Turkey's Democratization Process

By Taskin, Yüksel | International Journal of Turkish Studies, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Turkey's Democratization Process


Taskin, Yüksel, International Journal of Turkish Studies


CARMEN RODRIGUEZ, ANTONIO ÁVALOS, HAKAN YILMAZ and ANA I. PLANET, eds., Turkey's Democratization Process (Routledge, 2014). Pp. 444. $ 160.00 cloth.

The seeds of this book were first planted in a research seminar "Democracy and Democratization in Turkey" held in November 2008 at the Autonoma University of Madrid. The points raised there by fourteen academic experts were elaborated in follow-up seminars and laid the foundations of this timely and comprehensive book on the democratization problem in Turkey as a defective democracy. I believe that the collection of articles in this volume will provide invaluable theoretical and empirical insights for the understanding of the democratization problem in Turkey, which is best exemplified by the persistence of authoritarian forms after the 2010 Referendum.

This book first borrows the term defective democracies from Merkel (2004) and Puhle (2005) to describe regimes that hold elections with a series of democratic requisites but at the same time lack one or more of the characteristics shared by "embedded democracies." There are four types of defective democracies: exclusive, tutelary, delegative and illiberal. Turkey as a defective democracy is argued to combine elements of tutelary democracy, in which non-elected actors (the military establishment) maintain reserved domains and act as veto players, and those of illiberal democracy, in which there are several limitations on the exercise of public freedoms and fundamental rights and the effective rule of law. The authors also recognize important transformations have taken place in this defective democracy especially in the recent years.

The organization of the book is in line with the two sets of theoretical premises made by the authors. First, the editors of the book consider two macro variables that affect democratic transitions and democratic consolidation, the question of "stateness" (the state in which the process is taking place) and the nature of the prior regimes, along with one contextual variable, international influence. Three articles in the first part deal with the issues related to the nature of the prior regime and the variable of international influence, specifically the EU membership process after 1999. Second, the editors revisit the five arenas defined by Linz and Stepan (1996) which can be used to examine the dynamics of democratic consolidation: political society, civil society, economic society, state apparatus, and the rule of law. These are also the titles of the following five parts, in which seventeen authors analyze various aspects of the five arenas.

In the second part, "Political Society," the authors deal with the discourses and practices of the ruling AKP, the opposition party CHP, the ultranationalist MHP and the BDP, pro-Kurdish party. While in the early 2000s, the AKP tried to position itself as the "unique agent of democratization," the CHP largely remained a pro-status-quo party. However, since 2010, the CHP under Kiliçdaroglu is giving signs of adopting a pro-EU and pro-democratic stance, and the AKP has regressed from the democratization agenda to a considerable extent. …

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