Turkey: Heading for normalisation or breakdown?

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The recent political and societal tensions in Turkey are necessary and unavoidable steps on the road to the normalisation of democracy, writes Senem Aydin Düzgit in a 6 July commentary for the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS).

The military’s intervention in Turkey’s presidential election demonstrates that it sees itself as the guarantor of secularism and the territorial integrity of Turkey, argues Düzgit and goes on to say that the military’s statement needs to be viewed in a wider framework in order to have a better understanding of what it implies for Turkish politics as well as for Turkey’s relations with Europe. 

The management of the issue could either lead to the consolidation of democracy in the country, or further damage it, Düzgit believes, saying that the elections on 22 July – and subsequent presidential election – are crucial. They must be held on the specified date if there is to be any hope of political stability and normalisation in Turkey, he declares. 

The author believes that the military was seeking to influence the Constitutional Court’s decision on the validity of the presidential elections – yet circumscribed by the fear of external reaction, primarily from the EU. This fear was manifested in the indirect and ambiguous means through which the military issued the statement. 

Düzgit argues that although civil-military relations are far from normalised in Turkey, they are evolving within the framework the country’s relations with the EU. Hence the lack of retaliation from the military following the ruling AKP party’s response that its intervention was unacceptable in a democracy – where the military would have to be subordinate to the government, explains the paper. 

The election of a single-party AKP government on July 22 is no guarantee that tensions between the executive and the military would be eased on the way to normalisation, Düzgit claims. Its stance on the presidential election has shown that the AKP can hardly be considered a champion of democracy, the author adds. 

Much responsibility for Turkey’s future falls on the European Union, Düzgit observes. The election of Sarkozy in France combined with rising scepticism towards the EU in Turkey is further complicating the issue, the author adds. 

The CEPS paper concludes that the EU’s focus should be carrying on with accession negotiations as planned, as this is the best way to encourage the move towards the normalisation and consolidation of Turkish democracy – rather then dwelling on endless debates over European identity and questioning the principle of Turkish accession itself. 

Düzgit concludes that the EU should pressurise Turkey to make more changes to the Constitution, most notably to lower the electoral threshold of 10%, which would allow Kurds to participate in the political process. 

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