Critical Issues in Turkish Politics

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The liberal political and economic ideas of the 2000s, enhanced with EU harmonization reforms transformed Turkey’s structures, political institutions and its political system in which there was a dominance of the military as an institutional actor in the political system, sustained by means of its institutionalized contol/influence mechanisms, and the occasional use of physical coercion and politico-cultural/ideological militarism.Turkey experienced three major coups (1960, 1971, and 1980) and a soft coup in 1997.Analysis of these military interventions is undertaken by Gizem Çakmak and Aslı Postacı, in their article entitled  “Military Interventions in Turkey”.

Liberal political and economic ideas combined with global values have transformed political institutions and attitudes, a process which has also had implications for the political order in Turkey.Turkey has been experiencing changes in its social class structure and in the composition of its elites.This process has created new  cleavages in both society and politics.Rasim Dönmez, in his article entitled “Political Cleavages in Turkish Politics” analyzes these cleavages in order to reach conclusions about Turkey’s future in the age of uncertainties.Political polarization has continued to dominate political discourse in Turkey to an unprecedented degree despite single party political control for over a decade.An intense struggle over the control of the state as a whole has taken place between the traditionally powerful military and the newly emerging alliance of a moderately conservative goverment and the new economic bourgeoisie which supports it politically.It seems that the struggle is not yet over, and Turkey has yet to reach a political consensus on which it will base its domestic and international actions in the 21st century.

As Turkey seeks to overcome its long-standing issues of terrorism, membership in the European Union and the creation of a more modern constitution based on popular consensus and on liberal definitions of key concepts such as citizenship and nation, a focus on the debate which has intensified around the democracy is crucial to understanding the political situation and the effects of the structural changes that have taken place in the country in recent times.

In addition to structural changes, a discussion centered on the transition to a presidential system has marked the political agenda as Turkey is at an important crossroads in terms of the quest for a new constitution and the search for a reconciliation of the Kurdish issue.Burak Küntay’s article entitled “Discussions in Turkey on the Parliamentary and Presidential Systems and the French Case of a Semi-Presidential System” focuses on the debate around the presidential system in Turkey.

Acknowledging the democratizing effects of social media and mobile phones is important in understanding  how the great masses of people use this medium for wide-spread self-expression and the struggle for democracy in Turkey and elsewhere.Nilüfer Narlı and Mine Özaşçılar, in their article entitled “New Media and Mobile Democracy Around the Globe and in Turkey” discuss the use of mobile phones in political participation, in the political campaigns of various political parties, and in the political mobilization of a large number of people by giving examples from Latin America to Europe and from the Arab Spring to Korea.

On the question of democratization, Deniz Tansi, in his articleentitled “Turkish Democracy in the Western Axis” analyses to what extent Turkey has met the EU norms in its new democratization process thet began with the EU harmonization reforms.An understanding Turkey’s political future is incomplete without an analysis of Turkish politics in an historical context.Süha Atatüre fills this gap with his article entitled “Two Expansionist Eras: Imperialism and Globalism, and their Effects on the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey.”

Burak Küntay & Nilüfer Narlı