University of California, Los Angeles

Democratic backsliding within Turkey

Democratic backsliding occurs when there is a disconnection between government officials and the people in which the population is made up of.  There are many different variations of misconduct that can occur which eventually resolve with democratic backsliding.  In simpler terms, once citizens acknowledge the fact that they no longer have an understanding of their government and suspect scandal within their elected government, democratic backsliding is often the outcome. There are ways in which the democratic government can be monitored in order to avoid backsliding from occurring. These monitoring programs are systems such as random audit checks, educating the citizens on how government should be ran, and overall examinations of government. These programs are set in order to maintain the trust of the citizens while making sure all actions and funding are being executed properly. 

I have chosen to focus on Turkey and the democratic backsliding they have been facing in the last decade.  Turkey is led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan who was elected into office back in 2014.  Although throughout his campaign process and still to this day he claims to support democracy, he has recently shown his true colors and taken away common rights from his civilians.  Erdoogan has done this by taking away attention and support for democratic programs, as well as limiting the freedom of the press and civil rights.  With that being said it is clear there is some monitoring and change that is well needed in the democratic system in Turkey. 

As one could assume many citizens are unhappy with Recep Tayyip Erdogan and are becoming very suspicious of his motives as they are seemingly straying further away from the fundamentals that democracies stand by. In an article on National Public Radio titled A Year Later, a Divided Turkey Remembers Failed Coup Attempt by Peter Kenyon, they educate the reader about the way in which the coup was created and the reasons it failed. The citizens of Turkey remember July 15th to be an absolute failure where they lost the lives of 249 citizens and set an official separation amongst the country of Turkey. Although the citizens saw this failure as devastating, Recep Tayyip Erdogan saw this failure as an increase in his power.  Erdogan witnessing this showed him how much he could get away with. According to Peter Kenyon’s article Erdogan reveals his power by stating that, “The president also promised to “chop the heads off the traitors.” Currently there is no death penalty in Turkey, but Erdogan has spoken of bringing it back despite warnings from the European Union that such a move would kill off Turkey’s bid to join the union.” Ultimately showing that Erdogan plans to rule over this country with strict force and will do all he can in order to stay in power.

Following this failed coup, new regulation and rules were presented in order to contain the civilians and prevent another event like the coup to occur.  These new regulations set restrictions on citizens and limited the amount of freedom that they were permitted, ultimately steering away from the normality of a democracy.  Since violence was already encountered at one point the Turkish government knew they needed some sort of leverage to go along with these new rules.  Which resulted in Erdogan and the rest of his government to rule with strict force and educated their civilians that if you are against Erdogan then you are not a good citizen.  The coup and plan to take Erdogan out of office was supposedly led by Fethullah Gulen. Although Gulen denies having any relationship with this movement, the government officials blame him for the coup and enforce that any person who sides with Gulen or is suspect to having similar motives, will be arrested.  These arrests are yet another attempt to assert dominance over their citizens. According to Peter Kenyon’s Article A Year Later, a Divided Turkey Remembers Failed Coup Attempt, “Erdogan has shrugged off criticism of the ongoing purge that has seen roughly 150,000 people suspended or sacked from their jobs, and more than 50,000 arrested to face charges. Critics say the purge, made possible by a state of emergency that grants the government sweeping powers, has targeted Erdogan’s political opponents as much as suspected coup conspirators.” This ultimately giving reason to Erdogan’s rage and dominance.

With the capabilities that the country of turkey has placed in to Erdogan’s hands the outcome does not seem to have many outcomes.  With an increase in violence and stricter enforcement of force on their citizens a collaboration between the citizens and the government does not seem likely.  The steps in which Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking are not opening them up to make many other decisions other than a violent overtake of the government or continuing the strict rule that Erdogan has been maintaining. This makes you wonder why this government was so unsuccessful in Turkey yet so successful in other countries, but it is clear that their was too much power that was handed to Erdogan and not enough regulation.

Works Cited

Kenyon, Peter. “A Year Later, A Divided Turkey Remembers Failed Coup Attempt.”NPR, NPR, 16 July 2017,

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