Turkey is expected to make its first significant step toward more democracy in the near future, satisfying one of the conditions set by the European Union for accepting Turkey as a member. The Turkish National Assembly is to meet on September 17 to approve a series of constitutional reforms related to the consolidation of fundamental democratic liberties and human rights. In particular, the reforms include restrictions on the military’s role in political life, the abolition – with some exceptions – of the death penalty, and rescinding a ban on the use of the Kurdish and other minority languages. Despite initial objections, all Turkish political parties represented in Parliament have agreed to vote for the reforms, therefore no last-minute complications are expected. Nevertheless, these reforms satisfy only a fraction of the conditions necessary for true democracy. This is not only the view of organizations fighting for democratic and human rights, but that of European Union officials and prominent Turks. Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer himself has on occasion raised the question of democratic reforms. On Wednesday, Appeals Court Chief Judge Sami Selcuk asked for a new constitution, rather than merely reviewing the existing one, which he compared to police regulations that were contrary to the substance of a constitutional state. He also opposed the banning of political parties, drawing attention to the fact that over the past 33 years, 23 political parties had been outlawed. European Union pressure on membership candidate Turkey to gradually conform to the political culture of Europe is in line with the demands by the progressive elements in Turkish society, but those who want Turkey to become more European are likely to be faced with a major problem in the coming years. If Ankara continues with its intransigence over the Cyprus issue and attempts, when the time comes for Cyprus to become a member of the EU, to carry out its threat to annex the occupied sector of the island, then its relationship with the EU will collapse. Even in practical terms, it has been shown that democratic reforms are not judged only on the basis of a state’s treatment of its citizens. They are also judged by the state’s foreign relations, where the absence of democratic procedures in Ankara is just as, if not more, evident.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.