The new Turkey
The Global State of Democracy 2019.
Turkey

22-nov-19

Europe's performance on Gender Equality has plateaued considerably in the last five years. There are more troubling signs: while the performance of countries such as Croatia, Poland, Serbia and Turkey do not show significant declines, their downward trend in the last five years is cause for concern.

Azerbaijan and Turkey are the two countries in the region that score the lowest on Gender Equality. Turkey is one of
the three democracies in the world that has low levels of Gender Equality

Turkey stands out as the country with most declines in the GSoD Indices subattributes in the last five years—11 of them overall. By 2018, despite being classified as a democracy, Turkey is a fragile and very weak one, and the only country in Europe to have suffered statistically significant declines in four of the five GSoD attributes: Fundamental Rights, Checks on Government, Impartial Administration and Participatory Engagement.
Turkey now scores mid-range (0.44) on Representative Government.

Approximately a decade ago, Turkey's score on Representative Government was relatively high: it was on par with the rest of Europe, slightly below the scores recorded in Southern Europe but above the world average. It was increasingly
celebrated as a model of how other countries—especially countries in the Middle East—could combine Islam as the
majority religion with a pluralist, representative democracy that respects minorities and fundamental freedoms. Turkey's soft power as a successful democratic reformer in the Middle East region was on the ascendancy and further democratic reform was on the agenda (Altunişik 2008).

Today, on most attributes, Turkey scores lower than the European average (see Box 5.1). Its democratic standards
have deteriorated sharply and in a very short timeframe. Its GSoD Indices scores even suggest a return to its 1980s
standards in some respects. Today the country has become a reference point for authoritarian regimes which seek ways to minimize their democracies around the conduct of elections while showing disregard for civil liberties, civil society and clear separation of powers (Özbudun 2015; Schedler 2006).

The March 2019 municipal elections (and the June rerun in Istanbul) might have heralded the turn of a new page in
Turkish politics. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) conceded defeat in both
Ankara and Istanbul, bringing to an end 16 years of the party's rule in Ankara, and 25 years in Istanbul (BBC News
2019a; Gall 2019). This undoubtedly represents a significant blow to the party's dominance over local politics. However, the removal of three Kurdish opposition mayors in August 2019 and the crackdown on opposition politicians show that Erdoğan uses other tactics to silence critics.

The deterioration of Turkey's democracy has occurred in juxtaposition with the country's deteriorating prospects
for accession to the European Union. As its chances of EU membership became fraught with difficulties and mutual
acrimony, Turkey's political and administrative reforms towards more freedoms, accountability, openness and
reduced corruption lost pace and were eventually reversed.

Relations with the EU have now acquired a pragmatic and transactional character (Economist Intelligence Unit 2018)
centred on mutual gains from cooperation on a select number of policy areas, such as the fight against terrorism
and migration. In March 2019, the European Parliament even called for a freeze on Turkey's membership talks as a
rebuke to the country's human rights violations (Reuters 2019).

Turkey: a precipitous slide towards authoritarian rule Many factors have contributed to Turkey's democratic decline,
not least military influence over civilian politics, undue political influence over the judiciary, limited press freedom
and curtailment of civic space. More recently, this negative trend, which overturned previous gains, has seen a drastic
acceleration. See Figure 5.8 and Figure 5.9 for illustrations of how this is reflected in Turkey's GSoD Indices scores.

President Erdogan has continued to tighten his grip on power, particularly since the failed coup attempt in July 2016, which led to the declaration of a state of emergency. In operation until 2018, this provided space for the government to circumvent principles of the rule of law (Barkey 2017; Al Jazeera 2017). The June 2018 elections 'marked the transformation of the political system in Turkey into one with extensive presidential powers, limited parliamentary oversight and reduced independence of the judiciary' (OSCE ODIHR 2018b).

There have been renewed incursions by Turkish security forces into Kurdish settlement areas in Turkey. The work of civil society has been under threat, with NGO closures and arrests without due legal process. Civil society organizations (CSOs) whose views do not match those of state officials have been increasingly marginalized; only preferred organizations with access to power are now able to influence policy (Aybars, Copeland and Tsarouhas 2018). In addition, elected mayors have been replaced by government appointees, squeezing the opposition out from hundreds of municipalities. In particular,

nearly all those held by the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party have been replaced by pro-government figures. The
Turkish Government has brought spurious judicial cases against members of the Republican People's Party, the largest
opposition party, and an increasing number of journalists have been detained. It remains to be seen if, and how, the consequences of the 2019 local elections, and the end of the AKP's political dominance in Ankara and Istanbul, will affect the democratic landscape of the country and lead to a reversal of the democratic backsliding that Turkey has experienced since 2008.

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Source: The Global State of Democracy 2019 Addressing the Ills, Reviving the Promise. Page 220 -223