2023 has been full of surprises with ups and downs for Turkey. In early February, the country faced one of the most devastating earthquakes in its history. The earthquake near the northern border of Syria was the most devastating one seen in more than 20 years. Aside from this natural disaster, the unemployment rate soared to almost 14% along with a skyrocketing inflation.
Turkey had a combined parliamentary and presidential election amid the devaluation of the Turkish lira and the worsening economic conditions. However, the Turkish electorate voted for Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the next term. The ballot box showed that more than half of the population is happy with Erdoğan’s policies, his large infrastructural projects, his conservative socio-political outlook, and his neo-ottoman tendencies in foreign policy making. Many foreign experts wonder how that victory became possible amid a major economic crisis along with the erosion of civil liberties. According to a research, Turkish elections have been riddled with statistical irregularities, which may be indicative of electoral fraud.
Despite the election victory of Erdoğan, it is obvious that Turkey’s democracy and economic conditions have been worsening in recent years. The country cannot be considered as a liberal democracy in accordance with the Western understanding of this concept. In parallel to the decay evident in domestic political scene, Turkey’s foreign policy making has been losing ground as well. The regime change following the failed coup attempt in 2016 followed a paradigmatic change in foreign policy.
Can failures and disappointments go away?
Turkey has never been a fully-functioning democratic state. Especially in the aftermath of failed coup in 2016 and the regime change in 2018 the erosion of democratic values and norms has been constantly increased. As known, in countries like Turkey which has no proper checks and balances system presidential regimes can become a despotic rule unfortunately Turkey has gone through such a stage.
It is not easy to fight against the failures of a weak democracy and eliminate human rights abuses amid the violation of civil liberties. According to me, in Turkey, the establishment of a true liberal democracy and a political system based on a strong rule of law regime seems like a dream and this dream is almost impossible to come true for the time being.
In a society where merit is not rewarded and where ascription overwhelms achievement, the gifted, educated and skilled segments of the population prefer to live in a better place for themselves. This is what we call “brain drain” Being close to power-holders, having some relatives or networks have become a necessary asset to have a job in Turkey. In such an atmosphere wherein unfair practices, discrimination and patronage relations dominate, failures in democracy and human rights abuses can never go away. Unfortunately I do not have hopes for Turkey in 2024. Unfair practices seem so redundant that it is impossible to get rid of them!