The article “Whatever happened to the ‘Turkish Model’?” by Mustafa Akyol explores the recent collapse of the once highly praised ‘Turkish Model’ of democracy into authoritarianism. Akyol examines the degradation of democracy in Turkey through the history of the liberal A.K.P. political party that brought the liberal reforms and rhetoric which pulled the country out from under the control of the military at the start of the 21st century. The article gives two major reasons for the ultimate failure of the ‘Turkish Model’. First, the article argues that the A.P.K. adopted a liberal rhetoric to avoid being overthrown by the group of secularist generals who had ousted the Islamist predecessor of the A.P.K. Akyol alleges that because the A.P.K. embraced a liberal discourse out of necessity and not out of a real idealogical transformation, they were “corrupted and intoxicated” by power. The article also attributes the failure of the ‘Turkish Model’ to the country’s divisive political culture which has allowed the A.P.K. to thrive and create a virtual single party authoritarian regime.
In his article, Akyol examines the collapse of the Turkish liberal democracy solely through the lens of the A.P.K. party. While there is no doubt the party played a vital role in the rise and subsequent fall of Turkish democracy, the A.P.K. should not be viewed as the only voice in the story of the ‘Turkish Model’. At one point in the article, Akyol briefly mentions the strain placed on the country due to the Syrian refugee crisis and the struggles Turkish authorities have had with Kurdish separatists, yet there is no attempt by the author to bring these factors into his examination on the growing failures of Turkish democracy. Another key factor missing from the article is any discussion on the role of the Turkish military in the 21st century. Although Turkey has suffered a long history of military coups, and there was a coup a month after this article was published, Akyol focuses only on the role of the A.P.K. without mentioning the possible threat of the military.
According to the author, the other leading cause of the degradation of liberal democracy in Turkey is the “Machiavellian” political environment of the country. Despite the fact the Akyol views Turkey as a “torn country” due to the divisive political culture, he doesn’t mention this part of his argument until the second to last paragraph of the article. Furthermore, when this point is brought to light there is no attempt to provide the reader with information on “all other political actors” Akyol argues are also to blame for the current situation in Turkey. The article offers no descriptions, statistics, or even names of opposition parties in Turkey, nor is there any information on the “diverse views” that A.P.K. is trying to silence in direct opposition to their once liberal rhetoric. Without this basic information it is hard for the reader to understand what role the “combative, divisive, cynical political culture” has played in the failure of the ‘Turkish Model’.
The article provides an interesting history on the rise and fall of Turkey as a “shinning example of the compatibility of Islam and democracy.” The author argues that the A.P.K. party’s lack of devotion to an idealogical change to liberal democracy and the combative political environment in Turkey lead to the degradation of Turkish democracy. Despite the fact these arguments are important to understanding the failure of the ‘Turkish Model’, the author fails to adequately explore other important factors and back up his arguments with substantiating evidence. In the end, the article poses an important examination on the state of the Turkish democracy which is arguable more important now than it was at the time this article was written.
** All quotes from: Mustafa Akyol, “Whatever Happened to the ‘Turkish Model’?,” New York Times, May 5, 2016**