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Mediterranean: literally the sea in the middle of lands, a bordering sea, and linking these lands. This characteristic makes the Mediterranean a sea that does belong to all the countries overlooking it, but to none in particular, a shared sea, not available for becoming private property..

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The philosophical justification of the idea of freedom is one of those enigmas all great philosophers have addressed, often concluding their imposing attempts by acknowledging the impossibility to access a firm Archimedean point placing freedom on a incontrovertible theoretical pedestal..

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It is possible to participate in a brutal event – such as gang rape, lynching, an ethnic cleansing operation – or in a humanitarian event – fund raising, collective adoption, sacrificing oneself in an exchange of prisoners..

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All types of thought –also those of scholars and scientists – proceed according to established models, stereotypes and prejudices.

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A month of ideas.
Giancarlo Bosetti Editor-in-chief
Association for dialogue and intercultural understanding
Freedom and Democracy
Monday, 17 July 2017

Turkey: One Year After the Coup Attempt
Erdogan has Set Up an Autocracy

Ahmet Insel

The proclamation of a state of emergency on 20 July 2016, four days after the abortive coup, paved the way for the general rule of arbitrariness. The government, by violating the limits imposed by the Constitution on the jurisdiction of the state of emergency, has since then used this exceptional power to purge massively the administration of undesirable elements and close schools, universities, newspapers, foundations and associations by simple administrative decision, without any legal procedure. 

The outcome of the repression is very heavy: more than 130,000 civil servants fired or suspended, including a quarter of the teachers, 53,000 people imprisoned, accusations of torture during interrogations, relatives of the suspects forbidden to travel abroad, etc.

Taking advantage of the state of emergency, the government has started to reshape the state to complete the process of merging the state and the AKP (Justice and Development Party), a process that has been ongoing since several years. The head of state, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, used the failed coup d'état of 15-16 July 2016 to set up a counter-coup regime whose repressive scale has been growing steadily since a year.

The counter-coup regime also allowed it to force in the parliament the draft of the constitutional amendment, prepared on the run and with the unexpected support of the leader of the extreme right-wing party, the Nationalist Action Party (MHP). This Sunni-nationalist alliance, which was formed after 15 July, in particular to quell the Kurdish claims in Turkey and in the region, gave the green light for the establishment of a hyper-presidential regime with an elected president of all powers, including the control of justice and the possibility of governing by decrees.

These constitutional amendments were submitted to the referendum on 16 April 2017 and adopted with a very small majority. The report of the observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) highlights the enormous inequality between the "yes" and the "no" supporters during the referendum campaign and the suspension of the right to assemble under the pretext of a state of emergency. The report also indicates serious irregularities in the counting of ballots with the blessing of the judicial authorities responsible for monitoring the elections.

The referendum campaign also provided an opportunity for President Erdoğan to engage in intense polemic with the European Union (EU), in particular with Germany and the Netherlands following the limitation by these countries of the meetings supporting "yes" organized with the presence of ministers of the government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). With many European countries relations have since become despicable, Germany, Netherlands and Austria declaring the members of the AKP government as persona non grata. The European Parliament voted two recommendations to suspend the accession negotiations with Turkey and the Council of Europe has decided to reopen a monitoring procedure for Turkey (procedure closed in 2004).

Finally, the detention of about ten members of the HDP, including its vice presidents, the appointment of judicial administrators in three quarters of the municipalities led by the pro-Kurdish party and the detention of the elected mayors. Moreover, the resumption of military operations against the positions held by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) further distanced the hope of a reopening of negotiations to resolve the Kurdish problem peacefully.

The referendum of 16 April 2017 is the consecration of Tayyip Erdoğan as the all-powerful Reis (the chief) of the "new Turkey". The constitutional reform provides for the implementation of the new regime in two stages. It immediately allows the President to become a member of a political party and set up a new Council of Magistrates and Prosecutors. These are the provisions that Tayyip Erdoğan most wanted to bring into force. At the beginning of May, he joined the AKP again and at an extraordinary congress on May 21st, he became again the president of the party. Thus, concretely, Turkey currently has a President of the Republic who is also president of the majority party in the Parliament. The separation, even if only symbolic, between the legislative and executive powers no longer exists. Tayyip Erdoğan is a leader of a party that benefits at the same time from the political irresponsibility recognized to the presidents of the Republic! Re-elected president of the AKP, Erdoğan immediately modified the members of the governing bodies of his party, which became totally the Erdoğan Party.

At the end of May, the eleven members of the new Council of Magistrates and Prosecutors were appointed, four directly by Tayyip Erdoğan and seven by his parliamentary majority. The appointments and promotions of the magistrates are frozen. Since the coup, a quarter of the judiciary has been dismissed and new appointments to judicial vacancies are made through accelerated special procedures, with a large majority of AKP lawyers among the newly appointed.

The other provisions provided for in the constitutional amendments will come into effect following the upcoming 2019 presidential election, including the disappearance of the prime ministerial position. The head of state will be the sole head of the executive and the government exclusively responsible to him. The parliament becomes a chamber of registration without a major function while the head of state will have the legislative power by presidential decrees.

The referendum has revealed the extreme polarization of Turkey, divided into two equal parts: on one side the supporters of Erdoğan who devote a true cult to him; on the other, those who show him deep hatred. The reflection of this polarization is very visible in the geographical distribution of the results of the referendum. "The march to justice" from Ankara to Istanbul, by Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, head of the main opposition party, the CHP, in June 2017, once again showed Turkey's strong mobilization, which says "no to Erdoğan". The success of the march, crowned on 9th July by a gathering of more than 1.5 million people in the outskirts of Istanbul, revived the opposition which hopes to keep the unity of "no" camp for the presidential election to come. Hope that turns out to be a difficult wish at the moment.

How to qualify the current political regime in Turkey?

The regime that is put in place is much more than just authoritarianism, but it is not a classic dictatorship either. It is an elective autocracy. It is an autocracy, because all powers, without exception, are concentrated in the hands of one person. Justice is under the personal control of Erdoğan as well as religious power, via the Directorate of Religious Affairs. Finally, the army has been totally disrupted by the successive purges since 2008. Currently 40% of the generals of the Turkish army are in detention and about 10% of the officers have been sacked.

Tayyip Erdoğan expresses more and more openly his will to pursue a policy of re-Islamization of the public space. In particular, he gradually introduces religious courses in education and actively supports the development of religious schools. To ensure his re-election in 2019, he continues the absorption of the extreme right party by displaying an Islamic-nationalist posture. At the extraordinary congress of the AKP, he managed to have inscribed in the statutes "four principles": one single State, one single nation, one single homeland and one single flag. Two other principles, without being pronounced, are added in hollow with the other four: one single language (Turkish) and one single religion (Sunni Islam). And one single chief, it goes without saying!

This elective autocracy is first and foremost the rule of arbitrariness of power. Not only the rule of law is abrogated, but also it is no longer a State of the law that remains in force. The total loss of legal certainty accompanies this state of arbitrariness. Turkey is caught in an authoritarian turmoil with a headlong rush of the power towards ever more repression, fuelled by a growing fear of losing power one day. Turkey is suffering the effects of an authoritarian surge whose consequences are likely to be even more catastrophic for everyone.

Translated by Orsetta Spinola

Photo Credits: Cristoforo Spinella- Commemoration of the anniversary of the failed coup in Ankara's Parliament 


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