World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


The Structural Context of Democracy in Turkey (136) - Panel

· Date: TUE, 20 / 2.30 - 4.30 pm

· Language: English

· Description:
Chair: Muge Aknur (Dokuz Eylül University)

Paper presenter: Ibrahim Kilinc (Researcher/Instructor, Abant Izzet Baysal University-Turkey), “A Cure for Republican Discontent: Deliberative Democracy in Turkey”.
The main purpose of this study is whether deliberative democracy is a viable concept for Turkish political problems by analyzing the Turkish Republicanism and major Turkish political institutions. Among many criticisms that the theory of deliberative democracy has faced, two of them are worth noting. The first one claims that even though it is an exciting normative theory, deliberative democracy is impossible to be effectively implemented. Second group of critics argue that deliberative democracy is only applicable in the developed societies which have homogenous, well educated, relatively rich citizens who share western values. In essence both criticisms are similar and deal with the applicability of deliberative democracy: While the first one points out the big gap between normative theory and application due to real conditions, the latter argues that even if it is applicable, it can be only done in Western societies. The main aim of this paper is to test these arguments in a society which I believe is a good testing ground: Is it possible to implement deliberative democracy in Turkey? On the one hand Turkey still has many significant political problems even with basic democratic concepts with three coup d’états in the last fifty years and has a still developing economy and its society shares non Western cultural values. On the other hand deliberative democracy envisions unconditional rational dialogue, consensus and more political participation from every individual in a society. It would be interesting to see how Turkey’s experience with deliberative democracy would be. This study will try to answer this question by examining the Turkish republican ideology and its political institutions. The study will try to answer whether deliberative democracy could be an important tool to solve some of the problems Turkey faces. The study will at the end try to create a model for countries like Turkey that could benefit from deliberative democracy.

Paper presenter: Müge Aknur (Assistant Professor, Dokuz Eylül University-Turkey), “Civil-Military Relations in Turkey: The Impact of Non-Institutional Mechanisms on Turkish Military’s Role in Politics”
The impact of Turkish military on politics has been very strong as can be observed through two direct (1971 and 1997) and indirect military interventions (1960 and 1980) the country has experienced in its 80 years old Republican period. As the guardians of Kemalist principles (the principles of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Turkish Armed Forces do not refrain from intervening into politics when they observe a threat to these values. While the military sees the rise of political Islam as a threat to secular characteristics of the republic, it considers the rise Kurdish nationalism as a danger to the territorial integrity of the country. Therefore, Turkish Military justifies its direct and indirect interventions through these threats. More importantly, the military interferes into politics through formal and informal mechanisms. In other words, it exerts its power in politics through institutional and non-institutional means. Among the institutional or formal mechanisms through which it exercised its power in politics used to be the National Security Council (Milli Güvenlik Kurulu ‘MGK) and the centers, groups, and committees that served under the MGK. However, through Constitutional Amendments and harmonization packages, Turkey has been implementing, in an attempt to qualify for the full membership of European Union since its acceptance as a candidate member state at the Helsinki Summit of December 1999, the power of these institutional mechanisms has been curtailed. However, despite the dramatic decrease in the institutional or formal powers of the military, the Turkish Armed Forces still show their influence in politics through its non-institutional or informal mechanisms, such as the speeches given by the senior members of the military. Consequently, every single EU Progress report written from 2003 until 2010, points out this non-institutional mechanism as an obstacle to Turkish democratization. They state that the senior members of the armed forces have been expressing their opinions on domestic and foreign issues including, Cyprus, secularism and the Kurdish question in public speeches, statements to the media and declarations. The purpose of this paper is to investigate these non-institutional mechanisms through which the Turkish military has been exerting its power in politics. In an attempt to do that the paper will first analyze the informal speeches made by the senior members of the Turkish Armed Forces mainly concerning the issues of Cyprus policies, political Islam and Kurdish question and then examine whether the policies of the governments of the time (mainly Justice and Development Party ‘Adalet ve Kalk’nma Partisi -AKP governments) have changed or not as a result of the informal warnings of the military.

Paper presenter: Ricardo Borges de Castro (PhD Student, University of Oxford-UK), “The Turkish military and the preservation and protection of secularism: a necessary condition?”
The Turkish armed forces consider themselves the guardian of the Republic of Turkey. The duties of the military are clear: the preservation and protection of the republic as a democratic, secular and social state. The defence of secularism is quite a surprising function for a military institution: it falls outside strictly traditional military responsibilities; and it places the armed forces at the centre of politics and social developments. This is even more so in the Turkish case where secularism became a defining characteristic of the regime after 1923.Besides being generally acknowledged, not much has been discussed about the role of the Turkish armed forces in defending secularism. This idea became almost a self evident fact. This paper examines the role of the Turkish armed forces in preserving and protecting secularism. I answer the following questions: What is the military's understanding of secularism? How have the armed forces protected and preserved secularism in Turkey, and with what results? And, finally, is the military a necessary condition for the protection and preservation of secularism in Turkey? To answer the questions raised above, I examine three historical reference points: the 12 September 1980 military coup; and the 28 February 1997, and the 27 April 2007 interventions. The three cases are critical moments of military interference in politics. The 1980 military coup was not about secularism, but it apparently has had everlasting effects on Turkey's secular order. Its results are uncertain and debated to this day. The events in 1997 and 2007 were about threats to secularism, as the military perceives them. Again, the dispute about their effects is ongoing. Bearing in mind the specific complexities of each of the events, their goals are clear and declared. Therefore, they allow assessing if their aims were achieved; what were their consequences; and how Turkey's secularism and secularization process were affected by them. In other words, how did the military coup of 1980, and the interventions in 1997 and 2007 contribute (or not) to protect and preserve secularism? The methodology followed includes several sources. Between November 2008 and July 2009, I conducted interviews in Turkey with specialists on the role of the Turkish army, with retired military officers, former and actual politicians and governmental officials. Besides the interviews, I use press reports from the periods under analysis, speeches, official documents, and secondary sources.

Paper presenter: Odul Celep (Assistant Professor, ISIK University-Turkey), “The Political Consequences of Political Party Closures in Turkey”.
On December 11th, 2009, the Constitutional Court of Turkey ruled unanimously to close the Democratic Society Party (DTP) for being a focal point for terrorist activities and undermining the indivisible integrity of the unitary state. This case was recorded as the 27th party closure in the history of modern Turkey. The justification of the DTP's closure was based on a close examination of its members'' potential connections with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which the political establishment perceives as a terrorist organization. With this decision, DTP lost its political and parliamentary relevance to a large extent. The decision of the court demonstrated once again that a left-wing, pro-Kurdish party is still far from being incorporated into Turkey's political establishment as a legitimate political actor. In brief, the DTP tradition is still politically indigestible in Turkey. This decision came at a critical time of the ruling government's ''democratic opening'' phase. The purpose of this opening was to provide a solution to the long-standing Kurdish question in Turkey, end ethnic conflicts in the country and provide reconciliation between the Turkish state and the Kurdish population of the east and southeast regions. One purpose of this study is to provide an overview of party closures in the period of Republican Turkey since its foundation in 1923. The historical turning point in party closures came with the military coup in 1960, which not only dissolved the parliament and banned the existing Democrat Party (DP), but also executed the top three members of the DP. The 1961 Constitution created a new judicial institution that has played a significant role in party closures in Turkey since then: the Constitutional Court of Turkey. As the chief institution responsible for judicial review in the country, the Constitutional Court has shut down almost thirty political parties in Turkey. Critiques of this practice argue that Turkey has turned to a ''party graveyard''. This study aims to provide an explanation with respect to the justifications of party closures (primarily on the accounts of violating the principles of secularism and the unitary state) and most importantly, the political consequences of party closures in Turkey. In doing so, the study also speculates on the political consequences of this most recent political ban on DTP.

Paper Presenter: Sinan Yildirmaz (Research Assistant - PhD., Faculty of Political Sciences, Istanbul University, Turkey), "The Arslanköy Case: Peasants, Politics and the Development of the Rule of Law During the post-Second World War Period in Turkey (1945-1950)"
In this paper, the development of the political attitudes of the peasants in Turkey during the post-Second World War period will be investigated through the analysis of a case in which the peasants were the main actors. With the transition to multi-party system in the post-Second World War period, the importance of the peasants in politics increased. During this period the peasants were not just the passive recipients of the political developments. With the transition to the competitive multi-party struggle, the peasants began to define politics as a right for themselves as a result of their active participation in the political process. The peasants struggled for the defence and the protection of this right with various tools during the period. The law became the most important one among them. The superiority of law and the rule of law as the primary concepts that helped the peasants to intervene into the political process for their own sakes, had an important place in the making of the political consciousness of the peasants during this period. Within this framework, the Arslanköy Case, will be analyzed in this paper as an example of how the peasants used the law for political purposes. In this case, 92 villagers, of whom 47 were arrested, became defendants, accused of having been in relation with a rebellion attempt. They were put on trial on charge of showing resistance against the state forces to obstruct their duty; inflicting battery and assault on the officials on duty and partial revolt against the armed forces of the state. The political power, which had been expected to be obeyed only by the people in the previous times, came under question during this period. The Arslanköy incident and trial had an important role in the creation of this questioning process. The perception that the governments could be changed by elections and this was a right guaranteed by the law became common among the public with the pursuance of the Arslanköy case by the public opinion. The case, referred to even today as an example of the oppressive practices of the single-party regime, has an important place in Turkish history for understanding the active participation of the peasants in politics and development of their political consciousness.