The night of July 15 marked a distinct moment in Turkish democratic history as hundreds of thousands of Turks took to the streets to defy a coup attempt, notes A. Kadir Yildirim, a research scholar at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and the author of Muslim Democratic Parties in the Middle East: Economy and Politics of Islamist Moderation, (Indiana University Press, 2016). Yet only a few months later, Turkish police moved to detain scores of members of parliament from pro-Kurdish opposition party HDP, he writes for The Washington Post:
In the months since the failed coup, tens of thousands of academics, journalists and civil society activists have been purged from their jobs, with many imprisoned. The government’s war with the PKK has escalated dramatically. A new collection, based on a Project on Middle East Political Science workshop held in collaboration with Rice University’s Baker Institute that included more than a dozen scholars of Turkey, poses a sobering question: Do we now have conclusive evidence that Turkey should no longer be considered a democracy?
President Erdogan’s purge of political enemies, arrest of opposition politicians, and assault on political liberties, the media and civil society pose a direct and serious threat to the underpinnings of democracy, Yildirim adds:
Many have also expressed their legitimate concerns about his bid to revise the constitution, concentrating powers in the presidency. Despite all this, the electoral system remains a silver lining, demonstrating the possibility — however distant it appears at this moment — for autocratic ambitions to be checked at the ballot box. As long as that chance exists, Turkey’s slide to authoritarianism will remain partial and potentially reversible. But regional and international trends suggest that any such pushback will have to come from within.