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New Left Review I/115, May-June 1979


Çağlar Keyder

The Political Economy of Turkish Democracy

Turkey occupies a highly distinctive position within the third world. Never colonized, the country inherited a rich political tradition from its imperial predecessor. Before ‘liberation struggle’ became the order of the day, its leaders were proclaiming a secular republic within a nation state constructed much along the lines suggested by the theorists of 1789. Yet this political precocity did little to alter the under-developed, peripheral character of the economy. Turkey followed a pattern common to Latin American and Asian countries alike: it was open to the world economic currents in the 1920s; followed a state-interventionist policy in the 1930s; raw material exports characterized the War period; recovery and import-substituting industrialization occurred under post-war American hegemony; and crisis ensued during the second half of the 1970s. Despite this similarity of the economic pattern, however, Turkey continued to be unique in its political history. Alone in the third world, its political régime has been a genuine multi-party democracy since 1946 with the exception of two ‘extraordinary’ periods together lasting about four years. Again, exceptionally, the party which now forms the government, and which expects to win a plurality in the next election, has become a member of the Socialist International. In addition to the unusual presence of bourgeois democracy, without governmental political repression and a ‘left-wing’ party in power, Turkey boasts another distinction: the existence of a fascist movement and party powerful enough to challenge government authority on the streets and to poll a significant number of votes in parliamentary elections.

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