The nightmare of coalitions and structural weakness

Published 17.06.2015 17:56

Coalition governments dominated Germany's post-1945 political landscape. The same has been true for the European continent in general. There is no doubt, however, that Italy has been the land of coalition governments in recent decades. The succession of coalition governments, however, did not hamper the continent's political and socio-economic development over the past 50 years. Based on the above-mentioned facts, one could argue that there is no point in associating coalition governments with negative developments.

The same would be true for Turkey if the country had a constitutional regime and political culture akin to European democracies. Since this is not the case, however, the Turkish people do not cherish the memory of the coalition governments that ruled the country in the past.

A single-party dictatorship governed Turkey between the Republic's foundation in 1923 until the adoption of multi-party democracy in 1946. As such, it would be meaningless to discuss the role of coalition governments during the initial part of the Republican era. From 1950 to 1960, a two-party system emerged as the Republican People's Party (CHP) remained in opposition for an entire decade. Only after the 1960 military coup would Turkey's founding party come to power again. As a matter of fact, the CHP at that time had effectively paved the way to and supported the democratically elected government's overthrow.

In the aftermath of the 1960 military coup, the CHP formed three coalition governments until 1965 in a country effectively ruled by the military junta. Tapping into popular disappointment with coalition governments, the Justice Party (AP) claimed 53 percent of the vote – the highest level of popular support in the Republican period – to form a single-party government that remained in power until the 1971 military coup. Over the next decade, the country's management was handed over to a series of weak coalition governments. Ahead of the 1980 military coup, a major economic crisis swept through the country, which, according to a popular saying, "was desperate for 70 cents."

Following three years of military rule, the Motherland Party (ANAP) won consecutive elections to remain in power for eight years. The next 10 years, 1991 to 2002, in turn, featured a succession of coalition governments that presided over a politically and financially unstable country – one of the darkest chapters in modern Turkish history, where assassinations and disappearances skyrocketed.

History tells us that the prominence of coalition governments in Turkey essentially identify a structural problem, which reveals itself when members of multiple political parties occupy the executive branch. In contrast, systemic issues disappear under single-party governments.

To identify the source of structural problems, it is necessary to analyze Turkey's constitutional regime that was tailored to the single-party dictatorship's needs in 1924, updated in 1961 and completed after the 1980 military coup. The main principle of the existing constitutional order relates to preventing civilians from controlling the state and maintain the superiority of the bureaucratic elite. Provided that decision makers have to compete in free and fair elections, however, the original design became vulnerable to outside influences.

Historically, single-party governments have been more successful in running the country because they were able to limit the bureaucratic elite's influence and compensated for the constitutional regime's shortcomings. In contrast, coalition governments find themselves unable to fight off the bureaucratic elite and, by extension, to govern, which paves the way to social unrest and economic turmoil among other things.

At this point, the above-mentioned problems are just around the corner. The only way to avoid them is for the next government to implement structural reforms and embark on a mission in the nation's interests.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
Disclaimer: All rights of the published column/article are reserved by Turkuvaz Media Group. The entire column/article cannot be used without special permission even if the source is shown.
However, quoted column/article can be partly used by providing an active link to the quoted news. Please click for details..