A three-stage model to evaluate the maturity of Turkish democracy, By Oğuz Dilek
Before the 2000s Turkish democracy approximated a minority democracy; specific to this political order, a numerically minority segment (Kemalists) sustained dominance in political, social and economic matters, while systematically infantilizing and othering the remaining, numerical majority (the ‘people’). The changes Turkey has seen during the AK Party’s term have afforded an historic opportunity for a more inclusionary form of democracy Any polity identified with democratic ideals is expected to be ruled “by” and “for” the people. The extent to which a political system shows self-restraint in this respect determines its democratic maturity. This essay argues that the more people picture their government as considering at least some of their opinions, perspectives or priorities in the public policy-making processes, the greater the democratic maturity of the country. In other words, democratic maturity has much to do with the strength of the representative institutions through which even historically excluded people can now raise their -- often dissident -- voices.
There is still space to emphasize some of the more definite variables affecting the phenomenon of the maturity of democracy. The most important of these concerns the extent to which political elites romanticize the cultural image of their citizens. The elites so doing first attribute certain cultural/ethnic/moral attributes to the people that they represent, thereby excluding from the declared national identity all others that defy some or all of these abstractions. The scope of representation thereby expands to include more people only with higher degrees of social empathy and lower degrees of otherization. In other words, democratic maturity increases when political elites instead first acknowledge and appreciate the diversity in a society and forge a type of social contract that evolves from bottom to top, not the other way around.
It is clear that in the absence of social empathy, the whole idea of being a society, and even that of being a democracy, is up for grabs. Empathy hereby refers to a broad variety of emotional states. One’s caring for other people’s troubles and desire to give a helping hand is one of the most defining facets of empathy. When this feeling is applied to a larger social unit -- society -people are expected to draw not-so-distinguishable lines of separation between themselves and the other. Political systems based on the representation of the people tend to build upon the idea of social empathy in that they promote the idea of “we-feeling” and categorically reject a search for internal others as enemies.
THREE STAGES OF DEMOCRATIC MATURITY
A system of categorization is proposed by this paper in order to rank democracies according to their level of