Turkey has seen immense democratic erosion (backsliding) in the last few years of the Justice and Development party’s (AKP) rule in Turkey. Initially, the party brought about great prosperity, including membership talks with the European Union and strong economic gains. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s President, has had a detrimental impact on democracy, which Turkey once saw as the becoming of a model country, quickly turned into a democratic disruption. Erdogan’s rise to power as well as his consolidation of it played a large role in his strategic tenure, as he started as a populist leader of the people to his use of institutions to consolidate his power and effectively become an authoritarian. Turkey’s adoption of the presidential system allowed Erdogan to expand upon his power, as his use of media both on public and private accounts shows his willingness to use social media to spread and promote disinformation. With Turkey’s Freedom House rating plummeted in the past decade, the country had to endure tremendous congressional changes.
In Levitsky and Ziblatt’s “How Democracies Die”, the authors examine how American democracy has kept extremist candidates in check, but such candidates were prevented from accessing power by the gatekeeping function of political parties. This means that democratic advocates keep democracy safe and hinder the influence of other political practices to ultimately prevent what they believe can turn into democratic backsliding. For example, Levitsky and Ziblatt quote a fable by Aesop, emphasizing the Hunter and the Stag. The Hunter in this case is the authoritarian, which in their example is portrayed by Benito Mussolini. Mussolini is the hunter, the authoritarian that will go to great lengths for power. The Stag, however, is portrayed as the establishment, and killing it represent power won through elections. It represents the way authoritarians take power, by promising establishment politicians short-term gain in exchange for their support. Mussolini put on a facade that made it seem as though he has great power, while he actually wasn’t powerful at all and could have been stopped rather easily. This shows an almost mirror image of Erdogan, who prioritized his own personal gain instead of the future of the countries, reflective of an establishment politician.
In an article by Jan-Werner Muller, populism is examined under the lens of political identity, utilized by the elites and has a moral claim of representation. Muller argues against combining populism with “irresponsible politics”, associating angry voters. This represents voters that the liberal elites are condescending and “unable to live up to their own democratic ideals by failing to take ordinary people at their word” (Muller 16) . Populists therefore may seem like they are 100% representative of the people, while they are really trying to illegitimize other actors that make representative claims. Erdogan’s method includes targeting any institution or society that stands in his way of reshaping Turkey’s political main frame. He made a move that saw Turkey be withdrew from the Istanbul convention, a treaty that strongly supports the women’s rights movement in Turkey. Similar to Donald Trump, Erdogan’s populist ways include preying on the people in order to tailor to his agenda. Politicians and the media should address the issues raised by populists but challenge their framing. As for the U.S and trump, citizens were put at ease knowing that their economic stresses would be alleviated. This shows that both Erdogan and Trump display that they are acting in one way, while they are really just trying to optimize their authoritarian populist agenda.
Turkey’s current state gives little hope to the becoming of a strong democracy due to strenuous circumstances within presidency. It is enamoring to see how a leader who was bringing so much good to a country can still undermine democracy. From his plan on human rights to almost entirely infiltrating the media, Erdogan has had the public on his side for years, and there was no better time to look for self-gain than long into his tenure. On that account, the country has much at stake for the upcoming 2023 elections, which will determine if Erdogan’s tenure of authoritarianism will continue or not, an extremely detrimental election for the country as a whole. This very much lies within the parliament, as a proto-democratic regime must be put forth for reforms allowing liberal constitutionalism following public support. From this, a democratic alliance must win, and a re-democratization process must be a primary order of business. Democratic erosion can occur so easily, and it would be hard to notice often times, so it’s important to accurately understand history.
Reports, Special. “Insiders Reveal How Erdogan Tamed Turkey’s Newsrooms.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 31 Aug. 2022, https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/turkey-erdogan-media/.
Bridgham, Evan, and Connor Long. “About.” Democratic Erosion, 17 May 2022, https://www.democratic-erosion.com/2022/05/17/rise-of-erdogan-and-democratic-erosion-in-turkey/.