Turkey’s increasing polarisation endangers democracy – survey


Turkey is facing increased polarisation in their politics that is threatening the country’s social cohesion, Ozgur Unluhisarcikli director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States’ (GMFUS) Ankara office wrote in a blog post on Monday.

Unluhisarcikli cites a survey jointly produced by the GMFUS and Bilgi University Migration Research Center that showed Turks were growing more divided as a result of its bitterly divided parties within a highly consolidated states. According to the survey, “Turkish citizens live in echo-chambers in which existing views are reconfirmed and other voices are shut out.”

This has manifested itself through many Turks seeking to confine their views to narrow social circles such as family members or friends while ascribing negative connotations to those with differing political views. Unluhisarcikli warns that this level of hostility creates a self-reinforcing circle of hostility inside Turkey that in turn fuels into the country’s divisive politics.

Unluhisarcikli insists that polarisation is not new in Turkey’s history but the pressures of its modern political system and weakening economy does not bode well for Turkish democracy.

“As a result of developments such as increasing inequality as well as its visibility, undermining of separation of powers, consolidation of power, erosion of judicial independence, collapse of mainstream media, and the divisive nature of social media, polarization is increasingly becoming a significant threat for social cohesion, pluralistic democracy, and social peace in Turkey,” writes Unluhisarcikli.

The remedy for this increasing division would have to originate from one of two directions.

One is a top-down approach that sees the government reinforcing its institutions, strengthening the judiciary and separation of powers, and implementing policies that reduce social inequality. This could have the effect of reducing the sway of “winner take all” politics but Unluhisarcikli cautions that “these may be bridges that are too far.”

The other is a bottom-up require “the mobilization of civil society and citizen activists to raise awareness of polarization, intervene at the individual level through trainings on polarizing attitudes and how to avoid those, and create platforms for interaction as well as opportunities for cooperation and needed engagement among polarized groups across Turkey.”



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