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Although Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (JDP) would strongly deny it, impartial observers would see Turkish politics as currently evolving toward electoral authoritarianism, a system of institutions under which those elected abuse it to their advantage to prolong their tenure – if possible indefinitely. For more than half a century Turkey has been a liberal democracy, though a defective one, with some military intervals. The ratification of major changes in Turkey’s constitution on April 16, moving the country from a parliamentary to a presidential system in a referendum riddled with allegations of electoral irregularities, constitutes yet another important step away from that democracy.
Turkey’s evolution toward electoral authoritarianism may appear surprising since the JDP, the governing party behind the drive, won power in 2002 as a moderately conservative party promising to bring an end to the country’s divided politics, set it on a course of prosperity and improve the quality of its democracy. What went wrong? Did the party change, or did it always aim to use political competition as a means to winning and holding onto power? To answer, we need to take a historical perspective: where is liberal democracy in the vision of the parties that have ruled Turkey?
The tradition of military authoritarianism
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