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Pact For Pluralist Democracy Needed In Post-Erdogan Turkey

Amid deepening economic crisis, domestic and foreign policy disarray, and the decline of public support for Turkey’s strongman president, discussions on what a Turkey without Erdogan could/should look like are becoming more prevalent. Still, many experts agree that the end of Erdogan’s rule in and of itself wouldn’t usher in an era of democracy, especially without the opposition’s adoption of a pluralist approach.
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In an article recently published in Turkish Policy Quarterly, Mehmet Yegin, a visiting fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) and an editorial board member at FeniksPolitik, and Salim Cevik, an associate at SWP’s Centre for Applied Turkey Studies (CATS), discuss the prospects for democracy in post Erdogan-era Turkey, and the opposition’s options for a way forward.

According to Yegin and Cevik, a post-Erdogan Turkey wouldn’t automatically spell democracy for the country.

“The best-case scenario for Turkish democracy is only possible through the acknowledgement and resolution of Turkey’s systemic and political deficits that were present before Erdogan”, they argue.

Over the course of their near two-decade rule, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have never faced a more dire situation in terms of economic performance and projected electoral support.

Yegin and Cevik underline that President Erdogan owed his popularity, essentially, to his ability to deliver good governance, vital services, and strong economic growth throughout the course of the first decade of his tenure. Early successes in these areas, however, have undergone a stark, albeit gradual, reversal.

Since the failed coup attempt of 2016, the Turkish lira has lost more than 220 per cent of its value against the euro. According to official figures, annual inflation is running at around 17 per cent and the unemployment rate was registered at nearly 14 per cent in May, one per cent higher than the month before. The severe effects of the pandemic and the loss of vital revenue from tourism for a second year in a row have made a bad economic situation worse.

However, many experts believe that the true state of the Turkish economy is far worse, as they argue that the government is manipulating figures to create a rosier picture.

For Yegin and Cevik, “Turkey is reaching a crossroads, and Erdogan’s efforts to cling on to power continue despite their decreasing degree of success. At the same time, it is hard to argue that the opposition has truly learned and internalized the lessons of Turkey’s troubled democratic past.

Short-sightedly, the opposition is focusing too much of its attention on ridding the country of an authoritarian leader without giving much thought to the roadmap that would eliminate the authoritarian structures and mentalities that prompted Erdogan’s rise.”

However, they argue that fledgling efforts to reverse the authoritarian makeup of the system are beginning to emerge, offering a path forward.

“But reaching this path of unfettered democratization will require the opposition leaders’ persistent and decisive efforts to draft a new democratic constitution rooted in the principles of pluralism” and an accord among elites “that expands individual rights vis-à-vis the state, that enforces a merit-based bureaucracy, and that eliminates the rent-distributing state structure to end the elite battles for control.”