Turkey from democracy to autocracy. How we lost a Middle East country with high level of democratic values


Turkey had stepped into a whole new era when a new government came to power in 2001. The new government (AKP – Justice and Development Party) was voicing out democracy, western values, European integration and modern Islamic views. For its attempts toward democratic values the new government has not only been popular in the country but also in the Middle East region and in the world as well. Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan later became the head of the main ruling party and was elected as a prime minister. Economic and democratic reforms were enforced in the country in short period. Tutelary regime showed a fierce resistance during this period but Erdogan won devastating victories over the tutelary regime and gave the people of Turkey a chance to represent themselves and play a major role in managing the country. Economic reforms carried the country upward and financial indicators became the highest possible in the history of the country. Followed by each other, international accounting institutions and rating agencies constantly increased the overall score of the country based on the high opportunities of investment etc. Even many political parties were created during the period and participated even in the elections. Media was largely free that opposition parties were represented and found opportunities to explain themselves to the people of the country. Increasing power of economy lead Turkey to be one of the big 20 economies of the world. Turkey became an attractive place for foreign investors and stakeholders, at the same time tourism sphere witnessed an incredible improve with people from many different countries showing high interest in exploring this Middle East country on the crossroad of Europe.

Erdogan’s part came to power in 2001

Erdogan became powerful day by day and won elections followed one after the previous. Increasing power was negatively effecting Erdogan as he had started to deliver harmful speeches against the opposition parties and leaders. He was blamed on improperly using state the estate for the sake his political party. He was coming to political meetings with helicopters that were considered for use of state duties as a prime minister. Increasing tensions created an accretion of anxiety in the society and in the western world as well, as they were witnessing a different Erdogan with speeches containing autocratic elements.
Erdogan was arrested years before, even before the establishment of AKP party during the times when he was member of Islamic Welfare Party under the leadership of Necmettin Erbakan. He was arrested for two years for reading a poem. So, when he came to power he could convince people that he was just one of them and those humble people were going to take over the state management finally. In fact, when people voted for his party and brought him to power they considered all the factors, including his Islamic views, promises for democratic and economic reforms.

Erdogan holding Quran delivering a speech to audience

Years passed and Erdogan became undefeated. Increasing power drove Erdogan to forget about his background, his promises to the nation and values that he had raised upon others, when he came to power. Erdogan started to put pressure on opposition parties and media with using the power he was given by the people. He was aiming to be the only possible power in the country without any important contestants. Therefore, one day Turkey awoke to a morning when a video recording of the head of the main opposition party was released to media. Years later it was understood with real facts that Erdogan had ordered the video to be delivered to media. Getting rid of his major opponent things became much easier for him in realizing his future goals. However, there was another major opponent of Erdogan which was not a political actor but a big power with his belongings. Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic scholar and his former ally with his ideological “Hizmet” movement constituted a real threat to the undemocratic regulations of Erdogan. Members of the movement were represented in various state spheres such as courts, police, business etc. Erdogan started to make plans to clean this movement and destroy its power as he was intending to be the only big power. Ordinary people were unaware of his insidious plans and he was still respected even by the people who considered themselves part of this movement. Erdogan in front of the big audiences, several times called Fethullah Gulen, Islamic scholar to return to the country whereas he had plans to arrest him later. Being aware of his real intentions, Fethullah Gulen did not come back to Turkey.

Former allies, Tayyib Erdogan and Fethullah Gulen

In 2014, Turkish people awoke to a day which TV channels were showing a big police operation to reveal corruption of state officials. The sons of several minister were detained and Erdogan’s son was searched as well. The day took too long with too many detainees and operations. Erdogan was politically hit hardly by the happenings and was going to respond soon.
Soon he released a press conference claiming the operations to be unlawful, supporting the ministers from his political party. It did not take long that he started to a cleansing operation against the police officers and judges who lead the operations against corruption. With the help of his justice minister and minister of internal affairs he fired majority of the police officers getting involved in the operations and later even arrested many of them. Judges were detained for lawful decisions and arrested. Many other people were exiled to other places and the operations ended soon for the sake of ministers, Erdogan’s son and other people involved in corruption.
Erdogan continued to his cleansing operation even for the people who were just ideological members of the movement. However, he did not limit the operations with the members of the movement. Many other people were detained who were members of other opposition parties and non-government organizations. He had already stepped into a way with illegal actions. He was planning to go until the end. Media organizations were shut down and journalists were arrested. Other media organizations were made dependent and unfree. Pressure was made on businessmen and many of them were arrested. Illegal operations against the people continued even after the referendum he won.

Famous Turkish journalist Can Dundar was arrested 

All the happenings in Turkey had a negative, devastating impact on Turkey’s economy. Investors started to leave the country one by one. Future economic projects were delayed. And Turkey became a country less attractive for the foreign investors. Today Turkish economy is suffering a serious turmoil. Turkish national currency is losing value every day and welfare of people is becoming weaker and difficult.
Today Turkey is among the countries with autocratic leadership. Turkish government is having serious problems with its relations with EU and the United States. Personal interests have prevailed state interests. Turkish government is misusing Islam to realize its policy and direct the people. Because of incorrect foreign policy Turkey has been facing serious terrorist attacks and the future of country is uncertain. As mentioned in the beginning Turkish government gave up democratic values and took the country years backward. Even for a new government it will be extremely difficult to repair the relations and regain the lost values.


Author: Anar Abbasov


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