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Turkey’s democracy was doing quite well until Erdogan

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters at the AKP headquarters in Ankara, Turkey June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Regarding the comment piece in the Sunday Mail June 2 about Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan: ‘Erdogan’s subversion of democracy tragic but not irreversible’.

I always look forward to reading articles by Gwynne Dyer because I find to him to be extremely well informed.

However, I am afraid that he has slipped up this time.

While I have no dispute with the claim that Turkey’s Erdogan is a right-wing populist strongman in common with Putin, Orban, Duterte et. al., what I take issue with is the claim that Turkey numbers among, “countries that aspired to democracy in the first two decades after the end of the Cold War.”

Turkey’s democracy goes back a little further than that. The separation of powers and a continental legal system, the civil law system closely modelled on Swiss law, with a reasonably independent judiciary was in place from the founding of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 until Erdoğan destroyed it a few years ago.

The country moved from being a single-party state, albeit with an elected parliament, to a multiparty system based on the parliamentary system with the elections of 1950.

I think it is fair to say that all polls that have been conducted in the country from 1950 until the repeat elections of 2015 which Erdogan rigged because the first elections held that year did not give his party a parliamentary majority have been reasonably fair and free with the result uncontested by any party.

I would contend that this is an impressive record for a country of Turkey’s level of development at the time. There has been a reasonably free and pluralistic press over this time within limits.

Of course, there were also three coups in this period – although the military governments that took over always had a policy of returing to parliamentary democracy as soon as possible; Erdogan is the first person in the country since it was formed to wish to dispense with parliamentary democracy in full.

There has also been the system known as the “military tutelage” whereby the military saw it as its job to keep a watchful eye over politicians and intervene in politics where necessary. So, no, it hasn’t been perfect, but Turkey’s experience of democracy does go back fruther than the end of the Cold War. Of course, this makes it an even bigger shame that Erdogan wants to subvert it.

 

Timothy Drayton, Limassol

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