Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Managing Democratization: Achievements and Limitations in AK Party Era

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Managing Democratization: Achievements and Limitations in AK Party Era

Article excerpt

Conceptual Frame and Turkey's Stand

When reviewing the near political history of modern Turkey, it will be substantive to notice that Turkey has had a long path towards gaining the institutional democracy it now enjoys, passing through breakdown periods caused by coups every ten years consistently in its short history of the multi-party rule since 1950. Thus, referring to Huntington's classification on waves of democracy, (1) Turkey has suffered much in attaining the transition from an authoritarian centralist pattern to a regime based on principal tenets of democracy. In his coding, the democratization has been a nonlinear process, as waves of democratization have been followed by reverse flows in successive periods, the transition from the single party has symbolized a fluctuant path due to the settled perceptions of political culture in Turkey which have conventionally been of an undemocratic nature.

The global flows have had sprawling impacts with a 'snowballing' effect, but also with the warning that a snowball can melt in unfavorable environments. (2) In this regard, the environment to meet the requirements for the settlement of democracy in political culture is related with the economic sphere, sociological transformation, international politics and communicative processes as well. The liberal democratic notion tries to get a consistent system of equations by taking the combination of the interrelated multiplier effects to get a democratic institutionalism, both at the national and global scale. Therefore, the political transition in favor of democratization within a country works visa-vis an optimal level of economic development; which means in a mutually reinforcing frame, economics can serve as leverage for politics to build political-economic institutionalism in a country. Such as Kant's reputed "perpetual peace" (3) based on democratic/liberal values in foreign affairs, which assumes there is a positive correlation between the democratization of political cultures and improvement towards peaceful struggles in international politics. Moreover, processes regarding the transformation of the sociological base in the form of urbanization, globalization and postmodernism within the political-economic and philosophical contexts respectively, create a new view for the assessment of the democratization of politics. By this means, apparency and efficiency of a transparent and independent civil society could set itself to manage the legal and political relationship between the state and the individual and to insure the preservation of basic rights pertaining to the individual and the society as a whole, against any sort of abuse. As the sociological dynamics have to be more open and transparent to allow access for all individuals, the identity-based issues come to the fore with the new challenging questions, such as pluralism and multiculturalism.

Taking into consideration the above, when adapting the democratization waves of the world political culture to the Turkish experience, an inconsistent picture emerges. Namely, the inter-war period was the foundation period of a new state, which mainly resorted to the top-down approach in the creation of a new nation. This was in contrast to the period of efforts for consolidation of democratic institutionalism throughout the Western world, towards which the new republic also aspired. Thus, it can be stated that the Turkish experience has been through both a historic and unparalleled process in terms of democratic mentality and methods, which have been an ever-repeating structural deficiency for the Turkish political culture in the following periods. The consequence here has been important and critically deliberating, leading to challenge and question the structural grounds and root causes; which facilitate understanding of the fluctuant and non-institutional democratization path that has been experienced in Turkey over time. As Schumpeter calls democracy as 'institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people's vote,' (4) Turkey with its fragile civil political culture regarding the democratic governance, lacks the sine qua non conditions towards institutionalization of democracy. …

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