Turkey and Thailand:unlikely Twins
Duncan McCargo and Ayºe Zarakol
is professor of Southeast Asian politics at the Uni-versity of Leeds. His
Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy inSouthern Thailand
(2008) won the inaugural 2009 Bernard Schwartz Book Prize from the Asia Society.
is assistant professorof politics at Washington and Lee University and the author of
After Defeat: How the East Learned to Live with the West
n the middle of 2011, both Turkey and Thailand held national elec-tions.
While Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdo¢gan claimed his thirdpopular mandate, his self-exiled Thai
Thaksin Shinawa-tra—whose parties have now won five general elections since 2001— saw his younger sister and stand-in Yingluck Shinawatra assume thepremiership. Virtually no observers, however, noticed the synchronicityof two politicians with similar governance styles, party organizations,and societal bases besting military-bureaucratic establishments on thetwo flanks of Asia.At first glance, the two countries appear strikingly different. Tur-key straddles Europe and the Middle East; it is a Muslim-majoritycountry that has been a staunchly secular republic since 1923; and itis now drawing attention for the transformative domestic and foreignpolicies of Erdo¢gan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), whichis often characterized as Islamist. Thailand, by contrast, is locatedin Southeast Asia, is predominantly Buddhist, and is above all elsea monarchy. Judging by those descriptions, the simultaneous rise of Erdo¢gan in Turkey and Thaksin in Thailand looks like sheer coinci-dence. In reality, however, it is anything but. Laying side-by-side thestories of Turkish and Thai democratization (including the obstaclesthat had to be overcome in each case) reveals numerous parallels. Acomparison between these two countries also offers insights that aremore generally applicable to our understanding of democratizationoutside the West.
Journal of Democracy Volume 23, Number 3 July 2012© 2012 National Endowment for Democracy and The Johns Hopkins University Press