Justice and Development Party in Turkey

This is an Archive of a Past Event
Students of liberal democracy have long pointed to its many paradoxes. Individual rights are a necessary if not sufficient condition of liberal democracies. Yet they remain in tension with the dictates of electoral majorities in liberal democracies. In this presentation, I shall focus, in the Turkish context, on the inherent tension between liberalism that priorities individual rights and democracy that is based on popular sovereignty. The Justice and Development Party came to power in 2002 with 34% of the vote and a promise of democracy. The party raised its electoral support to 47% in the 2007 and to almost 50% in the 2011 elections. I will first summarize how JDP contributed to the democratization process in the country and then examine and analyze its illiberal turn since 2007. As JDP’s popular support increased, its democratic practices waned. The party restricted civil liberties, controlled the media and undermined separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary. I shall argue that the legitimacy popular support gives to executive office can be instrumental in undermining an effective democracy.
About the speaker
Yeşim Arat is is 2014-15 FSI-SHC International Visiting Scholar at Stanford University and Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Boğaziçi University, Turkey. She is the author of The Patriarchal Paradox: Women Politicians in Turkey (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1989), Rethinking Islam and Liberal Democracy: Islamist Women in Turkish Politics (SUNY Press, 2005), Violence Against Women in Turkey (with Ayse Gul Altinay-Punto, 2009-Turkish version, 2008 Pen Duygu Asena Award) and numerous articles on women as well as Turkish politics. Arat was the Provost of her university between 2008-2012 and is a member of the Science Academy, Turkey. She is currently working on a book on post 1980 politics of Turkey. She will be in residence at Stanford from October 6, 2014 through November 6, 2014.