The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is preparing finally to sign the death certificate of democracy in Turkey. In power for over a decade, AKP’s challenges to the democratic nature of governance and politics in the country are today becoming persistent, overt and fundamental. By dealing blow after blow against the generally recognized pillars of democracy, AKP continues to pursue with menacing impunity its campaign to eradicate its last vestiges. In the last several years, AKP’s assault on democracy accelerated and became impervious to all criticism.
The rule of law, the defining feature of any functioning democracy, is for a considerable time now no longer a reality in Turkey. The judiciary is not independent. It takes its cues and orders from the government. The Government appoints, promotes and demotes judges and prosecutors at will. Despite the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and repeated appeals, elected members of parliament are not released from prison to perform their duties, pending the conclusion of their trials that have been going on for more than three years under controversial circumstances and without convictions. The travesty of justice is such that even lawyers have been thrown into prison for defending the rights of their clients. The press and the media are under tight control by the Government. Journalists who criticize the government are either sent to jail on terrorism charges or fired. Today Turkey is in first place in the world in the number of journalists behind bars. Freedom of speech and expression has become a rare commodity which, if used to criticize AKP, brings immediate retribution and punishment. Freedom of assembly almost always is confronted by unlawful brutal police force. Hundreds of students are in prison for using their right of protest. Internet access is restricted, illegal wiretapping in gross violation of the right of privacy has become widespread. Science and knowledge are under systematic attack because of their conflicting nature with religious tenets. Education based on knowledge has been converted to faith centered doctrines through haphazardly contrived so-called “reforms” in the educational system.
Most important of all is the failure of the AKP government to ensure for its citizens the right to live. Terrorism has grown under AKP and the Kurdish problem has become a festering wound. Violence against women continues unabated. Crime is on the rise.
Such in summary is the sorrowful state of democracy in Turkey which the AKP proclaims to be “progressive democracy”.
In fact, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who once defined democracy as “a means to an end” and likened it to a train from which he will get off at the stop he desires, very recently made a major move to break the backbone of Turkish democracy. This last straw is his frontal attack against the principle of the separation of powers or the system of checks-and-balances that is the sine qua non of a genuine democracy. Mr. Erdoğan claims that “the separation of powers stands before him as an obstacle,” (Konya – 17 December 2012). This latest assertion is an affront to and complete disregard for democracy. A politician with this of mind-set should have no place in a democratic regime. On the other hand, this latest anti-democratic foray by the AKP converges with its goal and efforts to change the Turkish parliamentary system into a presidential system, designed to concentrate all powers in the hands of a single individual, unchecked by the legislative or the judicial branches of government.
This is why I call on all who believe in democracy to reflect on these extremely disturbing developments and to stand up in defense of the fundamental underpinnings of democracy in Turkey.