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What’s wrong with ErdoÄan’s Turkey?

Dr Neophytos Loizides, a leading commentator on international conflict analysis at the University, comments on the last five days of anti-government demonstrations in Turkey. He argues that a move to a more consensus model of government is needed to avoid conflict.

He said: ‘ErdoÄan’s inflammatory policies point to the pitfalls of majoritarian style democracy in Turkey. Contrasting majoritarian and consensus models of governance is essential in understanding the politics of the country in the past decade and what is at stake in the Gezi park protest movement.

‘In majoritarian democracies decisions are assigned by a simple majority or plurality of voters while in consensus democracies decisions are assigned by ‘as many people as possible’. Both options claim to foster moderation and effective decision-making either by privileging single-governing parties encompassing a wide spectrum of interests and voters (majoritarianism) or by encouraging cohabitation in government of competing political parties who moderate their positions to become attractive post-election coalition partners (consensus).

‘Until recently, Turkey and AKP’s single party government have been a promising case of majoritarianism. ErdoÄan’s government has achieved a remarkable level of economic and political stability particularly in comparison to other nations in its immediate neighborhood. Turkey’s majoritarian political system excluded from parliamentary representation any party with less than ten per cent of the national vote gradually minimizing the party fragmentation of the 1990s. It also led to an attempt to consolidate majoritarianism through the introduction of a presidential system with increased powers to be assigned to a directly elected leader.

‘But majoritarian political systems frequently leave important social and political groups excluded or underrepresented. Once a sufficient plurality offers the leader a mandate, responsiveness - not inclusivity - becomes the priority. Yet lack of consultation could lead to a dismissive style of government with rulers gradually losing their mandate in the public eye. Citizens cannot wait for elections, if a leader’s actions get out of control or violate social norms as to how to respond to dissent. Even more worrisomely, minority views can be permanently excluded from decision-making leading to further polarization and conflict. Thus ‘Erdogan’s problem’ is not simply a personal one but primarily one of political institutions.

‘On the contrary, consensus democracies have been shown to be better in managing social and ethnic tensions but also in sustaining effective fiscal policies in times of a global financial crisis. The challenge for reformers is to introduce consensual institutions by lifting the ten percent threshold in parliament enabling wider representation within the political system. Turkey’s weak coalition experience of the 1990s should not overrule this possibility, if the public opts for representation through new political forces. Coalition governments have governed effectively most countries in continental Europe since WWII despite major differences among ethnic, religious and social groups. Even in debt-ridden countries new multi-party coalition governments have emerged steering countries such as Ireland, Latvia and even Greece away from the Eurozone crisis.

‘And in Turkey lifting the ten per cent threshold and moving closer to a consensus democracy could convert the Kurdish vote and other minority groups into equal players in transforming the country’s nationalist-minded political culture.'

Neophytos Loizides is a Senior Lecturer at the University’s School of Politics and International Relations.


Story published at 9:08am 5 June 2013

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Last Updated: 12/06/2013