Turkey is a Eurasian country that sits astride the border of South Eastern Europe and West Asia. Most of the population are Turkish speaking Muslims, but around 18% of the population is also taken up by Kurds and Zazas. The country is, on paper, a parliamentary representative democracy, but there is room to doubt her democratic credentials. This article is a review of why people might have doubts as to how democratic Turkey is, and a look at whether such doubts are well founded.
Many people doubt Turkey’s democratic credentials, in part, because there have been so many points in its history in which the military has guided, or even interrupted the democratic process. The first of these such cases occurred in 1960 when the military, under the rule of General Cemal Grsel, performed a coupe, forcing Celal Bayar (the president) and Adnan Menderes (the prime minister), and the cabinet to leave office. The military stayed in power until 1965.
In 1971, again, the military directly intervened, offering the President an ultimatum which resulted in a change of government. This has been called “Guided Democracy”. The most serious departure from democratic rule occurred in 1980, however, when the military once again took control of the country, claiming that they were responding to domestic political anarchy.
During this period, extremists from both ends of the political scale resorted to murder, and other violent ways of expressing their wants. A new constitution was agreed upon by public referendum, however, in 1982, and so the return to democratic rule had begun. On the 6th of November 1983, a general election gave democratic power to the Motherland party, lead by the prime minister Turgot zal.
The government voted in on that day has remained stable ever since, but Turkey is still just shy of enjoying full democracy. The respect in which it fails is the inclusion of article 301 in the constitution, which forbids anyone from insulting Turkey. The article has been put to use in some extremely controversial ways, most of all so when used to charge writers and other artists for mentioning things like the Armenian genocide in ways in which the government does not approve of.