EU opinion & policy debates - across languages |

Democracy of the Republic

Ever since the Turkish Republic was founded in 1923, with the proclamation of the republic, it has taken many steps to consolidate participatory democracy, in spite of the military coups along with the unending sharia threat.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, also the founder of the Republican People’s Party, had taken parliamentary democracy as a model to reach the level of contemporary civilization before the proclamation of the republic. He tended to build up multi-party democracy on the secularism principle. He was conscious of how real democracy should be. Accordingly, he allowed the opposition to set up political parties even though Turkey was a young republic.

Those days, more widely known as single-party rule, when the Republican People’s Party was in charge, the attempts to root democracy failed due to the exploitation of religion throughout the country. Those against the modern republic -the followers of sharia and sultanate- abused the realm of freedom and did not remain loyal to democracy revolting the masses against the republic in order to restore the Ottoman State. This situation was perceived as a serious threat completely to subvert the secular order. As a natural consequence, their parties were dissolved by the ruling republican regime.

Turkish modernization rate had been keeping up with the rate of modernization across the world until World War II broke out. During the war Turkey remained impartial. In the year 1946, a group of right winger deputies left the Republicans to establish the Democrat Party. Ismet Inonu -the chairman of the Republican People’s Party- decided to go for the elections for the first time in the history of the republic and showed the loyalty to democracy. However, the Republicans were only able to stay in power until the elections were held in 1950.

The Republicans were hit by the victory of the Democrat Party in the elections, found themselves in the opposition that they had never experienced before. The Democrats came into power by means of the elections which the secular democracy had brought in. Despite of the fact that Ismet Inonu was disappointed, he said afterwards “my defeat is my greatest victory”, yet the Republicans were not able to come back into power again.

Since then democracy has become putty in the hands of the adversaries of the republic and has been the means of the counter revolutionists so as to subvert the secular order along democracy itself. Despite the incessant attacks on the founding philosophy of the Turkish Republic by the Ottoman wannabes, the Republicans, at least, have managed to root the formal democracy.

Moreover, instead of modern secularity, democracy has been building on the conservative values of Islam since the 1950s. Or it is supposed to. Islamic conservatism can not be a substitute for universal values. Democracy can not be associated with any Islamic regime on the planet.

Author :
EurActiv Network