Europe’s Energy Security Depends upon Turkish Democracy
In recent years, there has been a conviction in the business and policy-making communities that Turkey’s Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) economic performance and political authority would ensure the country remained an island of stability in a critical but turbulent region. Given well-documented shortcomings in Turkey’s democratic performance, this approach meant a trade-off between stability and liberal democracy. Recent, widespread protests steeped in demands for inclusion by increasingly alienated segments of Turkey’s public suggest the government must choose between stability via mounting authoritarianism or via consolidating its democracy. Turkish society is ripe for the latter. By choosing full democratisation, Ankara can reap benefits not only at home but also externally, confirming Turkey’s position as a political and economic powerhouse as well as an energy hub in the wider region.
Growing protests against the Turkish government and its harsh reaction have caught many by surprise. The country has been seen widely as an anchor in the stormy seas of North Africa and the Middle East. Its economy has been booming with impressive development in infrastructure and standard of living, and its regional and global clout has been growing. Yet recent unrest in Istanbul and dozens of other Turkish cities testifies to the complexity of the country’s political and social fabric. Rather than reveal a simple cleavage between beleaguered “secularists” and ascendant “Islamists”, the protestors profiles’ – which include Turks from all walks of life, young and old, right and left, religious and secular, as well as Kurds and Alevis – attest to the diversity and vibrancy of the country’s civil society and its insistence on being heard.
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Co-written by David Koranyi. Nora Fischer Onar is Assistant Professor of International Relations at Bahçeşehir University in Istanbul and a Ronald D. Asmus Policy Entrepreneurs Fellow with the German Marshall Fund.