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June 25, 2014



I somewhat frowned at the sentence "a vibrant, apparently free society that descended into a republic of dirty tricks and lost itself". Authoritarian dirty tricks is not completely foreign to Turkey, is it?

A few years ago I put together "popular history" for some of the most important contries in the world, see (in Swedish) http://www.folkrorelser.org/land/landindex.html. Usually it was easy to find sources. But there were two major countries for whitch it seemed impossible: Thailand and Turkey. All there was, was authoritarian topdown history, with The State as the sole actor.

All other countries, Egypt, France, Kongo, Japan, Brazil, etc etc, had histories of social movements stretching hundreds of years back - but not Turkey and Thailand. At least nothing noted in the official history books.

And this is a disturbing sign of a deeply ingrained authoritarian political culture, I think.


PS. I checked this with Turkish social movement scholar Kumru Toktamis, who agreed: it's a disturbing sign that something is wrong and has been for a long time.

Also the wellknown prohibition of using certain languages, which was lifted very recently. Also illiberal laws concerning "denigration of turkishness" and other mumbo-jumbo.

I don't deny by any means that democracy is under constant threat everywhere by people who don't wish competition in politics and decision-making. But traditions may be more or less authoritarian. And I suspect that authoritarian traditions in Turkey are fairly strong.


I don't deny by any signifies that democracy is below continuous threat everywhere by those who never want competition in politics and decision-making. But traditions might be additional or less authoritarian. And I suspect that authoritarian traditions in Turkey are pretty powerful.

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Jan Hecz

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Tord Steiro

Thanks for an interesting compendium. To some extent, I have always had a liking for Acemoglu's argument that the election of the AKP government distributed power in new ways, opening up opportunities for masses of people. That is democratisation.

At the same time, I always found it pitiful that when the AKP took on the army - aomething it would have to do at one point or the other - it did so by a sham case rather than accusing army officers of crimes they certainly did committ. Against kurds and other minorities, and against political opponents in times of coups and others. The reasons for that are obvious, fo course, but still pitiful.

Now, the tide certainly turned at some point. Erdogan and Gulen fell out. Perhaps more importantly, Erdogan fell out with many of his western supporters as well as the Turkish intelligentsia. The process that started externally on the Mavi Marmara, culminated with riots in Istanbul and other cities.

But the fact that Erdogan, or Gulen for that matter, are of no more democratic nature than the army, does not necessarily spell disaster for democracy in Turkey. With three competing powerhouses, the AKP, the army, and the Gulenist, and a street that has again woken up, the scenario that Turkish politics will again be dominated by one force does not look nearly as realistic as it once did.

It seems like Erdogan can not outmaneuvre the Gulenists without the tacit support of the army, and it appearsm for an outsider, that any government must be careful not to provoke the street and the liberals too much, lest they may be toppled by popular protest.

The breaking of the army's power has certainly been a gamechanger, and 350+ officers and their families paid a price for that, but it might just as well have lead to an improvement in Turkey's road to democracy.

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