Why do the Turks not want democracy?

A recent poll by Kadir Has University demonstrated that 40 percent of Turks did not believe democracy was the best system of governance. 45,8 percent believed a strongman rule without any elections or a parliament was the best political system. Almost 32 percent believed it is best to be governed by a religious leader. 30 percent believed it is best to be ruled by the army. 

It seems like in 2021, we’ll be discussing democracy a lot. As Biden will be taking power in the United States, we will face a period of democratic restoration. We hope that the power of far-right populists in Europe will wane. This could well affect Turkey. Yet the discontent with regards to democracy in Turkish society is unsettling.

Every year, Kadir Has University, measures sociological trends in Turkey. They conduct polls about political leanings, conservatism, the perspective about the world etc. Each study gives you an idea about Turkey’s current state of mind.

This year, they added a new question to the poll. KHAS researchers asked Turkish people which type of government was the best. They presented some alternatives and asked people to give these alternatives points ranging from 1 to 5. The results show that the Turks are not fond of democracy.

60 percent said that they believed democracy is the best way of governance. That means 40 percent think it isn’t. While this is unnerving, further results were even more alarming.

45,8 percent believed a strong man rule without any elections and a parliament was the best political system. Almost 32 percent believed it is best to be governed by a religious leader. 30 percent believed it is best to be ruled by the army. 

Why did Turks lose faith in democracy? When the AKP came to power, their very basic promise was democracy. However, ironically, the AKP have been using democracy as a slogan whilst implementing the most authoritarian of measures.

In 2017, Turkey went to the polls for the new Presidential system, a referendum was held. The Turkish style presidential system has proven to be one of the most authoritarian systems in the world. Interestingly, the AKP used the slogan: “Democracy, Unity, Prosperity and Strong Turkey” back in 2017 to promote a new constitution.

In the immediate aftermath of the 15 of July Coup attempt, staunch AKP supporters have been taking to the streets of Turkey to show support for the government and show force against the coup plotters. They were dubbed the “Democracy Lovers”. While these people were against a coup led by the Gülenists, those people cannot be described as democrats.

I believe the term democracy has been worn out in Turkey. The proper definition of democracy and what it truly represents has been blurred. Perhaps another poll should be carried out to investigate what people really understand from democracy and see how they react when asked about the perseverance or reinstatement of basic democratic values.

İbrahim Zeytin, one of the political scientists who conducted the poll, underlines that the results show that Turkish people are facing anxiety not fear. He claims that when fear prompts people to take action, anxiety pacifies them.

This might explain the willingness of people to hand their basic right of governance to a one-man system or to the Army. The Turks probably suffer from fatigue from the developments of the past 10 years. They are tired and feel hopeless.