The history of Turkish democracy is based on two centuries of democratic tradition. In fact, Turkey's democratic political experience concurrently developed with the process of democratization in Europe. After realizing the Ottoman Empire was falling behind the rapid progress of Western states, Ottoman statesmen began to carry out reforms of modernization, starting with the military.
Yet, they soon realized that the reformation of the army required carrying out drastic reforms of modernization in the whole state structure. With the Imperial Edict of Gülhane (1839), the Western modern state structure was adopted as the official model for the reformation of the Ottoman state.
Although the First Constitutional Era was established during the first two years of the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II, the devastating war with the Russian empire terminated the constitutional system. During the final years of the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II, the Second Constitutional Era began with the opening of the Ottoman Parliament in 1908.
Despite the fact that the Ottoman Empire virtually disintegrated after the end of World War I, the newly emerging modern Turkish republic was realized following the War of Independence with a pluralist assembly. After the War of Independence was won, however, the Republican People's Party (CHP) ruled the country single-handedly for 30 years.
During Turkey's republican political history, the vital moments of political junctures and transformations concluded with the establishment of new political parties. Most of these political parties disintegrated immediately after the political conjecture changed, while some of them went on to last for years.
The first revolutionary juncture in modern Turkish political history occurred after World War II. As the ruling CHP aimed to take part in the new democratic world order, which the United States established in opposition of the communist bloc, Turkey established a multiparty system with the newly established Democrat Party (DP) coming to power in 1950. From that juncture onward, Turkey was governed mainly by the right-wing political parties, which were first represented by the DP.
The remaining political junctures were exclusively determined by coup d'etats. Although each military intervention reshaped Turkey's politics from scratch, coup d'etats were succeeded by the foundation of stronger democratic and liberal systems.
The first coup d'etat was conducted in 1960, when the winners of World War II were reshaping the state structure of the defeated states, which were forced through NATO to establish new constitutions. After the end of military rule, the Justice Party (AP), which represented the political tradition of the overthrown DP, immediately came to power.
The second political juncture occurred with the military intervention of 1980. The rise of leftist political organizations concluded with a threatening political momentum in NATO. While European countries succeeded in overcoming their political crises with their democratic experience, Turkey experienced another military intervention. As the democratic system was reestablished, the Motherland Party (ANAP), a catch-all political party, rose to power. Under the leadership of Turgut Özal, Turkey succeeded in conducting drastic liberal reforms both in democratic and economic fields.
With the Turkish military memorandum in 1997, the so-called "Feb. 28 post-modern coup d'etat," the rising Welfare Party (RP) was closed, and Turkey was dragged into political and economic chaos. At this critical juncture, a young political cadre that left the RP founded the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which rapidly turned into Turkey's hope for terminating the interregnum. Coming to power one year after its foundation, the AK Party has been ruling the country for 17 years.
The political figures who now strive to establish new political parties would like to repeat the history of the AK Party. They dream of coming to political power rapidly by imitating the trajectory of the ruling political party.
However, new political parties can only rise to fill in the political gaps that emerge from the aforementioned political junctures. Today, the AK Party has been in political power with a voting rate of 40%, while the main opposition political party could only secure the votes of the 26% of the Turkish electorate.
The remaining political parties share the rest of the votes. Then, who will vote for these new political parties? At this historical moment in Turkish democracy, it is highly doubtful that the sociology of Turkey favors new political parties.
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