Dr. Atasoy is a faculty member at the Eastern Mediterranean University, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Turkey plays a crucial role in the contemporary Islamic world through the demonstration effect of its deepening democracy, booming economy and increasingly independent foreign policy. Reluctance to export any political model or to meddle in the internal affairs of other countries increases its appeal for reformists in many Muslim-majority nations. Some observers, impressed by the coexistence of democracy and Islam in Turkey, propose it as a model for democratization in the Middle East.1 Despite its unique political evolution, Turkey has gradually become a general inspiration for political and economic liberalization in other Middle Eastern societies. But a review of democratization in Turkey also illustrates the significant problems the country has yet to solve for the consolidation of genuine liberal democracy. Rather than a completed model for other countries to emulate, Turkey is an illustrative case of ongoing democratization from which other Muslim-majority nations can draw lessons. This paper focuses on democratic deepening and associated hurdles in Turkey during the past decade and searches for insights that may be useful to contemporary democratization efforts elsewhere in the Middle East.
Justice and Development Party (AKP) governments since 2002 have brought about a major reorientation of politics in Turkey and accelarated democratic deepening. Established by former Islamists, the AKP defines itself as "conservative democrat," accepts secularism in governance, and acts like a counterpart of European Christian Democratic parties. It pursues European integration along with the protection of traditional cultural values.
In fact, the pre-AKP and AKP eras in Turkey refer to two different patterns of political development. The pre-2002 model was "modernization from above under military guardianship," whereas the post-2002 trend is "democratization from below through deconstruction of military guardianship." The former model is already out of synch with the contemporary Zeitgeist; whether it is a prerequisite for the latter is not known.
The simultaneous existence of two features in Turkish political experience makes it unique in the Islamic world: Turkey is partly a European country negotiating European Union (EU) membership, and it has never lost its independence. The Ottoman state initiated Westernizing reforms on its own volition to defend its independence from European imperialism. Today, Turkey's ongoing political and economic development is based on the contemporary European model of liberal democracy, rule of law and market-based capitalism.
The nonexistence of potential EU membership for other Middle Eastern countries differentiates their prospects for democratization. The frustrating EU integration process significantly helped Turkey in emancipating its electoral democracy from the yoke of entrenched bureaucratic elites and in orienting it towards liberalism. Turkey's post-2002 democratization took place under "good-cop/bad-cop" duress, in which the EU and the Turkish armed forces (TSK) both pushed the AKP in the same direction. Although the EU and the TSK had highly divergent intentions, their respective carrots and sticks jointly moved the AKP towards more democratization and civilianization for its very survival.
The absence of a colonial legacy enabled Turkey to evaluate Western institutions of governance pragmatically and to embrace most of them voluntarily. Post-World War II fear of an expansionist Soviet Union pushed the country into the Western alliance, while convincing Western nations to embrace it as a partner for the sake of their own security. Thus, Turkey had a chance to adopt values that the Europeans found fit for themselves, rather than coping with the structures of exploitation they earlier sought to impose on non-European societies. Post-Cold War European relief from the Soviet threat and the rise of Islamophobia after September 11 caused growing European reluctance to share decision-making power with Turkey in the EU. Yet Turkey has already learned and largely internalized European standards of governance and is determined to sustain them, with or without EU membership.
The current trend in most Arab societies seems to be pragmatism rather than ideology. Like their counterparts elsewhere, common people in Middle Eastern societies basically demand freedom, justice and prosperity. They also want their governments to pursue foreign policies that protect national dignity rather than incurring international humilitation. Turkey's AKP came to symbolize the achievement of these demands in many Islamic societies.
The Turkish parliament surprised domestic and international analysts in 2003, effectively blocking the government's decision to directly join the U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq by opening a Northern front from Turkey. The United States digested this rather delayed change of plans because such was the democratic will of the Turkish nation. Turkey sustained its friendly relations with the United States, significantly assisting it through other means in Iraq as well as Afghanistan. Yet, a major change in Turkey's international image and self-perception had already taken place. Previously known as a military-dominated American client-state, the new democratic Turkey succeeded in balancing its alliance commitments with the pursuit of its own principles and national interest.
As authoritarian Arab regimes chose to look the other way, Turkey's democratically elected government did not hesitate to publicly criticize Israel's military attack on Lebanon and its blockade of Gaza. This move was in tune with Turkish public opinion and captured the imagination of the Arab street, making Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the most admired foreign leader in the Middle East.2 Turkey's experience confirmed that democratic regimes are primarily attuned to their own public opinion and that their foreign policies can hardly be controlled by outside powers.
If democratization takes hold in the Middle East in the future, Israel will lose its unique status as the only democracy in the region. It will also have to face the bitter truth that its Arab neighbors will pursue more independent foreign policies reflecting their own citizens' preferences. The present political order in the United States seems to assure unconditional support for Israel's policies regardless of the American national interest. However, even the United States will likely be unable to fully shape the Israel policies of democratic Arab governments.
The European approach to security from extraregional threats offers an interesting model for Israel to consider. It couples traditional military deterrence with extended institutionalized cooperation, aiming to surround itself with a zone of peace and tranquility that consists of economically interdependent and transparent democracies. In fact, the "zero-conflict-with-neighbors" vision of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is also based on a similar logic. Suppressive regimes in Islamic nations force Islamists to go underground and resort to radicalism and terrorism. Without a suppressive state, Islamist movements may naturally evolve in a moderate direction.
Hence, democratization in its vicinity may well be a positive development for Israel in the medium and long terms. Israel's anger at Turkey's criticism of its policies culminated in the Gaza flotilla raid of May 2010, effectively torpedoing longstanding Turkish-Israeli relations. As its environment is currently becoming more difficult to manage through military means alone, Israel might have to mend its relationship with Turkey and assist democratization and economic development in the region.
Despite associated difficulties, the trend in Turkey accelarated during a period in which democratization globally was on a losing streak. With setbacks occurring around the world, many scholars of democracy have recently focused on the proliferation of "illiberal democracies,"3 tenacious "deficient democracies"4 and other discouraging developments. Although the recent upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East have raised hopes for more freedom, democratization in the Islamic world still remains fraught with difficulties. Turkey's recent experience establishes an interesting example of democratic deepening that demonstrates the risk of polarization and the critical role of the rule of law in the democratization process.5
The following review of Turkey's democratization provides relevant insights for freedom-aspiring reformers in other Middle Eastern countries that share with Turkey a partially common history and a similar cultural context. Especially revealing are Turkish experiences in areas such as constitution making, rule of law, official ideology, state-society relations, economic reforms, a national education system, and professionalism in the armed forces, the judiciary and the media.
MODERNIZATION FROM ABOVE
After World War I, as European colonialism engulfed the Arab Middle East, Turkey emerged as an independent republic by means of a successful war of national liberation. His battlefield-earned legitimacy as an anti-imperialist national hero allowed state founder Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) to institutionalize radical reforms in tune with European norms of the 1920s and 1930s. The sultanate and the caliphate were abolished. Latin and Gregorian counterparts replaced the Arabic alphabet and the Islamic calendar used for more than a millennium. European codes of law were adopted. Islamic schools and Sufi orders were closed, and the national education system was modernized and unified. Chadors for women and traditional headgear for men were banned, and European clothing styles were required.
The imposition of these changes upon a highly traditional society was undertaken by an authoritarian single-party regime based on the Republican People's Party (CHP). Successive rebellions by Kurds and religious conservatives were suppressed with military force. The post-World War II international atmosphere altered domestic dynamics once again, as heavy Soviet pressure forced Turkey to seek its national security within the Western alliance. Atatürk's successor, İnönü, decided that some democratization was necessary to join the Western camp and permitted competitive elections.
Turkey's first free elections, in 1950, put an end to nearly three decades of authoritarian single-party rule by the CHP, causing resentment among its powerful supporters within the armed forces. Military interventions in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997 interrupted Turkey's burgeoning democracy, gradually strengthening a system of constitutionally sanctioned bureaucratic supremacy.6 Critics of the political influence of the TSK in Turkey formulate their objections around the concept of military guardianship or tutelage (askeri vesayet). In a nutshell, the argument is that officers retard Turkey's development through their constant political interventions in order to preserve their domestic influence and privileges by means of a self-styled mission to protect Atatürk's legacy.7 A turning point in this pattern came about in 2007, when the democratically elected AKP government rebuffed a political ultimatum by the TSK.8
Until recent years, Turkish political culture made a crucial distinction between the "state" (devlet) and the "government" (hükümet). The former was considered to be above politics and consisted of the TSK, the judiciary, some high-ranking civilian bureaucrats and the president — until 2007, when a former AKP politician, Abdullah Gül, was elected to that post. The "government" consisted of the cabinet that emerged from the elected parliament, the Grand National Assembly. National security, foreign policy, and matters deemed important to state ideology formed the domain of "state policy." Government initiative was largely restricted to low political matters such as the economy, infrastructure and administrative technicalities. An active judiciary further limited the room for maneuver of governments, even in these areas. Thus, the appointed traditionally had the upper hand vis-à-vis the elected, even in the multi-party era.
Enacted in 1961 under military rule, the Internal Service Act charges the TSK with the duty to defend the republic against internal, as well as external, threats — if necessary by force. The TSK justified its interventions in politics with this code. Separatism and Islamic reaction (irtica) have alternated at the top of the TSK's list of internal threats. The use of military methods for solving domestic political problems has often aggravated them. For instance, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) became active in 1984 following the tenure of the 1980-83 military government. Until lately, the AKP had failed to convince the high command that it was committed to Turkey's secular political order, and so it remained at the top of the TSK's list of internal threats.
In Turkey, modernization is commonly referred to as becoming contemporary (çağdaşlaşma), a concept that puts the emphasis on keeping up with changing times. Nevertheless, the CHP and the TSK gradually institutionalized the Kemalist principles of "republicanism," "nationalism," "statism," "secularism," "populism" and "revolutionism" as an immutable state ideology. This official ideology is enshrined in the preamble of Turkey's constitution, its first sentence identifying "Atatürk's nationalism, reforms, and principles" as the direction along which the country will progress.9
Social engineering and assimilation became the hallmarks of this modernizing official ideology. Religious conservatives and Kurds have been the primary victims of its heavy-handed application. The Kurds' demands for some autonomy and the religious conservatives' desire to continue their traditional lifestyle were perceived as fatal threats by the strictly secularist state establishment. The state declared Kurdish secessionism and Islamic reaction its archenemies, at times failing to distinguish terrorists from peaceful Kurds and often perceiving religious Muslims as a reactionary threat. The state's high-handed treatment of Kurds as potential separatists led to a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Radical Kurdish nationalists resorted to internationally supported terrorism with the PKK. Having cost 40,000 lives and incalculable resources during the past three decades, its terror attacks still go on. The state's attempt to overcome challenges caused by diversity through forced homogenization failed, exacerbating them. After decades and enormous resources were wasted, the society is finally beginning to reconsider this approach critically. Many are shifting their preferences from forced homogenization to democratic "unity in diversity." This bifurcation is a major component of the current political and cultural polarization challenging Turkey.
DEMOCRATIZATION FROM BELOW
The deepening of democracy during the 2000s undermined the traditional dominance of the state bureaucracy over elected governments and caused a sharp political polarization. Increased freedom of expression and opposition, decentralization and diversification of the media, and new information and communication technologies combined to create unprecedented transparency. A dynamic and globalizing economy empowered new political actors, while increasing transparency repeatedly exposed traditional ideological/political tutelage and associated transgressions of the rule of law.
Fearing an imagined threat of Islamic reaction, some hard-line Kemalists apparently resorted to illegal methods to topple the legitimate government. This risky initiative badly backfired, defeating its intended purpose and marking a turning point in the evolution of Turkish democracy. The country's experience of the past eight and a half years under AKP governments has not confirmed the frequently repeated Islamist-threat hypothesis.
Former Prime Minister and President Turgut Özal sowed the seeds of the current transformation almost three decades ago. In the early 1980s, chronic balance-of-payments deficits and foreign-exchange bottlenecks brought the import-substitution-based economy to a halt and forced economic liberalization. Supported by the military government of 1980-83, the liberal economic policies of Özal led to the emergence of new business circles primarily oriented towards global markets instead of Ankara.
Many of these new capitalists came from recently developing Anatolian towns and were devout Muslims. With their rapidly increasing resources, they backed selected nongovernmental organizations, media outlets and political parties to defend and promote their interests. Official ideology remained dominant among the earlier established capitalist circles largely created by the state, but with the rise of Anatolian capital it gradually lost the major economic instruments necessary to perpetuate itself. Next came the intensification of relations with the EU and its insistence on political liberalization and civilianization. Thus, globalization and regional integration mobilized and promoted domestic dynamics that challenged the official ideology.
Economic stability and growth became very important in Turkish politics with the emergence of a rapidly expanding middle class of modern consumers. Turkish citizens increasingly rely on consumer credits and need stable economic growth to sustain their living standards. They do not appreciate escalating ideological and political confrontations that may endanger citizen welfare.
Turkey's electoral democracy has evolved towards a genuinely liberal one during the past decade through consolidation of more civil and political rights, in addition to free and fair elections. The European Commission's Turkey 2010 Progress Report underlines that the country continues to fulfill the political criteria for EU membership and that it has made new progress regarding the judiciary and fundamental rights with its recent constitutional reform.10 Turkey's Freedom House ratings in political and civil liberties have also improved within the decade.11
Gross domestic product (GDP) tripled during the 2002-11 AKP tenure, making Turkey the seventeenth largest economy in the world.12 Per capita GDP also tripled during the same period, exceeding $10,000.13 Global credit agencies have successively upgraded the country's financial ratings, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that Turkey will be the fastest-growing economy among its members during 2011-17, at an average annual rate of 6.7 percent.14 This trend confirms the development-as-freedom hypothesis of Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen.15
Democratic deepening in Turkey has been achieved for the most part through the gradual dismantling of the so-called "guardianship system" (vesayet sistemi). In this context, guardianship or tutelage stands somewhere between guidance and manipulation, and between leadership and domination. Officers, judges, other bureaucratic elites and their political supporters traditionally guided the nation in accordance with Atatürk's principles and reforms. The guardians also held a monopoly on interpreting Atatürk's doctrines and presented their own interpretation of them as official ideology. In the 2000s, transparency has exposed military, judicial, and media-based tutelage structures, and the democracy-empowered conservative democrats are dismantling them.
Thus, reformists and status quo actors have changed places. In the past, Kemalists were the Westernizing reformists, and religious conservatives resisted change. Now, the religious democrats are reforming politics along the lines of European norms, while Kemalists resist change. This happened spontaneously as the Islamists learned through experience that their best escape route from the pressure of the state was through democratization, human rights and EU integration. They seem to have gradually internalized what they learned. The Kemalists' automatic reaction against suspected Islamism boxed them into an awkward position opposing contemporary political and economic currents.
The termination of tutelage has transferred to individuals the power and responsibility to make critical decisions about their own lives.16 Such emancipation has generated great opportunity for human growth and maturity and is in tune with Atatürk's vision of modern citizens with a "free mind and free conscience" (fikri hür, vicdanı hür). In his time, Atatürk was striving for the emancipation of minds from religious dogma; now, authoritarian political tutelage seems to have run its course as well.
The founders of the AKP, which was established in 2001 and has held power since November 2002, came from the reformist wing of Turkey's Islamist movement (Necmettin Erbakan's Milli Görüş), but they distanced themselves and their new party from the discourse of traditional political Islam. They adopted conservative democracy and economic liberalism as their ideology, worked towards EU integration and democratization, created and sustained macroeconomic stability and growth, and insist that they have no intention of changing the secular order of the country.
Hale and Özbudun note that conservative democracy's values, "limited government, the rule of law, the centrality of the individual, free-market economy, strong civil society, universal human rights, the importance of dialogue and toleration,… suggest more a liberal than a conservative ideology," and that the AKP's "conservatism can best be described as an attitude in favor of natural and evolutionary change, and a posture against social engineering."17 The AKP successfully resisted removal from power through traditional tactics. For example, it established a media-independent direct link with its electoral base through the provision of services and became relatively immune to organized media assaults. Its even-tempered but firm stance aborted calculated escalations of violence through terror attacks and street provocations that were intended to create coup-friendly conditions.
Disbelief at the AKP's internalizing of secular governance remains common among the "modernizing" Kemalist elites in the TSK, the top judiciary and the CHP. They presume that the AKP is gradually implementing a longer-term secret agenda to subvert the lay republic and establish an Islamic state through deception (taqiyyah) and "packing" (kadrolaşma) — appointing as many party loyalists as possible to critical positions in state institutions, to assure political influence even if the party falls from power.
THE 2008 CLOSURE CASE
The nature of the Islamism-secularism debate was crystallized by the 2008 AKP closure case at the Constitutional Court.18 The chief state prosecutor, a strict Kemalist, argued for the closure of the AKP for being a center of activities against the constitutional principle of "laicism" (secularism in governance). He cited news reports of party members' statements as the main evidence. Most of these statements demanded the lifting of the ban on female university students wearing headscarves. As the required majority of seven votes needed for closure was barely missed, the Court ruled that the regular public financial support to the party for the year be reduced by half. The critical issues in the trial were the interpretation of the principle of laicism and the AKP's alleged hidden agenda to subvert it.
The prosecutor seemed to define secularism as a lifestyle. He interpreted as violations the insistence of some female students to wear the headscarf in universities, the demand for easier access to university education for graduates of professional high schools for religious service providers (İmam Hatip Liseleri), and the desire of some families to enroll their children in Quran courses at an early age. He claimed that the representation of these widespread public demands by the AKP also violated laicism and the constitution.
The AKP claimed that laicism, defined as separation of church and state, is a macro-level attribute of the political system and not an adjective that can be applied to individual persons. Thus, states are or are not laic, but individuals cannot be so described. Individuals can at best support or disapprove of laicism to varying degrees, in keeping with their freedom of thought and expression.
The AKP also noted that it is calling for "democratic laicism," which the prosecutor treated as evidence for his closure case. The concept envisions the state situating itself at an equal distance from all religions. In practice, the Turkish state has elevated laicism to the level of a philosophy of life. Besides, the state controls religion to a significant extent through its Directorate of Religious Affairs. The AKP further claimed that it is striving to have all different religious and ethnic communities live peacefully in a democratic environment, and that the prosecutor's vision is a totalitarian one, rejecting diversity in society.
In reality, the conflict between Islam and secular governance seems to be merely ideological rather than substantive. An-Naim persuasively explains that "a secular state is more consistent with Islamic history than is the so-called Islamic state model proposed by some Muslims since the second quarter of the twentieth century."19 Comparing state policies toward religion in the United States (passive secularism) with those in France and Turkey (assertive secularism), Kuru predicts "the decline of assertive secularism in Turkey due to increasing democratization in the future."20 "Assertive secularism" seeks to constrain the social influence and public visibility of religion and promotes secularism as a life philosophy, while "passive secularism" involves state neutrality towards all religions, allows the public visibility of religion, and rejects the state's forcible dictation of a particular lifestyle to its citizens.21
Secularism is widely accepted and supported in Turkey; complications generally arise from its authoritarian imposition. Hardcore Islamists number no more than 10 percent of the country's population and can be contained within a liberal democracy through the rule of law. The AKP's electoral success has not been caused by an increase of Islamists. It is largely due to the party's distancing itself from traditional Islamism. In contradistinction to authoritarian secularists, most liberal secularists are convinced that the AKP is evolving into an Islamic version of the European Christian Democratic parties and that support for it assures better governance and stable economic growth. Should the taqiyyah thesis be confirmed in the future and the AKP turn to authoritarian Islamism, its electoral support will shrink drastically, along with its capacity to govern.
It is unfortunate that Kemalism and Islam continue to clash through a debate on the female headscarf, sustaining the centuries-old clothing problem in Turkish politics.22 Atatürk did not want to leave behind a frozen ideology; he set the moving target of "contemporary civilization" (muasır medeniyet) and the European model for his followers, thus facilitating flexibility in modernization.
In the twenty-first century, Atatürk's vision for Turkey to "attain the level of the highest contemporary civilization" should form the higher-order guideline to interpret his other principles. Undoubtedly, democracy is today a sine qua non of advanced contemporary civilization. A modern or post-modern consciousness can only flourish in a free and pluralist social environment protected by the democratic rule of law. By missing the deeper purpose and adhering to outward appearances of modernity such as clothing, the "modernizing elites" of Turkey have sparked unnecessary conflict with democratization and the will of the nation.
POLARIZED CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
Turkey's recent debate over amending the constitution functioned as a resonance test, defining the fronts in the country's polarized politics. The hard core of political opposition tirelessly insisted that the AKP had a secret agenda to gradually transform Turkey into a totalitarian state based on Islamic law, the sharia. AKP opponents injected high doses of fear into society with the help of like-minded media conglomerates. In the September 2010 referendum, 42 percent of the electorate resisted further political liberalization primarily because of this local Islamophobia. The increased visibility of Islamic head-scarves especially irritated "modern" urban women. In any case, people intimidated by the AKP's religious conservatism have to be reassured that constitutional safeguards reliably protect their lifestyles.
Polarization is a natural but undesirable consequence of rapid democratization. The shift of power from the ruling few to the ruled many inevitably generates conflict. The newly empowered masses and the old guard form the opposing poles of a new power rivalry. In Turkey, the two camps present very different interpretations of the country's development trajectory. The optimistic reformists envisage a democratic and prosperous center of regional attraction, while pessimistic Kemalists fear that reactionary Islamism and Kurdish ethnic separatism will bring about the end of the republic.
Alongside political socialization for military and civilian bureaucrats, the national education system also presents Atatürk as not only a historical leader but also the "immortal" symbol uniting and guiding the modern Turkish nation.23 Through socialization and internalization, this sacred symbol becomes an integral component of the identities of most Turks.24 Hence, Atatürk's legacy has a dual and potentially confusing role as both a source of political ideas and ideology for Kemalists, and a sacred symbol of national unity in the identities of most citizens.
Democratization gradually empowered the formerly marginal religious conservatives in Turkey. The AKP turned out to be the leading force for deeper democratization and liberalization through legitimate use of democratic politics. Patient electoral support for reform has demonstrated that democratization had a solid base in society. Top-down modernization inevitably clashed, at least partially, with bottom-up democracy.25 Sustained for nearly a decade already, such polarization narrows society's vision, impedes empathy and collective creativity, and increases the risks of political and economic instability. The negative experiences of the rightist-leftist polarization of the 1970s in Turkey that led to the 1980 military coup support this reasoning.
The Wall Street Journal likened the confrontation between the AKP and its opponents to a "bloodless civil war," commenting on the constitutional-amendment debates in Turkey's parliament.26 On September 12, 2010, 58 percent of Turkey's electorate approved a package of 26 constitutional changes in a turnout of 77 percent. The package addressed five fundamental areas: (1) individual freedoms, (2) collective liberties, (3) effective means for appeal and freedom to pursue rights, (4) the military judiciary, and (5) the judiciary in general.27
Rights concerning individual freedoms are expanded by additional safeguards for women, children and the socially weak; the protection of individual privacy and personal information is strengthened; and restrictions on the right to travel abroad are limited to cases of ongoing criminal probes under a judge's order. Collective liberties are increased with the removal of some of the constitutional prohibitions on labor rights, and by giving civil servants the right to make collective contracts and to appeal disciplinary action. Regarding appeals and seeking one's rights, the amendments allow individuals to directly petition the Constitutional Court and to file complaints and requests for information to an ombudsman. The jurisdiction of military courts is reduced in favor of civilian courts, and the de facto judicial immunity of the chief of staff and force commanders is terminated. The essence of the changes addressing the judiciary in general consists of pluralization and the purging of ideology from the judicial hierarchy.28
The restructuring of two top judiciary organs, the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors, formed the fundamental area of contention between the supporters and opponents of the amendment package. The memberships of both organs are expanded, allowing more pluralism and making it harder for any ideological interpretation to dominate them. The reforms are supposed to reorient the higher judiciary from its priority of protecting official ideology toward upholding the rule of law.
Given that both organs had strict Kemalist majorities, fierce resistance to change suggests that the root cause of the dispute was ideological. The AKP seems to have calibrated the changes to shake the dominance of hard-line Kemalists in these bodies and to make another potential closure case against itself at the Constitutional Court less risky. Kemalists seem to have fought to defend the supremacy of their ideology in critical institutions. Divergent interpretations of the constitutional principle of laicism continued to form a recurring topic of intense conflict. Overall, changes are in general conformity with contemporary constitutional law.
Analyzing the judicialization of politics in semi-democratic regimes, Shambayati underscores the tendency of outgoing military regimes to create "politically powerful judicial institutions to act as guardians of the military-sponsored constitutional order," and to "minimize the influence of the political branches in the affairs of the judiciary, including appointments to the high courts."29 In a similar vein, Maravall argues that an opposition party with little chance of coming to power through elections will resort to the judicialization of politics.30 The 2010 constitutional-amendment debate illustrated that such reasoning shapes much of the judicial preferences of the CHP and its allies.
High judiciary organs in Turkey were often accused of putting aside impartiality and treating actors differently based on their ideological commitments. Such behavior hurt the public conscience and reduced confidence in the justice system. The public recently discussed whether military juntas had implanted ideological filters and appointment procedures into the justice system to assure the domination of uncompromising Kemalism. Critics pointed to an ideological clique perpetuating itself in the top judiciary, as in a closed caste system. The constitutional amendments are expected to foster neutrality and dedication to the rule of law. With improved performance, the compromised legitimacy and prestige of the judiciary is likely to increase. After the June 2011 elections, an attempt will be made to produce with broad-based participation a new individual-centered constitution instead of the current state-centric one.
IDEOLOGY VERSUS RULE OF LAW
According to the indictments in the ongoing Balyoz and Ergenekon trials, some ultra-Kemalist officers and their networked political and economic extensions in the broader society launched a media-supported, anti-AKP militarization and judicialization of politics as soon as the newly established party came to power. Taking on lofty ends to justify their illegal means, they resorted to psychological operations based on black propaganda and political assassinations. They also made various plans to provoke chaos and topple the AKP government via a military coup. This affront to democracy and the rule of law angered a substantial part of the electorate and grossly backfired. AKP votes increased by a large margin, reaching 47 percent in the 2007 elections and 50 percent in 2011, and the credibility of the justice system declined, as did the political/ideological influence and prestige of the armed forces, the top judiciary organs, and the rest of the bureaucracy.
Voters repeatedly used elections to achieve and consolidate more civil and political rights, demonstrating how electoral democracy's modest room for political maneuver can gradually lead to more freedom. "Liberation technology," defined as "any form of information and communication technology … that can expand political, social and economic freedom,"31 facilitated the extensive generation and dissemination of sensitive political intelligence and mobilized an attentive public opinion. Clandestine military, juridical and political communications and activities became public, along with concrete evidence such as audio recordings of wiretaps or leaked official documents. The liberal daily Taraf served as the Turkish counterpart of WikiLeaks. Professional and dedicated officers desiring to cleanse their institution of coup plotters leaked evidence on illegal activity within the TSK, ranging from detailed coup plans to arsenals hidden in non-military locations. Transparency and the resultant public awakening shook the mystique of law-abiding guardian-bureaucrats and altered the political balance of power in the country.
Resorting to militarization and judicialization of politics to defend Atatürk's legacy turned out to be highly counterproductive. Under increased transparency, such transgressions of the rule of law can no longer be hidden from the people and lead to major public disappointment and trauma. Such illegal action weakens Turkey's legal system, the basis of its secular order. Discrediting the modern legal system may logically translate into credit for traditional religious law. Using unlawful methods against an exaggerated Islamist threat can backfire.
Upholding individual rights, the rule of law is also a key precondition of liberal democracy. Sustaining the market economy as well, the rule of law protects political and civil liberties within a fair justice system in which laws are public knowledge, clear in meaning, and apply equally to everyone; and judges are "impartial and independent, not subject to political influence or manipulation."32 The rule of law is not only a prerequisite for sustainable economic and political development; it is also indispensable for the growth of the human spirit in freedom and diversity.33
According to Maravall and Przeworski, "In societies that approximate the rule of law, no group becomes so strong as to dominate others, and law, rather than reflect[ing] the interests of a single group, is used by the many."34 Having the power of society balance the power of the state is complicated by coordination problems that make the former vulnerable to the "divide and rule" tactics of the latter. In Weingast's model, the "sovereign transgresses the rights of some citizens while retaining the support of other citizens sufficient in number to keep the sovereign in power."35 In Machiavelli's terms, rulers have a strong motivation to keep the people uncertain, disorganized, quarreling and incapable of resistance.36
Citizens can deter potential transgressions by the state if they can coordinate their actions, because rulers fear being deposed and avoid violating citizen rights.37 Weingast suggests constitutions as coordination devices to overcome this collective-action problem. A constitution "coordinates citizens in their reaction to the state," specifying "procedures for governmental decision making and the rights of citizens," thus making transparent "the meaning of a transgression."38 This does not require a "consensus" involving agreement on the main issues by everyone in society.
Constitutions can stabilize the rule of law, "not because citizens agree [on substantive issues] but rather because they have been able to move beyond their disagreements to agree on a coordination device" in order to deter the state from violating their rights and freedom.39 The specific role of the rule of law in liberalizing deficient democracies seems to be to function as a neutral arbiter and stability anchor during power transfers from appointed to elected institutions and officials. Hence, the rule of law becomes especially important in times of transformation.
This review of recent democratization in Turkey offers some insights for democracy-aspiring reformers in the Islamic world:
1) Be confident in the feasibility of a thriving and modern Muslim-majority nation governing itself with a democratic and secular political system.
2) Focus on deeper meanings rather than surface formalisms, to escape the social trap of a secularism-Islam polarization that locks political actors in perpetual conflict.
3) Avoid interpreting laicism as a lifestyle and trying to impose it forcibly upon everyone in society. It is more functional to adopt "passive" rather than "assertive" secularism.
4) Emphasize universal human rights as well as civil and political freedoms in constitutions, steering clear of rigid ideological doctrines and the glorification of the state.
5) Design institutions flexibly rather than declaring their eternal unchangeability. People know from experience that change is the only constant in life.
6) Make sure that the training of the armed forces and their legal framework meet the requirements of modern military professionalism based on civilian oversight.
7) Never use the judiciary as an ideological and political tool. To insure the impartiality and reliability of courts, take effective measures in critical areas from the education of lawyers to constitutional design.
8) Purge military and civilian bureaucratic institutions of anti-democratic elements, and maintain accountability and transparency.
9) Carry out proper trials and convictions of coup plotters in courts of law in order to deter future violations; appeasement only encourages further attacks on democracy.
10) Provide full freedom of the press, but promote the institutionalization of professional and ethical standards in media organs to prevent the manipulation of society.
11) Avoid state capitalism and the creation of a state-dependent national bourgeoisie, as they are likely to resist democratization and income redistribution.
12) Encourage a mind-opening and empathy-promoting national education system, resisting the temptation to use it for ideological indoctrination.
13) Avoid personality cults, which can be used as political weapons by authoritarian forces.
14) Maintain the state as a service-providing institution created by the people for the people.
15) Encourage modernization from below, and do not attempt to impose it from above.
1 Some examples of the plethora of opinions on the Turkish model are Mensur Akgün, Sabiha Senyücel Gündoğar, Jonathan Levack, and Gökçe Perçinoğlu, Ortadoğuda Türkiye Algısı 2010 [The Perception of Turkey in the Middle East 2010], (Istanbul: TESEV, 2011); Euronews, "Turkey: A Model for the Arab World?" accessed on April 10, 2011, http://www.euronews.net/2011/03/25/turkey-a-model-for-the-arab-world/; Servet Yanatma, "Al-Ghannushi Says Turkey's Democracy a Model for Tunisia," accessed on April 10, 2011, http://www.globalrights.info/world/africa/1203-al-ghannushi-says-turkey…; Pelin Turgut, "A Model of Middle East Democracy, Turkey Calls for Change in Egypt," accessed on April 10, 2011, http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2045723,00.html; and Reuters, "Can Arabs Learn from Turkish Model of Islam and Democracy?" accessed on April 10, 2011, http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2011/02/03/can-arabs-learn-from-tur….
2 Tayyip Erdogan was the most favored foreign leader in the Arab world in 2010, according to a survey by Zogby International and the University of Maryland: Benjamin Harvey, Gregory Viscusi, and Massoud A. Derhally, "Arabs Battling Regimes See Erdogan's Muslim Democracy as Model," accessed on April 10, 2011, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-04/arabs-battling-regimes-see-erd….
3 Fareed Zakaria, The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad (W. W. Norton & Company, 2007).
4 Wolfgang Merkel and Aurel Croissant, "Conclusion: Good and Defective Democracies," Democratization, Vol. 11, No. 5 (2004): 199-213.
5 Francis Fukuyama, "Transitions to the Rule of Law," Journal of Democracy, Vol. 21, No. 1 (2010): 33-44.
6 A compact comparative study of the Egyptian, Algerian, and Turkish armed forces' political influence is provided by Steven A. Cook, Ruling But Not Governing: The Military and Political Development in Egypt, Algeria, and Turkey (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007).
7 For an outspoken critique of military guardianship in Turkey, see: İhsan Dağı, Turkey between Democracy and Militarism: Post-Kemalist Perspectives (Ankara: Orion Publications, 2008).
8 As of April 10, 2011, TSK's 2007 ultimatum is still available at the website of the Turkish Chief of Staff, http://www.tsk.tr/10_ARSIV/10_1_Basin_Yayin_Faaliyetleri/10_1_Basin_Aci….
9 The Constitution of the Republic of Turkey [English], http://www.byegm.gov.tr/sayfa.aspx?Id=78.
10 "Turkey 2010 Progress Report," European Commission, http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/pdf/key_documents/2010/package/tr_rappo….
11 Freedom House country reports for Turkey from 2002 to 2010, http://www.freedomhouse.org/.
12 World Economic Outlook data on International Monetary Fund's website: http://www.imf.org/external/index.htm.
13 "Turkey Leads Europe in Economic Growth with 8.9 Percent," Invest in Turkey, accessed on April 10, 2011, http://www.invest.gov.tr/fr-FR/infocenter/news/Pages/310311-turkey-2010…. Turkey's GDP reached 735 billion US dollars in current prices in 2010.
14 "Economic Outlook No. 86," OECD (2009), http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=EO86_MAIN.
15 Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (Anchor Books, 1999).
16 Useful ideas for democratic civil-military relations are offered by Thomas C. Bruneau and Scott D. Tollefson, Who Guards the Guardians and How: Democratic Civil-Military Relations (University of Texas Press, 2006).
17 William Hale and Ergun Özbudun, Islamism, Democracy, and Liberalism in Turkey: The Case of the AKP (Routledge, 2010), 24. A comprehensive account of AKP's evolution is provided by M. Hakan Yavuz, Secularism and Muslim Democracy in Turkey (Cambridge University Press, 2009).
18 The prosecutor's indictment, AKP's defense, and the Constitutional Court's verdict with its legal ground [Turkish], http://www.anayasa.gov.tr/.
19 Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naim, Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Sharia (Harvard University Press, 2008), 45.
20 Ahmet T. Kuru, Secularism and State Policies Toward Religion: The United States, France, and Turkey (Cambridge University Press, 2009), 241.
22 Cihan Aktaş, Tanzimattan 12 Marta Kılık-Kıyafet ve İktidar [Clothing and Power from Tanzimat to March 12] (İstanbul: Nehir Yayınları, 1991).
23 Some of the germane studies of the topic are Sam Kaplan, The Pedagogical State: Education and the Politics of National Culture in Post-1980 Turkey (Stanford University Press, 2006); İsmail Kaplan, Türkiyede Milli Eğitim İdeolojisi ve Siyasal Toplumsallaşma Üzerindeki Etkisi [The Ideology of National Education in Turkey and its Influence on Political Socialization] (Istanbul: İletişim, 1999); Füsun Üstel, "Makbul Vatandaş"ın Peşinde: II. Meşrutiyetten Bugüne Vatandaşlık Eğitimi [In Search of the Desirable Citizen: Citizenship Education Since the II. Meşrutiyet], (İletişim, 2004); and Tarih Öğretimi ve Ders Kitapları [History Education and Textbooks], ed. Salih Özbaran (İzmir: Dokuz Eylül Yayınları, 1998).
24 For psychological mechanisms concerning personal and national identities, see William Bloom, Personal Identity, National Identity, and International Relations (Cambridge University Press, 1990).
25 Karpat argues that political Islamism in the Ottoman State and in Turkey was a tool for resisting the national bureaucracy. See Kemal Karpat, The Politicization of Islam: Reconstruction and Identity, State Faith, and Community in the Late Ottoman State (Oxford University Press, 2001).
26 Marc Champion, "Intrigue in Turkey's Bloodless Civil War," The Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2010.
27 Osman Can, Darbe Yargısının Sonu: Karargah Yargısından Halkın Yargısına [The End of Coup Judiciary: From Encampment Justice to People's Justice] (Timaş Yayınları, 2010), 183-190.
28 Ibid., 185-186.
29 Hootan Shambayati, "Courts in Semi-Democratic/Authoritarian Regimes: The Judicialization of Turkish (and Iranian) Politics," in Rule by Law: The Politics of Courts in Authoritarian Regimes ed. Tom Ginsburg and Tamir Mustafa (Cambridge University Press, 2008), 287.
30 Jose Maria Maravall, "The Rule of Law as a Political Weapon," in Democracy and the Rule of Law, ed. Jose Maria Maravall and Adam Przeworski (Cambridge University Press, 2003), 261-301.
31 Larry Diamond, "Liberation Technology," Journal of Democracy, Vol. 21, No. 3 (2010): 70.
32 Thomas Carothers, "The Rule-of-Law Revival," in Promoting the Rule of Law Abroad: In Search of Knowledge, ed. Thomas Carothers (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2006), 4-5.
33 Brian Z. Tamanaha, On the Rule of Law: History, Politics, Theory (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 1-2.
34 Jose Maria Maravall and Adam Przeworski, introduction of Democracy and the Rule of Law, 4.
35 Barry Weingast, "A Postscript to ‘Political Foundations of Democracy and the Rule of Law,'" in Democracy and the Rule of Law, 111.
36 Stephen Holmes, "Lineages of the Rule of Law," in Democracy and the Rule of Law, 29.
37 Barry Weingast, "A Postscript to 'Political Foundations of Democracy and the Rule of Law,'" in Democracy and the Rule of Law, 110.
38 Ibid., 111.
39 Ibid., 113.