Political Science Authoritarianism in Turkey
by
Paul Kubicek
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0158

Introduction

Since its establishment in 1923, the Republic of Turkey has struggled to establish a stable, well-functioning democratic system. Turkey’s founding leader, Mustafa Kemal—who was given the name “Atatürk” (father of all Turks) in 1934—adopted many reforms to modernize and Westernize the country. However, during most of Kemal’s rule (1923–1938), Turkey was a single-party regime in which political opposition was very circumscribed and repressed. Although Turkey did formally democratize after World War II, its democracy has been interrupted by several military interventions and beset with numerous problems, including restrictions on civil and political rights, closures of political parties, and political violence. Although outright authoritarianism has been the exception rather than the rule since the 1940s, many Turkish governments have exhibited authoritarian tendencies, and institutions have been created to give non-elected actors—in particular, the military—an important role in political life. Those challenging the secular, unitary nature of the state—e.g., Islamic-oriented political parties and Kurdish movements—have been repressed. In the early 2000s, the governing Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (AKP), or Justice and Development Party, launched a series of reforms that pushed Turkey in a more democratic direction. However, in the 2010s, many began to believe Turkish democracy was again under assault, evidenced in an erosion of checks and balances and rule of law, a crackdown on the media, and use of anti-terror laws to repress dissent. By most accounts, the situation has deteriorated after a failed coup attempt in 2016, which was followed by dismissals and arrests of tens of thousands of people, declaration of a state of emergency, and constitutional changes that create a more centralized presidential system. The literature on Turkish politics is frequently periodized, meaning that the emphasis on democratization or the (re)emergence of authoritarianism is often a reflection of contemporary events. Whereas much of the work on Turkish politics in the first years of the republic acknowledged its single-party, authoritarian nature, the emphasis in later years often was more on the hopes and shortcomings of democratization, with attention given to various authoritarian features as opposed to an institutionalized authoritarian system. Studies of the AKP, in particular, are subject to periodization, with initial assessments of its policies grounded more on its democratization and later works focusing much more on its authoritarian turn.

General Works

General work on this topic are histories that cover the main contours of political life, including the initial period of single-party rule, military interventions, bureaucratic–military tutelage over elected leaders, limits on full expression of political and civil rights, and clampdowns on political movements deemed threatening to the state. Lewis 2001 presents a rather positive view of modern Turkish history and is perhaps the most widely cited work in English, particularly of the early Republican period. Zürcher 2004 covers similar ground but tends to be more critical. Ahmad 1993 is more basic and concise. Kalaycioğlu 2005 is a well-regarded political history and gives some attention to the way in which Atatürk’s model has been challenged. Pope and Pope 2000 is more journalistic in nature but might be more accessible for some readers. Although Turan 2015 focuses on democratization in Turkey, it also examines the country’s authoritarian features and obstacles to democratization over several decades.

Journals and News Sources

Whereas scholarly articles on Turkish politics are published in both general political science and area studies journals that focus on the Middle East, other more specialized journals focus exclusively on Turkey. Turkish Studies and New Perspectives on Turkey are the most prominent. As for more specialized news sources, al-Monitor is highly recommended for its detailed and analytical articles, as well as its coverage of issues that are often missed in more traditional newspaper coverage. Bianet produces news and more analytical reports on human rights problems in Turkey, with some focus on Kurdish issues.

Resource Centers

Several organizations publish reports or data on authoritarianism and human rights problems in Turkey. Freedom House monitors the status of political rights and civil liberties globally as well as publishing more detailed country reports. Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders, respectively, have long followed the state of human rights in Turkey and problems with press freedoms. Among academic centers that focus on Turkey, those at the Middle East Institute, Center for Turkish Studies and Brookings Institution have useful online resources. The relatively new Research Turkey, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey sponsors events and publishes interviews, commentaries, discussion papers, and an academic journal. It often highlights nondemocratic, authoritarian features of contemporary Turkey.

The First Turkish Republic, 1923–1960

Turkey was established in 1923 as a secular republic and was led by Mustafa Kemal (later known as “Atatürk”), who dominated Turkish politics until his death in 1938. Atatürk instituted a host of reforms with the aims of modernization and Westernization. He did not, however, introduce a competitive political system or tolerate dissent. Experiments allowing an alternative political party were brief. In 1946, Atatürk’s successor, Ismet Inönü, introduced a multiparty system. In 1950, the Demokrat Parti (DP) came to power, ending the country’s one-party era. The DP, however, alienated important sectors of Turkish society, and it was overthrown in a coup in 1960, formally putting an end to the constitutional order of the First Republic. Karpat 1959 and Frey 1965 are the most wide-ranging sources for this period, covering the formation of the republic and the single-party period but also addressing the developments in the 1950s under the DP. Tunçay 1981 is the most comprehensive book-length treatment of the early single-party period when Atatürk consolidated his rule. Kazancıgil and Özbudun 1981 contains several chapters covering various aspects of Atatürk’s rule. Because Atatürk was such a central figure, biographies of him, e.g., Mango 2000, are valuable sources. Parla and Davison 2004 is a departure from much of the literature that tends to praise Atatürk and focuses on the nondemocratic and repressive aspects of his rule and ideology. The 1960 coup and its immediate aftermath are covered well by Weiker 1963.

  • Frey, Frederick W. The Turkish Political Elite. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1965.

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    This is a seminal work on the Turkish political elite between 1920 and 1957. It provides an assessment of the initial single-party regime, but also splits within the ruling party that helped produce the transition to democracy in the mid-1940s. It also devotes significant attention to the rule of the DP.

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  • Karpat, Kemal. Turkey’s Politics: The Transition to a Multi-Party System. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1959.

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    This work covers major political developments from the late Ottoman Empire through the 1950s. Although Karpat acknowledges that Turkey under Atatürk was authoritarian, the author has a rather positive tone about his rule, suggesting that Turkey needed to pass through this stage in order to move eventually to democracy.

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  • Kazancıgil, Ali, and Ergun Özbudun, eds. Atatürk: Founder of a Modern State. London: Hurst, 1981.

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    A collection of articles published on the centenary of Atatürk’s birth by leading Turkish and international scholars. Includes assessments of the Kemalist political regime, Kemalism as an ideology, political economy, and some comparative perspectives. Highly recommended.

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  • Mango, Andrew. Ataturk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey. Woodstock, NY: Overlook, 2000.

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    A highly praised biography that draws extensively on Turkish language sources and archives. In addition to covering Atatürk’s entire life, Mango devotes considerable attention to his time in political leadership and the motivation and consequences of his reforms. Although noting that some aspects of Atatürk’s rule were ruthless and repressive, Mango’s assessment is generally positive, as he is sympathetic with the aims of Atatürk’s revolution-from-above.

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  • Parla, Taha, and Andrew Davison. Corporatist Ideology in Kemalist Turkey: Progress or Order? Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2004.

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    An important, if controversial work, that takes issue with more positive assessments of Kemalism by noting its similarities with fascism in the way in which it views the role of the state, national identity, and rights of individual citizens.

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  • Tunçay, Mete. Türkiye cumhuriyeti’nde Tek-Parti yönetimi’nin kurulmasi, 1923–1931. Ankara, Turkey: Yurt Yayınları, 1981.

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    This is the most comprehensive and detailed account of the establishment and consolidation of single-party rule. The title, Türkiye cumhuriyeti’nde Tek-Parti yönetimi’nin kurulmasi, 1923–1931, is usually translated as “The Establishment of Single-Party Rule in the Republic of Turkey, 1923–1931.”

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  • Weiker, Walter. The Turkish Revolution 1960-1961: Aspects of Military Politics. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1963.

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    Covers the motivations for the 1960 military coup as well as the short-lived period of military rule from 1960 to 1961.

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The Second Turkish Republic, 1961–1980

The Turkish military formally handed power back to an elected civilian government in 1961 and crafted a new constitution that offered some hope that Turkey would move in a more democratic direction. However, Turkey suffered from a number of problems throughout the 1960s and 1970s, including political polarization and instability, political violence, and military intervention in politics, as well as issuing a memorandum from the military that forced the government to resign in 1971. Ahmad 1977 is the best general survey of this period. Dodd 1969 covers the 1960s, and Dodd 1990 focuses on the problems of the 1970s that ultimately led to a coup in 1980. Weiker 1981 adopts a more evolutionary and positive perspective, arguing that by the 1970s Turkey had overcome some of the problems of the single-party period. Sunal and Sayari 1986 suggests democracy failed in the 1970s because political parties were too weak and fragmented to impose order and overcome bureaucratic control.

  • Ahmad, Feroz. The Turkish Experiment in Democracy: 1950–1975. London: Hurst, 1977.

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    Reviews major developments, including the 1960 coup, the 1971 military intervention, and governmental instability in the 1960s and early 1970s. A solid reference for this time period.

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  • Dodd, Clement. Politics and Government in Turkey. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969.

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    Presents, in a textbook-like fashion, a solid overview of the main political actors and institutions in Turkey in the 1960s. The definitive source for this time period.

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  • Dodd, Clement. The Crisis of Turkish Democracy. 2d ed. Huntington, UK: Eothen, 1990.

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    Well-regarded and often-cited source on the crisis of Turkish democracy in the 1970s that led to the military coup of 1980.

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  • Sunal, Ilkay, and Sabri Sayari. “Democracy in Turkey: Problems and Prospects.” In Transitions from Authoritarian Rule. Vol. 1, Southern Europe. Edited by Guillermo O’Donnell, Phillippe Schmitter, and Laurence Whitehead, 165–185. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.

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    Although written after the military coup, this chapter analyzes the persistent problems of Turkish democracy from the 1950s to 1970s. Rather than focus on the military, it devotes attention to the shortcomings of civilian elites and Turkish political parties.

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  • Weiker, Walter. The Modernization of Turkey: From Ataturk to the Present Day. London: Holmes & Meier, 1981.

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    Weiker focuses mostly on developments in the 1970s, including coverage of political parties, the military, interest groups, and government structure.

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The 1980 Coup and Its Aftermath

In 1980, the Turkish military once again intervened in politics, ousting the elected government and drafting a new constitution. However, even though the military formally returned to its barracks in 1983, the country’s democratic shortcomings throughout the 1980s and 1990s were evident, including suppression against leftists, Kurds, and Islamic-oriented political actors, all of which were deemed to be threats to the state. Birand 1987 offers an “insider’s” account of the coup itself. Heper and Evin 1988 focuses on institutional change in the immediate post-coup period. Özbudun 1994 notes the persistence of antidemocratic views and behaviors among the political elite. Özbudun 1996 has a broader focus on problems in the 1990s that weakened or threatened freedoms and democracy, including conflict with the Kurds, civil–military relations, and personalistic politics. Öniş 1997 covers the rise of political Islam in the 1990s, exemplified by the Welfare (Refah) Party, which was an important development. Yavuz and Khan 2000 contends that, despite many changes in Turkey, many of the antidemocratic, illiberal aspects of Kemalism remained.

  • Birand, Mehmet Ali. The Generals’ Coup in Turkey: An Inside Story of 12 September 1980. Translated by M. A. Dikerdem. London: Brassey’s, 1987.

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    Written by a left-leaning Turkish journalist, this is a translation of Birand’s 1984 book, 12 Eylül Saat: 04.00 (Istanbul: Karacan). Particularly useful for understanding the motivations of the coup.

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  • Heper, Metin, and Ahmet Evin, eds. State, Democracy, and the Military: Turkey in the 1980s. Berlin: Walter de Gruyer, 1988.

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    A collection of articles by prominent Turkish scholars that focus on Turkish political institutions after the 1980 military coup and the political role of the military.

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  • Öniş, Ziya. “The Political Economy of Islamic Resurgence in Turkey: The Rise of the Welfare Party in Perspective.” Third World Quarterly 18.4 (1997): 743–766.

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    An insightful analysis of the rise of the Islamic Welfare Party in relation to the changes in the Turkish economic system in the 1980s and the 1990s.

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  • Özbudun, Ergun. “State Elites and Democratic Political Culture in Turkey.” In Political Culture and Democracy in Developing Countries. Edited by Larry Diamond, 247–268. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1994.

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    Chapter 9 analyzes the state elites’ approach to democracy, particularly their elitist, authoritarian, and tutelary attitudes.

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  • Özbudun, Ergun. “How Far from Consolidation?” Journal of Democracy 7.3 (1996): 123–138.

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    Suggests that Turkey is in a “gray area” between consolidated democracy and authoritarianism. Notes such problems as political fragmentation, the role of the military, and the emergence of new political actors, e.g., Islamists and Kurds. Highly recommended as an article that captures the main political problems in Turkey in the 1990s.

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  • Yavuz, M. Hakan, and Mujeeb Khan. “Turkey’s Fault Lines and the Crisis of Kemalism.” Current History 99.633 (January 2000): 33–34.

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    Brief but highly recommended article that suggests that democratic shortcomings of Kemalist ideology, e.g., the power of state over society and preference for homogeneity over pluralism, still remain, although they are subject to challenges.

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The AKP in the 2000s: A New Era for Democracy?

The rise to power of the AKP in 2002 was greeted by many hoping for reforms that would allow Turkey to overcome authoritarian features of the Kemalist system and consolidate a more liberal democracy. Although the AKP had roots in earlier Islamic-oriented parties, it presented itself as a “conservative democratic” party and won supporters across Turkey’s political spectrum and from many international observers. It has dominated Turkish politics in the 21st century. Some, however, remained wary about whether the AKP was truly committed to democratic reforms. Ozel 2003 explains the AKP’s initial electoral success. Hale and Özbudun 2010 is more comprehensive, reviewing both the rise of the AKP and presenting its program and accomplishments in the 2000s in a generally sympathetic light. Yavuz 2006 is an edited volume that focuses on different elements of the AKP’s agenda. Kubicek 2005 notes how the AKP’s reform efforts were buttressed by pressure from Turkish civil society and from the European Union. Kilinc 2014 highlights how the military intervention in 1997 galvanized a variety of actors, including Islamic-oriented individuals and groups, to push for greater democratization. Çavdar 2006 pursues a similar line of analysis but invokes the notion of political learning to explain why AKP leaders adopted new thinking and policies in favor of liberalization. Criss 2010 is notable, at least in this time period, for presenting a rather negative view of the AKP. Çinar 2011 is more ambivalent, recognizing some of the AKP’s success but wary about its dominance over Turkish politics.

The AKP in the 2010s: Movement Toward Authoritarianism

The AKP has remained the dominant party in Turkey, winning elections in 2011 and 2015. However, many commentators have suggested that it has abandoned its democratization agenda in favor of policies that have eroded checks and balances and media freedom while advancing a much more pronounced role for Islam in politics. Turam 2012 is noteworthy as an early warning of troubling signs. Başer and Öztürk 2017 and Öktem and Akkoyunlu 2016 discuss different aspects of the authoritarian trends in the 2010s. Erisen and Kubicek 2016 addresses similar topics but is particularly noteworthy for its discussion of the way in which aspects of political culture may bolster authoritarianism. David and Toktamis 2015 discusses the 2013 Gezi Park protests and the aftermath, which were seen by many as an important turning point. Çağaptay 2017 focuses on the actions of AKP leader and Turkish president R. T. Erdoğan, who is blamed for taking Turkey in an authoritarian direction. Lancaster 2014 delves more deeply into the internal dynamics of the AKP, noting how its commitment to intra-party democracy has eroded over time. Esen and Gumuscu 2016 breaks with the literature that generally describes Turkey as a flawed democracy by labeling it “competitive authoritarian.” Özbudun 2015 is conceptually similar but focuses mostly on the way in which the AKP has attacked the judiciary. Çinar and Sayin 2014 is a valuable analytical piece, suggesting the AKP, like its more secular-oriented predecessors, has an incomplete and flawed vision of democracy. Çinar 2018 is even more critical, suggesting that the AKP’s initial pro-Western, democratic orientation was a ruse, helpful in consolidating power and weakening its opponents, but then abandoned in favor of anti-Western populism and Islamism.

  • Başer, Bahar, and Ahmet Erdi Öztürk, eds. Authoritarian Politics in Turkey: Elections, Resistance, and the AKP. London: I. B. Tauris, 2017.

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    An edited volume that paints a dim picture of developments in the 2010s. Topics include electoral integrity, minority rights, violations of civil rights and media freedom, and the ruling party’s use of Islam and foreign policy to legitimize itself.

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  • Çağaptay, Soner. The New Sultan: Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey. London: I. B. Tauris, 2017.

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    Part political biography of the Turkish president, this book suggests that Erdoğan has abandoned his reformist agenda in favor of illiberal politics that constitutes, in his view, a counterrevolution to the vision of Turkey espoused by Atatürk. This also serves as a concise, accessible introduction to much of recent Turkish political history.

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  • Çinar, Menderes. “Turkey’s ‘Western’ or ‘Muslim’ Identity and the AKP’s Civilizational Discourse.” Turkish Politics 19.2 (2018): 176–197.

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    Part of a special issue on the AKP’s use of populism, this article suggests that the AKP instrumentally adopted a democratic orientation to neutralize its most powerful opponent, the military, but in the 2010s has adopted a more “nativist” anti-Western and Islamic identity, with negative repercussions both for Turkish democracy and foreign policy.

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  • Çinar, Menderes, and Çagkan Sayin. “Reproducing the Paradigm of Democracy in Turkey: Parochial Democratization in the Decade of Justice and Development Party.” Turkish Studies 15.3 (2014): 365–385.

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    Suggests that democratization under the AKP has been limited because the party, like its secular-oriented predecessors, has a limited understanding of democracy, particularly that it rejects pluralism while viewing politics as a zero-sum game. This very useful article stresses that the AKP has not really broken the tutelary orientation of the Turkish political elite.

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  • David, Isabel, and Kumru Toktamis, eds. “Everywhere Taksim”: Sowing the Seeds for a New Turkey at Gezi. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2015.

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    A wide-ranging collection of essays that examines the motivations behind the Gezi Park protests, the government’s responses, and the aftermath. The best book-length treatment of this event.

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  • Erisen, Cengiz, and Paul Kubicek, eds. Democratic Consolidation in Turkey: Micro and Macro Challenges. New York: Routledge, 2016.

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    An edited volume with contributions by both well-established and emerging scholars points to weak aspects of Turkish democracy and to authoritarian features. Topics include political culture, the judiciary and rule of law, the media, the lack of checks and balances, and the weakness of opponents to the AKP.

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  • Esen, Berk, and Sebnem Gumuscu. “Rising Competitive Authoritarianism in Turkey.” Third World Quarterly 37.9 (2016): 1581–1606.

    DOI: 10.1080/01436597.2015.1135732Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Utilizes the concept of “competitive authoritarianism” to argue that Turkey is moving away from a competitive democratic system into one in which the incumbent party has altered the political playing field to entrench itself in power. Focuses on the elections in 2015 but also covers important earlier developments.

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  • Lancaster, Caroline. “The Iron Law of Erdogan: The Decay from Intra-Party Democracy to Personalistic Rule.” Third World Quarterly 35.9 (2014): 1672–1690.

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    A valuable article that focuses on the internal dynamics of the AKP, suggesting that the party is becoming less inclusive and more centralized, with earlier intra-party democracy gradually giving way to oligarchy and personalism under Erdoğan. Recommended for examining an often-underappreciated issue.

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  • Öktem, Kerem, and Karabekir Akkoyunlu, eds. “Exit from Democracy: Illiberal Governance in Turkey and Beyond.” Special Issue: Southeast European and Black Sea Studies 16.4 (2016).

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    A special issue of the journal focusing on the movement away from democracy under the AKP. Contributions cover topics such the state’s use of religion, the Kurds, and populism, as well as some comparisons with other nondemocratic regimes.

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  • Özbudun, Ergun. “Turkey’s Judiciary and the Drift toward Competitive Authoritarianism.” The International Spectator 50.1 (2015): 42–55.

    DOI: 10.1080/03932729.2015.1020651Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides some details and analysis of efforts by the AKP to undermine the independence of the judiciary.

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  • Turam, Berna. “Are Rights and Liberties Safe?” Journal of Democracy 23.1 (2012): 109–118.

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    An important piece that reflects how the popular view of the AKP as a force for democratic reform began to change in the early 2010s.

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The 15 July 2016 Coup Attempt

The failed coup attempt in July 2016 represents a watershed in Turkish political development. While it demonstrated the weakness of the military, which was long considered the primary threat to Turkish democracy, it has been used by the government to justify a state of emergency, a purge of state officials, mass arrests, and a clampdown on dissent. In 2017, voters narrowly approved constitutional changes to create a presidential system, one that some fear lacks sufficient checks and balances and will be used to strengthen authoritarian tendencies. Esen and Gumuscu 2017 analyzes the failure of the coup. Yavuz and Koç 2016 situates the coup attempt as a conflict between the AKP and the Gülen movement, which had been allied with the AKP. Cagaptay and Aktas 2017 examines how President Erdoğan has used the coup to consolidate his rule. An Overview of the Post-Coup Attempt Measures in Turkey and Turkey Purge document the arrests, dismissals, and legal changes in the wake of the coup.

Issues and Actors Relating to Authoritarianism in Turkey

Authoritarianism in Turkey can also be approached thematically, meaning the focus is not on singular events or developments in a specific time period, but on particular issues that have occurred over time and have compromised democracy and/or constituted a basis for authoritarian rule or policies. Whereas the importance of some of these issues has fluctuated over time, long-term problems include the military’s role in politics, the inability to recognize or manage demands of the country’s Kurdish minority, statist traditions and the weakness of civil society, Turkey’s “deep state,” and the political role of Islam.

The Military

The Turkish military has long been a major political force, seeing itself as a guardian of both the country’s stability and its secular system. The military has intervened several times to bring down elected governments and has carved out a political role for itself through the powers of the National Security Council. Many of the reforms under the AKP were designed to weaken the ability of the military to interfere in politics. Hale 1994 is the classic source on this topic, delving into the political role of the military in the late Ottoman period and in the formation of the republic. Tachau and Heper 1983 covers similar ground but pays more attention to the 1980 military coup. Harris 2011 reviews the three most explicit cases of military coups. Aslan 2016 analyzes the comparatively nonviolent 1997 “soft coup” that forced out the government led by the Islamic-oriented Welfare Party. Demirel 2005 suggests some reasons why the military’s role has been so persistent. Sarigil 2014 presents a more nuanced picture, suggesting that the role of the military has changed over time. Bardakçi 2013 focuses on reforms under the AKP, which have reduced the military’s role in politics.

The Kurdish Question

Kurds constitute 10 to 15 percent of the Turkish population and have a distinct cultural identity from that of Turks. Many Kurds have campaigned (largely unsuccessfully) for greater rights and recognition from the state, and in the 1980s the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) emerged as a militant force that attacked Turkish military and civilian targets. Although some liberalization of state policies has occurred since the 1990s, the denial of cultural rights and political expression for Kurds, which included suppression of Kurdish groups and parties as well as individual activists, has been a major blemish on Turkey’s democratic record. Kirişci and Winrow 1997 and Barkey and Fuller 1998 are good general works that review the origins of the conflict and the state’s response. Heper 2007 presents a point of view more sympathetic to the Turkish state. Aydin and Emrence 2015 is a more detailed and sophisticated work, documenting both the military elements of the conflict and the government’s broader response. Watts 2010 examines the struggles of Kurdish-oriented political parties, which have been frequently been banned. Pusane 2014 analyzes the failed attempts of the AKP government in the 2000s to resolve this conflict. Saeed 2017 focuses more on the Union of Communities of Kurdistan (KCK), an umbrella organization that includes the PKK, which has also been repressed by the state. The conflict in Syria in the 2010s added new elements to this issue, as many Kurds in Syria allied themselves with the PKK. The breakdown of a ceasefire with the PKK in 2015 and international aspects of Turkey’s “Kurdish dilemma” are examined in Park 2016.

  • Aydin, Aysegul, and Cem Emrence. Zones of Rebellion: Kurdish Insurgents and the Turkish State. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015.

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    Draws on an extensive data set to analyze the scope of the conflict between the PKK and the state and the government’s policies with respect to broader aspects of the Kurdish question. A very useful source to understand why this conflict has been so intractable.

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  • Barkey, Henri, and Graham Fuller. Turkey’s Kurdish Question. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998.

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    A useful overview of the conflict, including the emergence of the PKK and the state’s response, which included widespread human rights abuses. A good starting point to learn the political history of the issue. Also available as an e-book.

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  • Heper, Metin. The State and Kurds in Turkey: The Question of Assimilation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230593602Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Heper takes issue with the conventional wisdom that Kurds systematically have been repressed in Turkey. It suggests that the underlying causes of conflict are socioeconomic, not ethnic, and that Kurds have not been under pressure to assimilate. Although many might disagree with Heper’s analysis, this work is worth consulting for a different point of view on this subject.

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  • Kirişci, Kemal, and Gareth Winrow. The Kurdish Question and Turkey. London: Frank Cass, 1997.

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    A comprehensive general account of Turkey’s Kurdish question through the mid-1990s, including a discussion of possible solutions.

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  • Park, Bill. “Regional Turmoil, the Rise of Islamic State, and Turkey’s Multiple Kurdish Dilemmas.” International Journal 71.3 (2016): 450–467.

    DOI: 10.1177/0020702016666007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Traces relationships among various Kurdish groups in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq and the difficulties faced by the Turkish government in responding to the challenges posed by Kurdish mobilization.

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  • Pusane, Özlem Kayhan. “Turkey’s Kurdish Opening: Long Awaited Achievements and Failed Expectations.” Turkish Studies 15.1 (2014): 81–99.

    DOI: 10.1080/14683849.2014.891348Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Assesses the nature of the “Kurdish opening” under the AKP and argues that it failed because of political divisions within the government and the Kurdish movement. Recommended for an explanation of changes in state policy in the 2000s as well as missed opportunities for a settlement.

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  • Saeed, Seevan. Kurdish Politics in Turkey: From the PKK to the KCK. London: Routledge, 2017.

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    Written from a point of view sympathetic to Kurdish aspirations, this book analyzes both the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the development of the Unions of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), whose stated aim is to function as a sociopolitical organization for Kurds in Turkey and in neighboring states.

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  • Watts, Nicole F. Activists in Office: Kurdish Politics and Protest in Turkey. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010.

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    An impressive study that examines how Kurdish-oriented political parties have tried to use the political system to advance their agenda despite repression by the state. Although some of the empirical material is now dated, this is a key source for understanding the challenges of political participation by Kurdish actors.

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The State, Civil Society, and the Media

Many have approached the issue of authoritarianism in Turkey as a problem of a strong state and a relatively weak society, with the state exercising control over interest groups and other actors that potentially could help foster greater democracy. Heper 1985 describes the state tradition in Turkey as one in which bureaucratic elements dominate over social actors. Bianchi 1984 is the classic reference on the historical relationship between a powerful state and interest groups. Heper 1991 focuses on developments in this area in the 1980s. Buğra 1994 is the most comprehensive treatment of state–business relations. Sarfati 2017 argues that state co-optation of religious and business groups during AKP rule has hampered democratization. Yesil 2016 documents how media freedom is compromised by both state policy and market liberalization. Yildirim 2017 applies the concept of clientelism to explain the depoliticization of Turkish football (soccer) fans.

Deep State

Many analysts and writers have pointed to the problem of a “deep state” (derin devlet) in Turkey as a barrier to democratization. This “deep state” is alleged to consist of a mix of elected officials, bureaucrats, military officers, and criminal elements, which are implicated in corruption, conflict, and human rights violations and which subvert the power of elected institutions. Despite efforts to weaken or eliminate the “deep state,” many observers of Turkey still see its hand in political life, believing that it has been successful in making deals with whatever party comes to power. Söyler 2015 is a sophisticated history of its development and persistence. Gingeras 2011 focuses on the heroin trade both in the late Ottoman and Republican periods as the genesis of the “deep state.” Kaya 2009 and Ünver 2009 document some newsworthy events involving the “deep state,” including alleged coup plots in the 2000s.

Political Islam

The possible relationship between political Islam and authoritarianism has been debated in wider literature on this topic. The political role of Islam is an issue that has long vexed Turkey. Under Atatürk, religion was placed under the authority of the state, and Islam had only a small public role. Various political actors have challenged this model, most recently the AKP, which some see as an Islamist party that threatens Turkey’s secularism and, by extension, democracy. Yavuz 2003 is a useful and detailed history, covering numerous Islamic-oriented movements and parties. Kubicek 2015 is more concise but covers some similar developments; it is grounded more explicitly in the question of the relationship between politicized Islam and democracy. Kuru and Stepan 2012 is an important work that suggests assertive secularism for much of modern Turkish history has been more important as an antidemocratic force than politicized Islam. White 2013, although also critical of Kemalist policies toward religion, is noteworthy for noting how the AKP has used religion to fashion a new political identity, one that excludes many Turkish citizens. Tank 2005 presents a nuanced view of the relationship between politicized Islam and the military. Coşar and Yeğenoğlu 2011 focuses on women’s issues, arguing that the use of Islam under the AKP has reinforced patriarchical norms and policies. Öztürk 2016 examines the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), which has become a more powerful institution under the AKP.

  • Coşar, Simten, and Metin Yeğenoğlu. “New Grounds for Patriarchy in Turkey? Gender Policy in the Age of AKP.” South European Society and Politics 16.4 (2011): 555–573.

    DOI: 10.1080/13608746.2011.571919Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on the gender policies of the AKP. It argues that the AKP’s period in government has been marked by the emergence of a new mode of patriarchy that intertwines religion, neoliberalism, and nationalism.

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  • Kubicek, Paul. “Turkey: Democracy and the Dynamics of Secularism.” In Political Islam and Democracy in the Muslim World. By Paul Kubicek, 35–82. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2015.

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    A useful review of the emergence of Islamic-oriented actors, including the AKP, with a focus on whether and how they support democratic or authoritarian institutions. A good starting point for research on this issue.

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  • Kuru, Ahmet T., and Alfred Stepan, eds. Democracy, Islam, and Secularism in Turkey. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012.

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    An edited volume that covers many issues, including ways in which Turkey’s assertive secularism may be softened to allow greater space for religious actors. Contributors address the military’s “guardian” role in Turkey’s secularism, the implications of constitutional amendments for democratization, and the consequences and benefits of Islamic activism’s presence within a democratic system. Highly recommended.

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  • Öztürk, Ahmet Erdi. “Turkey’s Diyanet under AKP Rule: From Protector to Imposer of State Ideology?” Southeast European and Black Sea Studies 16.4 (2016): 619–635.

    DOI: 10.1080/14683857.2016.1233663Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines how the Diyanet has become an important apparatus for state ideology, particularly under the AKP in the 2000s. It explains the enhanced role of the Diyanet, thanks to the interlaced structure of the AKP and the Turkish state.

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  • Tank, Pinar. “Political Islam in Turkey: A State of Controlled Secularity.” Turkish Studies 6.1 (2005): 3–19.

    DOI: 10.1080/1468384042000339294Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Although noting that the military traditionally has seen itself as the guardian of Turkish secularism, it also claims that in the past it has used religion as a political tool to serve national interests. The use of religion both as a threat against, and as a tool for, the state results in ambiguity with regard to the political role of Islam in Turkey.

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  • White, Jenny. Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013.

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    An important work that highlights the way in which the AKP has fostered a notion of “Muslim nationalism” to counter the traditional Kemalist notion of Turkishness. This change, although positive in some respects, has negative implications for the Alevi minority, non-Muslims, secular Turks, and, in particular, women. This book touches on a number of core political questions. Highly recommended.

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  • Yavuz, M. Hakan. Islamic Political Identity in Turkey. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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    Provides a valuable, historical perspective on the development of an Islamic political identity in Turkey, starting with the Ottoman legacy, and analyzes a number of Islamic movements as well as the rise of the Welfare Party in the 1990s.

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