declaration made by
the National Security Council ( Milli Güvenlik Kurulu or MGK) during the
rule of a coalition government with a prime minister from the Welfare
Party ( Refahyol Partisi or RP), which was the former party of the AKP’s
founders and was engaged in Islamic discourse. In this declaration,
the MGK harshly condemned certain government policies that were
considered reactionary, Islamic actions.
4 Following this period, the most
important representatives of Islamic policies in Turkey, the AKP and the
Gülen community, have accepted democracy as precondition for Islam’s
existence (Yıldırım, 2012, p. 16). However, during these three govern-
mental rules, Turkey could not consolidate its democracy because of the
lack of a political culture supporting the incorporation of truly demo-
cratic norms and value systems that go beyond elections, institutions
and a power struggle.
Hegemony of military power and illegal institutions
The only element that has been consistently emphasized since the
foundation of the Republic of Turkey is the pillar of secular democracy.
Following the abolition of the caliphate in 1924, all types of religious
practices were repressed, which included the closure of the sanctuaries
of the different sects of Islam. Religious symbols were excluded not only
from the state and political spheres but also from the public arena. These
harsh secularist policies were implemented during the time of single-
party rule, which came to a close with the DP’s rise to power in 1950.
In the context of secular democracy, the military was responsible for
protecting the republic against all types of threats. It was proclaimed
the guardian of the secular state (Hale, 1994, pp. 80–81). Clearly, secu-
larism is an important element of a consolidated democracy. However,
in Turkey, the secularist military and the civil bureaucracy sought to
dominate all institutions and groups, which impeded the consolidation
Authoritarian Tendencies versus Democratization 45
of democracy. Therefore, it established hegemony over all institutions as
an authoritarian power.
To realize and sustain this hegemony, the military also required
informal institutions. Under military rule, the institutionalization of the
deep state encountered conditions conducive to its growth. This deep
state consistently acted in parallel to the overt, legal institutions during
the DP, ANAP and AKP periods. The Turkish deep state was first organ-
ized in 1950s as the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), along with
the secret Intelligence Service of Great Britain, established a covert intel-
ligence and armed operations organization called “Operation Gladio”
under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to counter the
“communist threat” in several member states. The Turkish Gladio was
founded under the code name “Counterguerilla” after Turkey joined
NATO in 1952, when the DP was in power. Its official name was the
Special Warfare Department ( Özel Harp Dairesi , ÖHD), which was
attached to the General Staff. However, over time, this organization
moved away from its initial purpose. It was given the duty to protect
and defend the state and its ideology based on a secular, monolithic
nation-state approach. In pursuit of this goal, it engaged in numerous
activities including subverting governments and killing politicians and
individuals. It has been active alongside its supporting underground
civilian branch, called the “White Forces,” the members of which are
drawn from diverse professions (Söyler, 2012, p. 7; Kılıç, 2008).
The DP’s rise to power in 1950 created major changes in the political
system contrary to one-party authoritarianism. During the early part
of the DP’s rule, the military silently witnessed political developments,
without forgetting its special duty. However, the military felt uneasy
about the results of the policies implemented by the DP government.
Moreover, the DP government, which became more powerful during
its second term, began to exhibit authoritarian tendencies. It increas-
ingly suppressed the opposition, not only in rival parties but also within
the DP itself (Eroğul, 1998; Keloğlu-İsler, 2007, p. 119). The military
felt that its prestige in and ideological influence on society was on the
decline. Previously, the state ideology considered the government (polit-
ical party) and the military different branches of the state rather than
two separate institutions. However, the DP government broke with this
convention. The military could no longer perceive the government as
a “partner” (Belge, 2011, p. 617). The DP government did not exploit
this opportunity to consolidate democracy in the country, which had
strong public support. Its authoritarian policies caused distrust among
opposition groups, including secularists and Kurds. The DP did nothing
46 Jülide Karakoç
to transform the existing system based on military hegemony and over-
looked the actions of the deep state. This period witnessed nationalist
reactions and attacks against Armenians, Jews and particularly Greeks on
September 6–7, 1955. Instead of opposing these events, the government
chose to establish absolute authority throughout the country (Kuyucu,
2005, p. 362; Güven, 2009). The DP attempted to divest the military of
all its authority, but the military eventually removed the DP govern-
ment from power. The DP’s struggle against the secularists, including
the Republican People’s Party ( Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi , CHP) and the
military, consisted of a struggle for power.
The DP paved the way for the military coup that occurred in 1960 by
providing a pretext in the form of its undemocratic policies and failure
to respect the opposition groups’ rights to pursue their political activi-
ties. Therefore, the military, as the guardian of the regime, led a coup to
re-establish the status quo based on secularism and military hegemony
(Tachau and Heper, 1983, pp. 20–21). The DP, as a party with a conserva-
tive constituency, did not take issue with the existence or the role of the
military in society. However, it did take issue with the stringent secu-
larist ideology held by the military. As I will discuss in the following
pages, this is also true for the periods of ANAP and AKP rule.
The ANAP came to power following a junta that bestowed substantial
privileges on the military. During the junta, between 1980 and 1983,
the National Security Council, including the Chief of the General Staff,
commanders of the army, navy, and air force, and General Commander
of the Gendarmerie in addition to civilian members (the president
of the republic, prime minister, and the ministers of Internal Affairs,
Foreign Affairs and Defense) – was charged with providing recommen-
dations to the government. These “recommendations” were decrees in
practice. Because the MGK’s General Secretariat had the power to oversee
the government’s decisions and policies, the military could force the
government to implement its preferred policies. Moreover, the MGK had
the power to define internal and external threats and Turkey’s national
security priorities. In pursuit of this aim, it had the duty to formulate the
National Security Policy Document by monitoring its revision every five
years (Cizre-Sakallıoğlu, 1997; Narlı, 2011, p. 218). These powers would
decline dramatically under the AKP government.
During ANAP rule, especially after the initial attacks of the Kurdistan
Workers’ Party (PKK) in 1984, the military found useful justifications for
its hegemony over civilian politics. The precise mission of the military
was described as protecting the secular and unitary characteristics of
the state against “Kurdish separatism” and “fundamentalism” (Demirel,
Authoritarian Tendencies versus Democratization 47
2004b; Sarıgil, 2008, pp. 712–713). However, as was witnessed during
DP and AKP rule, Özal followed a policy that contradicted state tradi-
tions. He attempted to establish control over the military. For example,
he intervened in the appointment of the Chief of the General Staff,
which prompted reactions from numerous actors. He had his preferred
candidate appointed to this position. Yet during these years, the military
had a strong pretext to justify its position: the war with the PKK. As
the response to the Kurdish question was limited to a “military struggle
against the terrorism,” the military’s intervention in politics seemed
legitimate (Belge, 2011, p. 654). Despite the military’s strong position,
Özal, in accordance with his conservative ideology, continued to gradu-
ally challenge the military’s influence. To strengthen civilian control
of the government and reduce the military’s influence over policy,
Özal took two important steps, which might be comparable with those
pursued during the AKP period. On the one hand, he allowed for the
return of banned leaders to active politics, and he removed the restric-
tions on deputies changing parties in the parliament. On the other hand,
during the Özal period, government authority was expanded to include
internal security. Moreover, he replaced military liaisons appointed to
each ministry with civilian administrators.
In addition to these legal modifications, Özal also intervened in
foreign policy, which was long considered a security issue and there-
fore the military’s responsibility. He openly disagreed with then Chief of
General Staff Necip Torumtay over policy toward the US position during
the first Gulf War. By voicing active support for US policy, Özal prompted
the resignation of Torumtay in December 1990. Moreover, Özal made
an agreement with Greek prime minister Andreas Papandreou regarding
joint air force exercises over the Aegean Sea. This constituted a serious
challenge to state policy that was based on hostility toward Greece
(Karabelias, 1999, pp. 137–138; Narlı, 2011, pp. 219–220).
However, it should be noted that, as a conservative, Özal was not
opposed to the existence of a strong military. Again, the aim was to
bring the military under civilian control, not democratization. All of
Özal’s actions were based on his aim to make Turkey a regional power
through economic and military strength. To pursue this goal, he allo-
cated substantial resources to restructure and modernize the army.
Özal chose to sustain the power reduction of the military by strength-
ening civil society and the business elite. To this end, legal restrictions
on the formation of civilian associations were lifted. The business elite
was strengthened, and small and medium-size economic entrepreneurs
throughout the country were supported through economic reforms.
48 Jülide Karakoç
Özal developed a new mode of interaction between the military and
civilians (Narlı, 2011, p. 220). Compared with the DP period, the mili-
tary remained in the background of the decision-making process. These
efforts were similar to those of the AKP’s second and third terms. However,
Özal could not affect the deep state, which was active throughout his
time in office. This was important because the deep state has consist-
ently sought to maintain the status quo based on military hegemony.
Willingly or unwillingly, Özal overlooked this situation. Following the
declaration of a state of emergency in the Kurdish-populated provinces
in east and southeast Turkey in 1987, these provinces became the head-
quarters of the deep state. The Gendarmerie Intelligence and Counter-
Terror Organization ( Jandarma İstihbarat ve Terörle Mücadele or JİTEM)
was the prominent actor. The JİTEM, the existence of which has long
been officially denied, increased its activities by killing Kurdish poli-
tician Vedat Aydın in 1991. This murder was followed by the killings
of Musa Anter, a Kurdish intellectual, and many correspondents of the
newspaper Özgür Gündem during the Özal years (Van Bruinessen, 2012;
Kılıç, 2010).
Under the AKP government, which came to power in 2002, the struggle
between the military and the conservatives/Islamists has been intense.
In this struggle, the military emphasized the protection of secularism,
while the AKP promoted itself as a “conservative democratic” party strug-
gling for the establishment of a democracy that met European Union
standards. The military and its civilian supporters in the CHP accused
the AKP government of having a secret Islamist agenda to transform the
country into an Islamic state. The distrust among the actors was intense.
The AKP was concerned about a military intervention. In this context,
EU relations seemed to be very useful instrument for the AKP to defend
its existence. Therefore, the AKP government wholeheartedly devoted
itself to reforms leading toward EU membership. In this context, it was
also able to implement reforms restricting the military’s influence over
civilian government, as was attempted during Özal’s tenure. In July
2003, under a constitutional change to meet EU accession guidelines,
the MGK’s operational authorities were removed. Thus, the MGK’s func-
tions were limited to making recommendations on decisions regarding
Turkey’s national security policies. In addition, it was decided that future
secretaries general of the MGK would be civilians.
These reforms prompted severe reactions from the military and civilian
secularists. Efforts to eliminate military power pitted the old elite against
the new ruling elite. However, the former did oppose the EU reforms as
were considered a threat to status quo by requiring more democratic
Authoritarian Tendencies versus Democratization 49
environment in which all parts of society, including Islamists and Kurds,
becomes involved in political area. Instead, they preferred to charac-
terize the AKP as an Islamist actor hiding its goal of establishing sharia
throughout the country. According to the military and the secularists,
the AKP was using the EU as a pretext to implement fundamentalist
policies and establish a state similar to Iran. They attacked the AKP’s
policies as a threat to the national interest (Belge, 2011, p. 656; Heper,
2005). However, the government’s efforts began to show progress toward
EU membership. In this period, Turkey’s status was elevated to that of a
“negotiator state,” and the negotiations began in October 2005.
In response to these developments, the domestic conflict between
conservatives and secularists intensified. The secularists, including the
military and CHP, changed their strategy by openly opposing Turkey’s
accession to the EU, which was paradoxical considering their secu-
larist ideology and Western oriented vision. During this period, it was
revealed that high-level military commanders had planned coups.
These plots were first reported by Nokta , which was then a weekly polit-
ical journal. Nokta published what were alleged to be diaries of Admiral
Özden Örnek. These diaries revealed the military’s views of the AKP
government. In these diaries, the negotiations for EU accession were
cited as the reason for these planned coups. According to the diaries,
the military assumed that the accession to the EU would lead to the
disintegration of the republic by enforcing Kurdish separatism ( Nokta ,
2007). In 2003, the secretary general of the MGK claimed that the EU
reforms would make the MGK ineffective. He added that this situation
would lead to ethnic separatism. In 2003 and 2004, similar assessments
were made by Land Forces Commander Aytaç Yalman, Commander
of the Gendarmerie Şener Eruygur, Commander of the Aegean Army
Hurşit Tolon and Commander of the First Army Çetin Doğan (Gürsoy,
2012, p. 744). These names are important because all of them would be
arrested in the following years in the Ergenekon case (Ünver, 2009).
Moreover, in this context, some members of the military stated that
Turkey should search for new alliances with non-Western countries
such as Iran and Russia, as they believed that EU and US policies were
contrary to Turkey’s national interests (Gürsoy, 2012, p. 744; Demirel,
2010). These statements by major figures in the military reveal that
secularism is not considered a democratic principle in Turkey. The mili-
tary bureaucracy emphasizes secularism as a means of safeguarding
their power.
All of these attitudes on the part of the military were fanatically
supported by the CHP, the major opposition party. When the reforms
50 Jülide Karakoç
were carried out, CHP party members and its head, Deniz Baykal, consist-
ently said that another 28 February process would take place. By indi-
rectly inviting a military coup or intervention, they hoped to remove
the AKP government. These efforts proved ineffective. For one thing,
the era of coups had come to an end all over the world. It was unlikely
that any Western country would support such an attempt. For another,
Western governments were generally content with the reforms imple-
mented by the AKP government. Therefore, they could not understand
the concerns voiced by groups that considered themselves secularists.
The EU supported the reforms establishing civilian control over the mili-
tary (Belge, 2011, p. 656).
In a period when the influence of an Islamic identity increased in
state institutions, the candidacy of Abdullah Gül from the AKP, who
had a conservative/Islamic identity, for the presidency prompted reac-
tions from the secularists. They demonstrated their disapproval through
“Republic Protests” ( Cumhuriyet Mitingleri) . The first wave of meetings
was held in Ankara on 14 April 2007, just two days before the begin-
ning of the presidential campaign. Meetings were held consecutively
in Istanbul, Manisa, Çanakkale and İzmir. The main slogan heard at
these demonstrations was “claim your republic!” In addition, there were
also mottos such as “our territory is sacred” and “Turkish youth will
not permit anyone to sell it.” The meetings were held with the active
participation of the CHP and NGOs (such as Çağdaş Yaşamı Destekleme
Derneği and Atatürkçü Dü ş ünce Derneği ), including military bureaucrats.
In this context, the AKP government was characterized as an agent of
the imperialist policies of the EU and the United States. The imperialist
policies referred to in these demonstrations were efforts to divide Turkey
(Oran, 2007). The United States was recognized as a “separatist” agent,
with particular reference to the unstable situation in Iraq following the
United States’ occupation. The EU was defined as “separatist” because of
its insistence on rights for the Kurds.
Because these meetings did not achieve their aims, the Turkish General
Staff published a press release on its official website on 27 April 2007.
In this “e-memorandum,” the military bureaucracy warned the AKP
government to obey the solid secular traditions of the state.
The AKP government did not remain silent in the face of these
actions. The Ergenekon case, which began in June 2007, is regarded
as a counterattack by the AKP government against the civil and mili-
tary bureaucracy. Many commanders were arrested for plotting military
coups against the AKP government. These operations overlapped with
the AKP closure case in March 2008, which was considered an attempted
Authoritarian Tendencies versus Democratization 51
“judicial coup” based on allegations that the party was becoming the
focus of anti-secular activities.
The AKP was the winner of this power struggle. The military lost a
great deal of its authority. As will be described in the following pages,
the constitutional changes in 2010 made a substantial contribution in
this regard, as the military was stripped of a crucial means of exercising
authority over the government. The AKP period witnessed the estab-
lishment of civilian control over the military. Despite similar aims or
efforts during the DP rule and particularly the ANAP period, these two
parties were unable to obtain control over the military. However, we
have seen that civilian control over the military does not simply lead to
the consolidation of democracy in Turkey. The deep state should have
been eliminated. As under DP and ANAP rule, these efforts to place the
military under civilian control resulted in a power struggle between the
conservatives/Islamists and secularists during AKP rule. The result was
the transfer of power from the secularists to conservatives/Islamists.
Nevertheless, the AKP government failed to completely eliminate the
deep state. The deep state institutions persist.
9 Despite the decline in the
effectiveness of the deep state during the AKP period, events such as the
killing of Hrant Dink, an Armenian journalist, and the bombings of the
AKP and Ministry of Justice buildings
10 demonstrate that the deep state
remains active. According to the statements of a retired colonel, Arif
Dogan, in the continuing trial concerning JITEM, there are still 10,000
members of JITEM working all around the country.
11 As such, it seems
to be difficult to achieve the democratic consolidation process in Turkey
without removing these kinds of institutions completely. After all, these
illegal institutions acting parallel to the legal institutions may block the
political channels whenever they want.
Shadow over political and cultural rights: intolerance
against opponents and minorities
A consolidated democracy requires that no part of society is being
excluded from political life. As such, it requires the free exercise of polit-
ical rights. In Turkey, the failure to fulfill this requirement has always
posed problems for the opposition, irrespective of the government in
power. The opposition in general, and Kurds in particular, have consist-
ently faced difficulties exercising their cultural/political rights.
The DP won the 1950 elections thanks to a wide variety of opposition
groups such as conservatives, Islamists, liberals and Kurds that had been
oppressed under single-party rule and its strict secularist policies. Various
52 Jülide Karakoç
political groups enjoyed the relatively free exercise of their political
liberties during the first term of the DP government. Nevertheless, the
later period of the DP government witnessed some tendencies towards
authoritarianism (Zurcher, 2005, pp. 334–338). This can be explained by
the lack of a democratic mindset in the DP. In addition, unlike during
the ANAP and AKP periods, there was no reference point such as the EU
to force the government to adopt a democratic stance. Therefore, the
government began to oppress its opponents. In this context, as noted
earlier, numerous Kurdish intellectuals were arrested during the case of
the 49 (49’lar).
These developments were quite similar to those of the AKP’s late
terms. In democratic regimes, a system based on checks and balances
requires that the judiciary invalidate the illegal actions of govern-
ments. However, in Turkey, the judiciary had been a pillar (the military
being another) of the defense of the state ideology, which was based
on strict secularism until changes made by the AKP government. The
AKP, aware of this situation, implemented reforms to take control of the
judiciary. It realized that without overcoming judicial power, it would
be impossible to establish complete control of the state. A referendum
held in September 2010 was a milestone in this regard.
12 Through the
constitutional changes accepted by the majority of the people in this
referendum, the AKP rendered ineffective the Judges and Prosecutors
Supreme Council ( Hakimler ve Savcılar Yüksek Kurulu , HSYK) and other
high officials of the judiciary, which the AKP considered among the
greatest obstacles to its complete exercise of power. At this point, the
structure of the HSYK was changed. Judges and prosecutors had elected
the members of the HSYK. According to the new structure, the Ministry
of Justice continues to have control over this institution. The HSYK
is not accorded independence from the political authorities because
the HSYK does not have a bureaucratic and financial system to protect
itself from political intervention. The new HSYK was formed in accord-
ance with the government’s wishes (Ertekin, 2011, pp. 203–210). The
secularists interpreted this situation as the conquest of the judiciary
by the government in general and the Gülen community in particular
(Özdalga, 2006, pp. 551–552).
13 Following this referendum, each of the
HSYK’s decisions regarding juridical processes and appointments has
been interpreted as a politicization of the judiciary, exacerbating the
debate between the two sides. The Kurdish opposition also participated
in this debate following operations against the Union of Communities
of Kurdistan ( Koma Civaken Kurdistan , or KCK), the alleged urban wing
of the PKK.
Authoritarian Tendencies versus Democratization 53
However, the developments following the struggle between the AKP
government and the Gülen Movement clarified that the changes in the
structure of the HSYK can be interpreted as the conquest of the judiciary
by the Gülen community. The conflict between the old partners – which
began with the prosecutor accusing Hakan Fidan, the chief of the National
Intelligence Organization ( Milli Istihbarat Teskilati , MIT) who also had
the full confidence of Prime Minister Erdoğan, of having illegal contact
with the PKK on 7 February 2012 – illustrates that the Gülen commu-
nity uses its opportunities in the judiciary to challenge the government.
The government’s last attempt to close down private tutoring institu-
tions that provide a source of finance and an influx of members to the
community has increased tension between the two parties. The recent
corruption scandal that came to light on 17 December 2013 is regarded
as a judicial counterattack of the Gülen community against the last
attempt of the government. Following this scandal, which forced four
ministers to resign, the bilateral relations turned into an “open war”
between the government and the Gülen community over the judiciary.
All these developments show that in Turkey the democratic institutions
are still considered by different factions as tools to gain in the power
The AKP, which claimed to have resolved the Kurdish question with
its “Kurdish opening policy” declared in 2009, changed its strategy by
arresting numerous Kurdish politicians and intellectuals connected with
KCK operations. In this period, as noted in the 2011 progress report
released by the EU, a number of cases were initiated against writers and
journalists writing on the Kurdish issue.
14 There was also pressure on
newspapers reporting on the Kurdish question or publishing in Kurdish.
In this context, several left-wing and Kurdish journalists were convicted
of producing terrorist propaganda. The AKP eliminated various oppo-
nents through these court cases. In addition to suppressing the media,
this led to fears that the AKP government would move toward, authori-
tarianism instead of democratic consolidation, as was the case during
the second term of DP rule.
Beyond the purpose of these cases, which is widely discussed, there is
an obvious problem regarding these ongoing actions: the long detention
process. The detention policy led to reactions from different parts of
society. A number of people were arrested during the Ergenekon, Balyoz
and KCK operations and held for years without verifiable evidence for their
detention or legal decisions regarding the charges they face.
15 Therefore,
detention, which is generally a precaution against an impending crime,
has become a method of punishment.
16 Some in Turkey believed that
54 Jülide Karakoç
the AKP government continued to pursue these cases to render its oppo-
nents in the political arena ineffective. It is asserted that, following the
changes accepted in the 2010 constitutional referendum, the govern-
ment has taken control of the judiciary and has been using these cases
to eliminate all opposition groups. Such perceptions precluded dialogue
among different segments of society and freed the state from any checks
and balances. This situation is comparable to the period of ANAP rule.
Under ANAP rule, the trials of DISK (Confederation of Progressive Trade
Unions or Devrimci İşçi Sendikaları Konfederasyonu ) trade unionists and
Peace Association members and intellectuals continued for many years
without any convictions (Dağı, 2001, p. 22).
Turkey’s political and human rights records were poor during the Özal
period. The country was under martial law. The press was restricted. As
noted already, there were also trials of some trade unionists, peace activ-
ists and intellectuals. However, circumstances changed somewhat when
Özal decided to apply for full EU membership, and Turkey’s poor human
rights record began to improve. Before applying for membership in April
1987, Özal implemented some tactical reforms in order to be accepted
by the EU. The main opposition parties, such as the Social Democracy
Party ( Sosyal Demokrasi Partisi , SODEP) and the True Path Party ( Doğru
Yol Partisi , DYP), were able to receive representation in parliament.
The ban on former politicians giving public speeches was lifted. The
detainees from the DISK and Peace Association were released via a partial
amnesty. Parliament ceased ratifying death sentences during this period.
In addition to these developments, the ban on the Kurdish language
was relaxed. These initiatives by Özal were pragmatic. He implemented
these reforms not because he shared the EU’s democratic values and
ideals, but rather because Özal wished to be a part of the politically and
economically powerful EU (Dağı, 2001, pp. 23, 27, 32). In response to
EU criticisms in this period that Turkey lagged significantly behind EU
democratic standards, Özal argued that Turkish membership in the EU
would advance the consolidation of democracy in Turkey (Dağı, 2001,
p. 25).
The events that occurred around the Gezi Park protests during the
AKP rule openly highlighted the intolerance for opponents. The demon-
strations, which began as peaceful protests, turned into conflicts, within
a short period, between the police and the people as a result of the
government’s intolerance. It began when a small group of students and
ecologists brought down the barriers to occupy the Gezi Park in Taksim
in 2013. They declared that they wanted to stop the construction of
a shopping center at the site of Gezi Park. The protesters gained the
Authoritarian Tendencies versus Democratization 55
support of politicians, intellectuals and notably the pro-Kurdish socialist
parliamentarian Sırrı Süreyya Önder. The police responded violently
to this peaceful event and the protesters were forced out of the park
(Öktem, 2013).
The harsh response from the police caused reactions among the people.
The wave of protests that arose spread around the country. Hundreds
of people were wounded and taken into police custody during these
protests. Moreover, the violent intervention by the police resulted in
the deaths of some protesters. Notwithstanding the deaths, the govern-
ment’s harsh stance did not change. Despite some moderate declara-
tions from the government, the prime minister’s intransigent attitude
and stern declarations against the opponents escalated the conflictive
and tense situation. Erdoğan’s declaration that he was having difficulty
convincing the 50% of the population who were in support of him to
“remain at home” while he was defying the protesters of Gezi Park was
remarkable within this framework. This statement clearly illustrated
the fact that in Turkey there is no tolerance against any opposition
and democracy is interpreted within a context that does not go beyond
obtaining the majority in the elections. The elected persons consider
themselves not as the representatives of all voices in the society but as
the representatives of only the supportive part of the society.
The harshly repressed protests, which lasted throughout the summer,
were not about a regime change. There were manifestations of discon-
tent with the leader who had over time become too arrogant to put
up with any voices in opposition and to tolerate anyone who does not
accept his leadership and charisma (Öktem, 2013).
It is also noteworthy that, according to the 2013 report released by the
Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey jails more journalists than any
other country. The report indicates that Turkey holds more journalists
in custody than Iran, China or Eritrea. The number of journalists in jail
declined to 40 from 49 the previous year. Some of them benefited from
new legislation that allowed defendants in lengthy pre-trial detentions
to be released for time served. Still, dozens of Kurdish journalists are in
prison on terror-related charges and others for allegedly participating in
anti-government plots.
Unlike other societal groups, the Kurdish people faced political represen-
tation and cultural rights problems throughout the periods of DP, ANAP
and AKP rule. The Kurdish minority in Turkey lacks cultural rights. In
the DP’s time in power, the notion of granting Kurds rights was not even
discussed. The Kurdish people generally supported the DP government
against the one-party rule. The Kurdish movement had been powerless
56 Jülide Karakoç
in the face of the state’s bloody response to their revolts between 1924
and 1938. During the DP period, between 1950 and 1960, the oppres-
sion faced by the Kurdish elite declined. Following the DP’s ascension to
power, they initially supported the DP because they lacked the ability to
organize separately. However, as the DP demonstrated its authoritarian
posture toward the opposition, the Kurds sought to organize independ-
ently. They began to oppose the government socially and politically.
Many Kurdish intellectuals were arrested in December 1959.
During the Özal period, the Kurdish movement began to coalesce
around the PKK, which began its attacks against the state in 1984. The
PKK was strengthened because of domestic and external factors. On the
one hand, the Kurds faced cultural and political oppression. The ban
on the Kurdish language was crucial in this regard. The Kurds had no
political or cultural rights or liberties. On the other hand, the Kurdish
autonomy obtained in Iraqi Kurdistan in the 1970s and the intifada
in Palestine were important developments that inspired the Kurdish
people in Turkey. Turkey’s opposition to Bulgaria’s name change policy,
which was based on forcibly changing the names of all Turks in the
country into standard Bulgarian names, also affected the Kurdish move-
ment (Bozarslan, 2002, pp. 858–865). In the Özal period, the European
Parliament (EP) “accused the government of launching a systematic
campaign of genocide against the Kurdish minority.” The EP harshly
criticized the government, describing the Turkish regime as a “bloody
reign of terror” (Dağı, 2001, p. 21). However, in his later years in power,
Özal took some positive steps regarding Kurdish cultural rights. He was
the first to officially use the word “Kurd.” As already noted, he partially
lifted the ban on the Kurdish language. By inviting, for the first time,
Iraqi Kurdish leaders Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani to Turkey, he
broke a taboo regarding the denial of Kurdish identity. In such an atmos-
phere, Özal noted that federalism represented a possible solution to the
Kurdish question (Birand and Yalçın, 2007, pp. 451–481). Nevertheless,
the death of Özal in 1993, which some claim involved the deep state,
meant that implementing such projects became impossible. The harsh
statist politics returned.
Many years later, in 2009, the AKP signaled a willingness to take
steps toward the resolution of the Kurdish question. Nevertheless, the
AKP’s conservative aspect, which does not hold democratic principles,
impeded this progressive process, and the government took steps back-
ward in this regard (Çiçek, 2011, p. 16).
The cultural rights of the Kurds are a crucial point in the progress
reports of the European Union. Every progress report indicates that
Authoritarian Tendencies versus Democratization 57
Turkey should recognize Kurdish identity by granting Kurds their
cultural rights. The EU welcomed the amendments made in August
2002 under the third reform package allowing broadcasts in different
languages as a positive development. However, the existence of Article
42 of the constitution, which bans education in languages other than
Turkish, was criticized. Consequently, the report argued that progress
had been made but was insufficient.
18 The 2003 report emphasizes that
despite the four reform packages passed since August 2002, the Kurds
continued to face difficulties in practice.
19 An amendment passed in
January 2004, permitting television channels other than TRT ( Türkiye
Radyo Televizyon Kurumu Turkish Radio-Television Corporation)
to broadcast in Kurdish, had positive effects on the progress reports;
but the time restrictions for TV broadcasting and practical difficulties
were criticized.
20 The first positive assessments of Turkey’s progress
were made in the 2005 report. Prime Minister Erdoğan’s meeting with
several Kurdish intellectuals in Diyarbakir created a positive atmosphere
regarding the Kurdish question. Erdoğan’s statement on “the Kurdish
issue” and his emphasis on the need to resolve the Kurdish question
through democratic means were interpreted as indications of his future
policies regarding Kurdish identity.
21 Therefore, Turkey’s recognition of
the existence of the Kurdish question is considered a step that could
lead to its resolution. Nevertheless, the 2006 progress report offered the
criticism that Erdoğan’s commitments in Diyarbakır were not imple-
22 In the 2007 progress report, the time restrictions on Kurdish
broadcasting and the lack of educational opportunities in Kurdish were
indicated as negatives in the area of cultural rights. The pending case
on the closure of the HAK-PAR ( Hak ve Özgürlükler Partisi , Rights and
Freedom Party) for Kurdish having been spoken at the party’s general
congress was criticized as an example of the practical restrictions on the
use of Kurdish.
23 The 2008 report expressed similar concerns. In partic-
ular, the Anti-Terror Law ( Terörle Mücadele Kanunu) and Articles 215,
216 and 217 of the Criminal Code were considered means of restricting
freedom of expression. The April 2008 amendment to Article 301 of
the Criminal Code concerning freedom of expression was also cited.
This amendment reduced the maximum sentence for violation, but the
Ministry of Justice has to grant permission for a case to be reopened. The
latter arrangement was criticized because it opened the judicial process
to political influence.
24 In the 2009 report, the first Kurdish channel,
TRT-6, which began broadcasting in Kurdish 24 hours a day in 2009,
was cited as a positive development.
25 The 2010 report, after reiterating
its support for Turkey’s progress regarding Kurdish broadcasting, stated
58 Jülide Karakoç
that linguistic restrictions continued to be in effect, particularly on
the use of Kurdish in political life, education and public services.
26 In
the 2011 report, the criminal proceedings launched against numerous
human rights advocates were criticized, with much discussion of the
terrorism-related articles in Turkish law. The government was criticized
for failing to revise the broad definition of terrorism in the Anti-Terror
27 In the following progress report, published in 2012, the AKP’s
positive steps regarding Kurdish cultural rights, such as postgraduate
educational opportunities in certain universities and fewer restrictions
on the use of Kurdish in prisons during visits and exchanges of letters,
were welcomed. However, the report criticized certain legal restrictions
on the use of languages other than Turkish, including the Constitution
and the Law on Political Parties. It also indicated that in numerous
court cases against politicians and human rights advocates, the use of
languages other than Turkish was not permitted.
28 In the last progress
report, published in 2013, the democratization package announced by
the government on 30 September 2013 is considered one that would
provide an opportunity to make necessary changes regarding Kurdish
political and cultural rights.
In addition to their cultural rights problems, Kurds in Turkey have
always faced problems obtaining political representation. In this context,
the judiciary has consistently been an important actor impeding Kurdish
political representation. It has been an obstacle to Kurdish political
parties. The judiciary has consistently been anti-Kurdish, interfering
in the legal activities of the Kurdish movement. In the DP period, the
Kurdish people had to participate in other national parties to be involved
in politics, as they lacked the right to organize separately. In the ANAP
period, the problem of Kurds’ political representation in the parliament
and in the political party system called Turkey’s political and legal struc-
ture into question. On the one hand, the 10% threshold is cited as an
obstacle to Kurds accessing the parliament. On the other, the closure of
Kurdish political parties or their being under threat of closure is inter-
preted as a problematic situation for Turkey’s accession to the EU. The
first tension in this regard appeared in the 1990s, when the HEP ( Halkın
Emek Partisi or People’s Labor Party) was banned by the Constitutional
Court in July 1993 because of the swearing of oaths of allegiance in
Kurdish in the parliament.
This political representation problem has persisted into the AKP
period. The tension is between the 10% electoral threshold, which
restricts Kurdish representation in the parliament, and the fact
that Kurdish political parties systematically faced closure by the
Authoritarian Tendencies versus Democratization 59
Constitutional Court. This institution has consistently served as a
guardian of state ideology and the status quo based on strict secu-
larist and nationalist politics. It is possible to follow the representation
problem faced by the Kurdish people via the Progress Reports released
by the European Union. The 2002 report, released under the AKP’s rule,
noted the courts’ decisions to close the Kurdish HAK-PAR and HADEP
(People’s Democracy Party, Halkın Demokrasi Partisi ) political parties.
The 2007 report cited the election of Kurdish deputies to the parlia-
ment and their unification under the DTP (Democratic Society Party,
Demokratik Toplum Partisi ) as a positive development.
31 However, the
DTP’s closure became an issue in the 2008 report.
32 In November 2007,
a closure case was initiated against the DTP, under the pretext that the
party was engaging in activities against the unity and integrity of the
country. The courts demanded not only the closure of the DTP but
also the abolition of its deputies’ status and a five-year political ban for
221 DTP members.
33 The 2009 progress report, stating that the case for
closure of the DTP, opened by the Chief Public Prosecutor of the Court
of Cassation and pending before the Constitutional Court, argued
that Articles 68 and 69 of the Constitution and the relevant provi-
sions of the Law on Political Parties are incompatible with Article 11 of
the European Convention on Human Rights. The AKP government is
criticized for having failed to amend the legislation accordingly.
34 The
2010 report criticizes the arrest of a large number of executives and
politicians, including elected mayors from the BDP ( Barış ve Demokrasi
Partisi , or Peace and Democracy Party), as part of operations against
the KCK-PKK.
35 The 2011 report expressed concerns regarding the judi-
cial procedures in the KCK case, in which approximately 2,000 politi-
cians, locally elected representatives and human rights activists in the
southeast had been detained since April 2008.
36 As for the 2012 report,
the expansion of the investigation into the KCK and the increasing
detention of BDP-affiliated Kurdish politicians and locally elected
mayors and members of municipal councils were assessed as a nega-
tive development for regional and local democracy.
37 According to the
most recent report, released in 2013, despite the good progress in terms
of establishing Turkey’s human rights mechanisms and institutions,
there is still a lack of effectiveness and impartiality regarding these
institutions. The report indicates that many journalists, academics,
students and human rights defenders remain in prison on criminal
charges, including under Article 314 of the Turkish Criminal Code on
armed organizations. The village guard system, which is a paramili-
tary system set up in 1985 by the state to combat the PKK movement
60 Jülide Karakoç
based on village guards, who have been involved in many criminal acts
and rights violations, is emphasized as a cause for concern regarding
Turkey’s democratization process.
In 2008, after the closure of the DTP, the BDP was established. The
Kurdish movement continued its political activities under the BDP with
some difficulty. In November 2012, the AKP government threatened
BDP deputies by removing their immunity following footage distrib-
uted to the media that showed a BDP deputy embracing and engaging
a PKK member in friendly conversation during a visit of the party’s
members to southeastern Turkey.
39 Since then, there has been no valu-
able change in this regard. The prime minister’s recent meeting with
Massoud Barzani (the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government)
and Sivan Perwer (a famous Kurdish singer in Diyarbakır) in November
2013 demonstrated, by excluding the BDP, an attitude showing that
the government considers the Kurdish identity a trump card in inter-
national relations rather than an aim to resolve the Kurdish question
in Turkey.
The framework discussed in this paper demonstrates that the failings
of Turkey’s democratization process generally stem from the fact that a
variety of actors regarded the formal democratic institutions in Turkey
during these three periods as instruments for consolidating and exer-
cising political power over all institutions and aspects of society in a
power struggle. The primary goal of this power struggle is the accumu-
lation of power by a single group. This situation gives rise to growing
distrust among the different parts of society.
The recent developments regarding the steps to resolve the Kurdish
question and debates over the transition from a parliamentary to a presi-
dential system, on the one hand, and the civil unrest against the govern-
ment’s authoritarian policies and the conflict between the government
and Gülen community over the judiciary, on the other, reveal the
dilemma faced by Turkey’s political actors: either construct a system of
checks and balances under a new constitution, thereby demonstrating
that they seek the consolidation of democracy and the creation of trust
among the different societal groups, or avoid distributing power more
broadly and continue the status quo along with the authoritarian poli-
cies. In Turkey, it has become crucial to develop a critical approach
against the judiciary’s becoming the main instrument of the power
Authoritarian Tendencies versus Democratization 61
1 . Although the ANAP was in power between 1983 and 1991, its primary leader,
Turgut Özal, who served as prime minister between 1983 and 1989, was the
president of the republic of Turkey and still an effective political actor from
1989 until his death in 1993. Therefore, this article will consider Özal’s policies
until 1993 despite the fact that the ANAP government left power in 1991.
2 . See AK Parti Kalkınma ve Demokratikleşme Programı (The AKP Development
and Democratization Program), Ankara: AK Parti Yayınları, 2002; and AK
Parti Programı (The AK Party Program), available at
tr/site/akparti/partiprogrami#bolum [accessed 25 December 2012].
3 . See “Mixed-Sex Student Housing Becomes Turkish PM’s Latest Bugbear,”
available at
dents-idINBRE9A410N20131105 [accessed 6 November 2013].
4 . This declaration was removed from the website of the General Staff in 2012.
“28 Şubat bildirisi komple kaldırıldı,” Sabah , 1 March 2012.
5 . This counter-guerrilla organization has been active under four different
names: Tactical Mobilisation Council ( Seferberlik Tetkik Kurulu) between
1952 and 1967, ÖHD between 1967 and 1991, Special Forces Command
( Özel Kuvvetler Komutanlığı) between 1991 and 1994, and Special Forces ( Özel
Kuvvetler) since 1994. See Söyler, 2012, p. 7; Kılıç, 2008.
6 . The “Ergenekon case” is the non-official name of the “case against the
infringement of article 313 of the Turkish Penal Code: establishment of a
criminal organization,” which started in June 2007. Within this ongoing legal
process, the suspects are accused of aiming to topple the ruling Justice and
Development Party (AKP) through a military coup. The indictment argues
that these suspects are in fact a part of a wider network of individuals within
the armed forces, intelligence community, executive branches, academia,
media and civil society. See Ünver, 2009.
7 . “Ankara’da tarihi Cumhuriyet Mitingi,” available at: http://arsiv.ntvmsnbc.
com/news/405418.asp [accessed 1 February 2010].
8 . See Turkish Armed Forces ,
Faaliyetleri/10_1_Basin_Aciklamalari/2007/BA_08.html [accessed 15 May
9 . This is confirmed by Prime Minister Erdoğan’s remarks in Copenhagen
following the attacks against the AKP building in March 2013. See Anadolu
Ajansı, saldirilar-cozum-sure-
cinde-dogru-yolda-oldugumuzu-gosteriyor [accessed 20 March 2013].
10 . “Double Bomb Attack Hits AKP HQ, Ministry Building in Ankara,” Hürriyet
Daily News , available at:
2&NewsCatID=338 [accessed 19 March 2013].
11 . See “Retired Colonel: JİTEM Has 10,000 Members,” available at: http://www.;jsessionid=Hp1xt9zqs8Q8MFFYz3NW
RPnb?newsId=331587&columnistId=0 [accessed 15 November 2013].
12 . “Turkey’s Constitutional Referendum,” BBC , available at: [accessed 20 November 2011].
13 . The AKP has cooperated with the Gülen Movement, which is a transnational
religious, social and possibly political movement led by Turkish Islamic
62 Jülide Karakoç
scholar Fethullah Gülen , as was the case during the Özal period. See Özdalga
(2006, pp. 551–552); Yıldırım (2012, p. 6).
14 . Turkey 2011 Progress Report, p. 25.
15 . Radikal ,
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... .] if a legal regulation is needed, we will make the relevant regulations'. 60 These bold statements cannot be separated from the overall political and geopolitical environment the Arab uprisings created. The crisis in the Arab world since 2011 has seen Cyprus slip further down the Turkish foreign policy agenda. ...
Cyprus has featured prominently on Turkey’s foreign policy agenda in recent years. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has weaved this long-standing issue into a broader narrative of ‘geographical imagination’. Cyprus policy has thus reflected the AKP’s socio-political vision of a ‘Yeni Türkiye’ (New Turkey), first articulated nearly a decade ago, in which well-entrenched narratives about national identity and the Cyprus conflict are central. Against this backdrop, Cyprus has been leveraged in the twin interests of AKP survival (boosting incumbency through nationalist appeals) and Turkey’s regional power aspirations. The present article offers a timely survey of Turkey’s Cyprus policy over a 15-year period from 2002 (when the AKP rose to power) until the failure of the negotiation talks on Cyprus in Crans-Montana, Switzerland in July 2017. In so doing, the article charts the important continuities as well as the key markers of transition in Ankara’s policy towards Cyprus under the AKP.
Full-text available
weaknesses political party institutionalization in Turkey
The eleven essays in this volume, supplemented by an editorial introduction, centre around three overlapping problems. First, why would a society want to limit its own sovereign power by imposing constitutional constraints on democratic decision-making? Second, what are the contributions of democracy and constitutions to efficient government? Third, what are the relations among democracy, constitutionalism, and private property? This comprehensive discussion of the problems inherent in constitutional democracy will be of interest to students in a variety of social sciences. It illuminates particularly the current efforts of many countries, especially in Latin America, to establish stable democratic regimes.