Young Scholars on Turkey (YSOT) Program Presents
“Domestic Drivers of Turkey’s Democratic Transformation” with Dr. Sener Akturk
Turkey’s democratization process over the past decade has been the subject of much debate. Many studies identify external dynamics such as Turkey’s EU membership negotiations as main drivers of democratic progress. Internal dynamics that made possible various democratic initiatives, such as the reforms allowing for much broader ethnic, linguistic, and religious minority rights, however, remain underappreciated. As the country seeks to consolidate its democracy through a new civilian constitution, lessons from the past decade will be critical to identify contours of democratic change in Turkey.
Speaker: Sener Akturk (Koc University)
Moderator: Kadir Ustun (SETA DC)
by Madeline Wolfson
Sener Akturk presented his framework and theory of ethnic regime change from his recently published book, Regimes of Ethnicity and Nationhood in Germany, Russia, and Turkey, to explain the domestic drivers of Turkey’s democratic policy reforms which have increased minority rights and ethnic expression since 2009. He asserts that the popular assumption that these policies were driven by factors such as the EU accession process or PKK violence were insufficient when looking at the chronology of democratic reform movements considering that in 2009, PKK violence had been relatively absent and EU accession had dropped off the Turkish agenda.
To solve this “empirical puzzle,” he offered his alternative theory. Akturk argued that a state’s citizenship policy fits into one of three types, mono-ethnic, multi-ethnic, or anti-ethnic. In order for a state to shift policy and change from one regime type to another, three domestic conditions must exist simultaneously: 1) a significant counter-elite party in government which is supported by and represents the minorities, 2) a new discourse on how identity is defined, 3) the government must have large enough popular support to enact reforms without resistance in parliament. He applied this theory to explain the policies of nationality and ethnicity in Turkey and the dramatic shift away from the anti-ethnic framework under the AKP.