Turkey: is there hope for democracy?

Sunday 23 October, 10.00 - 11.30 , Frobisher 1-3 Eye on the World

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Watch the video of this session at the bottom of this page.

The broad and active public opposition to the attempted military coup d’etat in Turkey in July was a victory for Turkish democracy. Nevertheless, it also brought into focus limitations of Turkish democracy. Turkey has long been lauded as a rare successful example of a secular democracy in a majority Muslim country, but arguably that secularism has come at the expense of democracy and civil liberties, with the military intervening repeatedly to uphold the status quo. Democracy and civil liberties have also been sacrificed in the decades long war with the Kurdish PKK, which has resulted in 40,000 deaths and draconian repression in the south-east; a political solution remains even more elusive since the start of the Syrian crisis.

Today, secular democracy remains under threat from President Erdogan’s authoritarian tendencies, which have escalated since the coup attempt with a purge of not just the perpetrators of the coup (allegedly around the Gulen movement) but a wider witch-hunt into the public sector, judiciary, the media and universities. Relations with the US and EU – already tense thanks to suspicions about Erdogan’s Islamist agenda and claims that Turkey nurtured Islamic State in Syria - have become more difficult, with Erdogan implicating the US in the coup attempt. Questions are being raised about the country’s status as a Western ally and its membership of NATO.

So what remains of Turkish ambitions to become a regional player and friend of the West? Is Turkey spiralling toward more isolation from its neighbours and traditional allies? Can Turkish democracy continue to be seen as a model for a democratised Middle East despite its problems, or is it too fragile and unstable to survive the regional and domestic challenges? Is there any hope for a more liberal form of secular democracy to emerge from this crisis?