Two Views: Joost Lagendijk and Levent Köker

With Joost Lagendijk and Levent Köker


Claims of Turkey’s gov­ern­ment’s ‘in­creas­ingly au­thor­i­tar­ian’ ten­den­cies are mul­ti­ply­ing in the for­eign me­dia, par­tic­u­larly in the wake of 2013’s protests and the so­cial me­dia bans of 2014. But is the coun­try re­ally be­com­ing less demo­cratic? Yonca Poyraz Doğan speaks to Joost Lagendijk, colum­nist at Za­man and To­day’s Za­man, and lec­turer at Sü­ley­man Şah Uni­ver­sity, and Prof. Levent Köker of Atılım Uni­ver­sity’s Law Fac­ulty about Turkey’s demo­cratic cre­den­tials TURK­ISH RE­VIEW: You have been watch­ing Turkey for more than a decade. What ups and downs have you ob­served in Turk­ish democ­racy? JOOST LAGENDIJK: We saw a lot of ups in the first years of Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Party (AK Party) rule, let’s say till 2006. The most im­por­tant ones were the di­min­ished role of the mil­i­tary in pol­i­tics, the zero tol­er­ance pol­icy on tor­ture, more rights for the Kurds and a more re­laxed ap­proach to non-Mus­lim mi­nori­ties. For a few years, till 2011, the speed and in­ten­sity of re­forms slowed down. Look­ing back, I would con­sider the con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments of Septem­ber 2010 the last gen­uine and con­vinc­ing step for­ward. Since then we have seen a mix of some small and par­tial im­prove­ments, some back­track­ing on pre­vi­ous ju­di­cial re­forms and an ex­tremely se­ri­ous de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in the free­dom of the me­dia. The only pos­i­tive ex­cep­tion is the Kur­dish set­tle­ment process where, de­spite a wor­ry­ing lack of trans­parency, there is still the po­ten­tial for a break­through. TR: JL: Very wor­ry­ing. In­stead of re­forms we are wit­ness­ing a down­ward trend in al­most all fields. Add to that the way the gov­ern­ment dealt with the Gezi protests and the ef­forts to bury all the cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions by pun­ish­ing the po­lice of­fi­cers, pros­e­cu­tors and judges in­volved, and it is dif­fi­cult to es­cape from the con­clu­sion that Turkey’s democ­racy is off track. It will take years to get back to the pre-2011 level, let alone align Turkey with the stan­dards nec­es­sary to be­come a mem­ber of the EU. TR: What are the per­cep­tions of most for­eign ob­servers of Turkey with re­gard to the back­track­ing on its demo­cratic cre­den­tials? JL: For most for­eign ob­servers, Turkey has stopped be­ing a promis­ing emerg­ing democ­racy. In­stead, to­gether with coun­tries like Rus­sia and Hun­gary, it has be­come an ex­am­ple of an il­lib­eral democ­racy. TR: In a re­cent re­port Hu­man Rights Watch (HRW) com­mented that a new bill would ex­pand po­lice search and court seizure and wire­tap pow­ers, re­vers­ing re­forms ap­proved in Fe­bru­ary 2014. What is your view? JL: I fully agree with the as­sess­ment of HRW. The new law is an­other ex­am­ple of this gov­ern­ment re­vers­ing some of the key re­forms pre­vi­ous AK Party gov­ern­ments have in­tro­duced in the past. TR:

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