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Understanding the Structural Causes of Turkish Protests

Understanding the Structural Causes of Turkish Protests

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This policy brief explains the larger origins of the Taksim Square protests in Turkey.
This policy brief explains the larger origins of the Taksim Square protests in Turkey.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Jun 06, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Last week’sdemonstrations in Turkey areseen likely to create major
ramications in Turkish politics.With the government’s apologyand the calls of major politicalforces for common sense, thereare now efforts to understandthe causes of the country-wideprotests that included peoplefrom different walks of life,not only activists and militantsbut also ordinary citizens.Thekey question is what got thesediverse groups, especiallythe urban youth and young professionals, together to wagesustained protests despite thesecurity forces’ unwavering position.
Understanding the Structural Causesof Turkish Protests
by Şaban Kardaş
June 6, 2013
Washington, DC • Berlin • ParisBrussels • Belgrade •
AnkaraBucharest • Warsaw •
Lat week’ demotrato  rkey are ee lkely to create major ram-cato  rkh poltc. Wth thegovermet’ apology ad the callo major poltcal orce or commoee, there are ow eort to der-tad the cae o the cotry-wdeprotet that clded people romderet walk o le, ot oly actvtad mltat bt alo ordary ct-ze. Te demotrator’ demad arealo hard to clay g the cove-toal cleavage o rkh poltc,ch a eclar v. Ilamt. Overall,the partcpat cold be groped three categore: rba yothad yog proeoal, membero margal let grop, ad thepporter o the oppoto Repb-lca People’ Party (CHP), cldgthe ltraatoalt. Te key qeto what got thee dvere grop, epe-cally the rt grop, together to wagetaed protet depte the ecrty orcewaverg poto.Mot accot characterze the devel-opmet a a bottom-p ocal move-met ad reer to certa practceo the govermet, a eptomzed by the peroalty o Prme MterRecep ayyp Erdoğa, a t trgger.Govermet orce, o the otherhad, portray the evet aer thetal protet largely a a prodct o provocato by ome dometc adteratoal crcle. Tere are deepertrctral orce ormg the back-grod to the evet, however. wo partclar tad ot: ocal moblza-to a a otcome o rkey’ rapdecoomc ad ocal developmet adthe challege o the domat party era  rkh poltc.
Revisiting Huntington: PoliticalInstitutions and Social Mobilization
Irocally, the rlg Jtce ad Devel-opmet Party (AKP) mght be a vctmo t ow ccee  ecoomcmoderzato. I h clacal work opoltcal order  developg ocete,Samel Htgto derled thechallege, epecally the detablzgeect, o moderzato to poltcaltablty. Te rapd ocal moblzato cotre dergog ecoomcchage ad developmet create pre-re o poltcal ttto. It  thecce o the athorte to repodto the heghteed expectato — deto rbazato, lteracy, commca-to chael, etc. — that  be decveabot the tre o tablty  chcotre.
Turkish society has reached astage where the expectations of those on the streets are hard tomeet with old paradigms.
Actg wth the developmetal modert paradgm o ceter-rght poltcal parte, the AKP ha prded tel obeg the ege o ecoomc ad ocal progre. It haoe hghlghted t ccee  growth, mave rbadevelopmet project, or major ratrctre projectworth te o bllo o dollar, ome o whch were jtaoced o the eve o the protet. Te ocal mobl-zato accompayg the trctral traormato rkh ocety  yet to be addreed ad tralated torkh poltcal ttto. Nether the oppoto parteor the AKP have developed poltcal program that wllreoate wth the ded demad o a ew geerato,epecally the rba yoth ad yog proeoal. Tere-ore, may aalyt have rghtly terpreted the demotra-to a the alre o ormal poltc.For t part, a the goverg party, the AKP wll have toaddre th e, bt there rema gcat barrer tot reachg ot to thee grop. Frtly, there  the e o geeratoal gap ad the compoto o the party’ leader-hp cadre. I cceve electo, the AKP ha progre-vely maaged to appeal to hal o the rkh poplatobt t leaderhp tll  ormed by the core grop. I htal reacto to the demotrator, Erdoğa repeated thelt o may ecoomc reorm o the pat decade, bt whathe overlooked wa that rkh ocety ha reached a tagewhere the expectato o thoe o the treet are hard tomeet wth old paradgm.Te party leaderhp cerely beleve that t ha beealo the major orce or poltcal moderzato, whch,to a large extet, ha bee the cae, a wa reected  tattempt to addre the detty demad o the Krd adAlevte or expad reedom or morte. However, thecore leaderhp, whch came o age  the 1970 ad 1980deologcal evromet, tll vew poltc rom wththe ceter-perphery cleavage. Ter reorm amed toredeg poltcal ttto  order to elmate barrerto poplar wll, a had bee exerted by the Kemalt tt-to o power. Bt, today, the ma challege  to devolvepoltcal power to lower level ad trodce deretmecham or partcpatory democracy. It  tre thatdeg the de demad o ew ocal grop  ottraghtorward, a they are hard to pecy. Noethele,  t wat to bld the rkey o tre, the AKP hold movebeyod ghtg the battle o the pat ad develop ova-tve approache that appeal to the ew geerato.Secodly, the AKP’ dertadg o rkh detty may ot oer the bet gle to provde a ew ocal cotract orew dverty ad plralm ad addre the growg do-ace betwee deret egmet o the ocety. Drgthe AKP Cogre  late 2012, Erdoğa oght to oer agrad vo o a ato ted arod a hared dety,bt t  hghly lkely that th ceter-rght platorm aloewll help to te the rkh ocety arod a gle deal,a the “ato”  mch more dvere tha that rhetorcgget, ad the ocetal derece have bee poltczedto a large extet. For tace, or large grop o rkhpeople, ther letyle have bee eqated wth ther poltcaldetty. Te AKP eed to develop a alteratve lagageo poltc, oe that  more clve, tolerat towarddet, ad avod leglatg moralty.
Dominant Party System: Travails of Adjustment
Lookg at the AKP’ cceve electoral vctore adthe lkely propect that t wll w pcomg poll, omepoltcal cett have arged that rkey ha etered toa age o a domat party ytem aer the 2011 electo.Te AKP ha yet to adjt ad develop reh thkg. It hada wg trategy o captalzg o the bary-polarza-to, whch are prodct o the ceter-perphery (or rght-le) cleavage, ad whch alo otered a cltre o electoraldemocracy. Back  2008,  the cotext o the clore caeagat the AKP, whch wa beg revewed by the Cot-ttoal Cort, may arged that oce t rvved thatchallege, the AKP wold better cooldate democracy by movg the cotry beyod majortara dertadgtoward lberal democracy. “Agreeg to lmt ot oly thetate power bt alo the govermetal power ad to expadreedom or all, the AKP cold bet allevate the ear thatt  maplatg t electoral ccee to tall a major-
tara democracy,” I arged.
Te party choe to matat wg trategy ad coted to exercg powerlargely wth the old paradgm o bary poltc, ce theAKP elte perceve themelve a aget that are deted toed the ceter’ ttelage over the perphery. T detely make ee rom a trmetal pot o vew; ce thatcleavage ha drect electoral dvded, the AKP trategthave ed t a a campag tool to moblze the mae cceve electoral vctore. For tace, Erdoğa tllpreer to lambat the CHP, pttg the blame o the gle-party era or may ecoomc ad ocal problem today.Some aalyt, ot rprgly, arge that recet evetmght creae the AKP’ tadg  the ballot over thecomg two year.However, there  more to the AKP’ attachmet to themajortara democracy. Te party elte have bee ocal-zed  a poltcal evromet whereby they waged everalpoltcal battle to dmatle the bato o the Kemaltetablhmet, whch had bee ed to cotra the wllo the majorty ad at tme bjgate t to morty preer-ece. Stll vewg poltc throgh the ame lee today,they beleve the poplar wll  ot lly repected by certagrop. Tereore, Erdoğa’ reacto to the protet werecotet a he kept repeatg he held a “poplar madateto redeg akm Sqare ad vowed ot to bow to theprere o the protet.For a party that prde tel o t accmlato o opower  teratoal aar, oe wold expect t leaderto exerce power  getler, btler, ad more beg way
 dometc poltc. Te AKP hold coder the mpl-cato o t electoral hegemoy o the rkh poltcalytem at large, ad move to addre the percepto by deret egmet o ocety that they ace cotrat coveyg ther vew to the poltcal ytem de to certagovermet practce pertag to the reedom o expre-o.Te oppoto grop are gog throgh a eqally tro-bleome adjtmet, a they have hardly come to termwth the AKP’ electoral hegemoy. Te call o the gover-met to tep dow ad the aaloge betwee akm adahrr Sqare reected a certa deologcal poto.Whle the dappearace o a realtc chace o electo vctory ca lead to depar o the part o CHP pporter,the dm propect o chaelg ther vew wth ofcalpoltcal procee alo orge the eelg o margalzatoo the part o a large mber o rba yoth ad yogproeoal who ee a mmatch betwee ther expecta-to ad the opportte avalable to them. It  largely thoe grop that developed a very egatve readg o thedeco ad practce o the govermet, ad charged thegovermet wth drg toward athortaram.Whle the govermet mght be crtczed or alg tocovce ome that t  ready to expad democratc cltrebeyod a mmalt dertadg, certa oppotoparte aled to covce the AKP’ graroot that they have eve teralzed the mmalt oto o democracy.Some demad o the protetor ca be, ad have  actbee, raed wth the ormal democratc procedre btaled to receve the eceary pblc edoremet. Severalo the practce o the govermet that are at the cetero the cotrovery have bee edored throgh legtmatedemocratc chael, a act that  largely overlooked by ome protetor  ther portrayal o the evet. It  hardly democratc or repreetatve ad pporter o a poltcalparty that have lot cceve electo to gte or cap-talze o ch a ocal movemet ad call o the gover-met to reg. Te very rt bac rle o democratccooldato  to repect electo relt ad wat or theext electo to expre grevace. It  lltratve to otethat the Krdh movemet ad leadg lberal tellectaldd ot pport the protet becae o ther ear that they cold lead to a ew wave o athortaram ad Kemaltatoalm. o the extet that they al to demotratethey have accepted democracy a the oly game  tow,
For a party that prides itself onits accumulation of soft power ininternational affairs, one wouldexpect its leaders to exercisepower in gentler, subtler, and morebenign ways in domestic politics.

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