Unrest in Turkey06-04-2013
Seyla Benhabib has an op-ed essay in The New York Times today addressing the protests in Turkey. We have received requests to offer our thoughts on the events in Turkey. As of now, we are gathering our thoughts. There are few better places to begin than with Benhabib’s essay.
Benhabib rehearses the main complaints against the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan has been democratically elected three times. Nobody disputes his democratic credentials. Yet Erdogan’s turn toward populism has led to laws banning alcohol in public places (not yet signed into law) and proposed legislation to curb abortion through Turkey’s healthcare system. Finally, Erdogan is proposing constitutional reforms that would increase presidential powers and weaken Turkey’s parliament.
Benhabib is measured in her appraisal and even concedes that some of Erdogan’s reforms have merit.
Not all of the proposed reforms are objectionable. The 1982 Constitution, which remains in force, still bears marks from a military coup, and Mr. Erdogan’s proposals would rightly establish a more representative Constitutional Court, not dominated by the old secular elite.
What seems most disturbing in Erdogan’s actions is simply the speed and sense of purposeful transformation with which he is proceeding: What is irritating and bewildering to most Turks is the speed with which both good and bad reforms are being undertaken.
My colleague Walter Russell Mead has similar thoughts. He writes:
This is not yet a “Turkish Spring,” as many people are clamoring about on Twitter. Taksim Square is not Tahrir. Erdo?an is not Mubarak. Yet these protests matter. Turkey has had a good run over the past few years, but behind the scenes Erdo?an has consolidated power and run the government according to his own priorities; he’s arrested generals and journalists, muzzled dissent, and is attempting to enshrine a new constitution that would award the president enormous power. Many Turks despise him.
We will continue to follow the story of these protests. For now, you can read the rest of Benhabib’s essay here.