https://ahvalnews.com/-Turkey was the country with the greatest decline in democracy and the rule of law in the last decade among 137 countries included in the German think tank Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index (BTI) for 2022.
The country has seen a rise in nationalism and a stronger Islamist push, according to the report. Turkey’s three major problems are “the consolidation of authoritarianism, economic vulnerability and an increasingly conflictual foreign policy”, the foundation said.
Turkey was classified as an authoritarian country for the first time in the previous version of the report. The executive summary of the current report, covering the period between Feb. 1, 2019 to Jan. 31, 2021, is as follows.
The review period saw profound changes in Turkish domestic and foreign policymaking. In domestic politics, authoritarian trends in the “New Turkey” have been consolidated. After the lifting of the post-coup state of emergency in July 2018, several legal provisions that restricted fundamental rights and granted extraordinary powers to the executive were integrated into law. The rule of law has further deteriorated. The implementation of the amended constitution and the propagation of a presidential system have largely undermined fundamental aspects of a democratic system.
The establishment of two parties, DEVA (“Remedy”) and the Future Party (GP), led by two former high-ranking AKP (Justice and Development Party) politicians, Ali Babacan and Ahmet Davutoğlu, is a sign of growing dissatisfaction within the ruling party. In the absence of checks and balances, elections are the only way to hold the executive to account. However, the fairness and competitiveness of elections is increasingly questioned. Despite an unfair playing field in the local elections on March 31, 2019, opposition candidates won key municipalities, including in the re-run of the metropolitan mayoral election in Istanbul in June 2019.
Nationalism is on the rise in Turkey. This nationalist discourse is embraced not only by the ruling elite – namely the People’s Alliance, which comprises the AKP and its coalition partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) – but also by opposition parties. The polarisation of Turkey into two opposing camps has continued unabatedly. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has pursued a non-inclusive line of governance embedded in a majoritarian understanding of democracy. The Islamisation of the country by the ruling coalition has continued. Erdoğan’s decision to convert Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia into a mosque and the increasing influence of Diyanet (Directorate of Religious Affairs) in Turkish politics attest to this.
These domestic trends in turn have influenced Turkey’s foreign policy. First, Turkey is more inclined to take unilateral action in the region, as exemplified by its drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean, and military operations in northern Syria and in Libya. These operations, launched in complete disregard for its partners, have increased tensions between Turkey, and its allies in NATO and the European Union. Second, Turkey started to use a more assertive foreign policy balancing strategy to further its interests and consolidate executive power. Flexible alignments guided by short-term interests and pragmatism have made the country an unpredictable and unreliable actor in international relations. Third, Turkey increasingly opts for the use of force, instead of diplomacy, to resolve international issues. Fourth, foreign policymaking has become less institutionalized, with the president’s palace monopolizing foreign policy decision-making. This has not only blurred the boundaries between external and domestic politics but has also rendered Turkish foreign policy incoherent and inconsistent.
The coronavirus pandemic has aggravated these structural problems and imbalances in the Turkish economy. Although the government’s initial response to the pandemic was appropriate in order to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic, institutional weaknesses have constrained these measures. The erosion of the rule of law and the lack of independence of economic administration continue to negatively affect Turkey’s economy.