Judy Asks: Can Liberalism Return to Turkey?
Despite all of the extraordinary turmoil of recent years, culminating in the July 15–16 coup attempt, Turkey still has its liberals. But liberalism in Turkey has been under siege for some time, and the outlook is not good. In this sense, Turkey is unfortunately in the global mainstream of declining tolerance, mounting polarization, and the revolt against elites and elite projects. But in Turkey, these tendencies have slipped from politics to political violence.
In the wake of the failed military coup, Turkey’s embattled liberals will hope for a turn away from polarization and creeping authoritarianism. But recent events are far more likely to encourage a further crackdown on political opponents and a sweeping witch hunt that risks going far beyond the arrest of coup plotters and the ongoing struggle against terrorism from the insurgent Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and self-proclaimed Islamic State.
Over decades, Turkey’s transatlantic relationship and, especially, its relationship with the EU have been leading drivers of convergence with a liberal international order. That order is now badly frayed, and a more transactional relationship with Ankara in which Turkey’s internal situation is a less important factor is likely to be the order of the day for the United States and Europe. It is fair to ask whether liberalism can return to Turkey. A more pressing question may be whether liberalism is packing its bags in the West.