Turkey's hybrid democracy

Turkey's hybrid democracy
Comment: The Turkish model of democracy is losing its appeal and turning into another Middle Eastern hybrid that seeks to legitimise autocracy through the ballot box, writes Ali Anouzla.
3 min read
06 Nov, 2015
Erdogan's AKP is no longer a role model, writes Anouzla [AFP]

Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP) has won a resounding and unexpected victory in the snap elections that took place on 1 November. The greatest victor is Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the party's former leader and current president of Turkey.

The AKP victory is immense. Only five months ago, the party that now has the parliamentary majority won less than 40 percent of parliament's seats. It thus begs the question of how it was able to regain its dominant position in Turkish political life within such a short period.

     Only five months ago, the party that currently has the parliamentary majority did not win more than 40 percent of parliamentary seats

The party has a legacy of achievements that has helped it earn public support and trust, such as the massive improvement in the standard of living and economic development under AKP rule.

However, in the five months between the June and November elections, a number of other factors have helped the party recover from its electoral stumble.

The AKP had sabotaged all efforts to form a coalition government, despite the fact that it would naturally lead such a coalition government; instead the party chose to gamble on snap elections that could allow it to rule alone.

The odds were slowly being stacked in AKP's favour, as opposition parties were divided and the country suffered a number of terrorist attacks that led to the resumption of the war against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

These events reminded Turks of the instability and horrors of the not too distant past, and prompted them to choose the stability of the AKP, while turning a blind eye to Erdogan's increasingly dictatorial tendencies.

Role model no more

However, the AKP's victory has come at a heavy price for Turkey. It has lost its status as a political role model to be emulated by others around the world.

In the past ten years, the AKP had succeeded in creating a Turkish democratic model that was stable, in which power was handed over peacefully, and that mixed secularism with Islam and delivered economic development.

But what can only be described as the symptoms of long-term power, which are in their early stages and could possibly increase and become worse, are slowly overshadowing these positive aspects.

The main symptom of this disease is the destruction, or at the very least weakening, of any opposing power, especially of the judiciary and a free press.

Prior to the elections held over the weekend, the AKP government shut down a number of media outlets that oppose it, and Turkey today has one of the world's largest numbers of journalists detained for their opinions.

Furthermore, Erdogan who ruled the country for ten years as prime minister, now wants to grant himself extended powers as president by changing the constitution.

The Turkish model that started off as attractive to many has began to lose its appeal due to the many corrupting pitfalls of power.

     Erdogan, the architect of this model is on his way to appoint himself as a new Ottoman sultan

Meanwhile, Erdogan, the architect of this model, is on his way to appoint himself as a new Ottoman sultan that accepts no criticism, shares no power and wants no opposition.

This model of Turkish democracy is a new addition to the strange and hybridised democracies of the Middle East that look to legitimise their autocracy through the ballot box, such as the intransparent democracy of the Iranian Mullahs and the racist democracy of Israel.

Democracy means the management of dissent and ensuring people's right to disagree, but the Turkish model led by Erdogan is destroying that right and replacing it with an autocratic system legitimised by elections.

Ali Anouzla is a Morrocan-Sahrawi journalist and editor-in-chief of Lakome. Follow him on Twitter: @anouzlaali

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.