erdoganHow can you tell when a country is no longer a democracy? Is it when checks and balances are too eroded to prevent abuses of power? When minority rights and individual liberties have been curtailed? Is it when the separation of powers breaks down and power becomes concentrated in the executive? When the media has been successfully co-opted or intimidated into acquiescence? Or when the transfer of power to an opposition party becomes unthinkable?

‘Strong men’ are back in the driving seat; from Russia, to Venezuela, to Malaysia, the Philippines, Egypt, and now Turkey. In many cases, the dear leaders genuinely command majority support (occasionally overwhelmingly so). Of course, it’s difficult to get bad press when critics end up dead or in jail.

In Turkey, those critics believe the march towards authoritarianism has taken another step forward. On 16 April, Turkish voters approved a package of constitutional reforms in a referendum, centralising power in the office of the president. The amendments will give President Erdoğan the power to appoint and dismiss government ministers, pick judges, enact legislation by decree, and draft state budgets. Potentially, they could allow him to stay in power until 2029.

Supporters counter that the Turkish parliament will still have the power to veto presidential decrees and budgets. They argue that the previous constitutional arrangement was unwieldy, and cite the July 2016 coup attempt and frequent terrorist attacks by both the PKK and the so-called Islamic State as proof that Turkey needs a strong government.

Yet how strong is too strong? More than 170 newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations have been closed down by the government since the coup attempt, and 145 journalists have been imprisoned. Tens of thousands of civil servants, academics, and members of the police, military, and judiciary have been dismissed from their jobs. Dozens of opposition MPs have been jailed.

Is Turkey still a democracy? How can you tell when a political system is no longer democratic? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – unaoc

102 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Roger Bylèhn

    Honestly speaking and in my opinion: hell no!
    A democratic country don’t prosecut journalist and political opponents.

  2. Αναγέννηση

    The United States needs to support the Kurds of ROJAVA KURDISTAN seek independence and full sovereignty from Syria , while at the same time supporting the Kurds of BAKUR KURDISTAN in Turkey ( Turkey is the State Sponsor of ISIS terrorism) and BASUR KURDISTAN in Iraq, to go towards forming a Sovereign Federation Nation State of Kurdistan, dissolving Turkey, Syria and Iraq into smaller areas with the establishment of Sovereign Kurdistan. Question remains, will Russia assist Greece reclaim from the Turks ,the Greek city of Constantinople , Eastern Thrace and Western Asia Minor and northern Cyprus from Turkey ?

    • Spyros Hadji

      Russia…? Hmm…dont think so..
      Nothing to gain my friend…
      May your wosh come true though

    • Παυλος Χαραλαμπους

      The president of the united states can’t expend his rule for 10 fucking years! he can’t hire or fire judges who likes or dislikes he can’t pass a law with out the senate approval! All this above erdogan now can do them actually he already started by chancing almost 30 articles of the Turkish constitution in a single day!

  3. Mohammed Khair

    It is the people choice, the amendments came after a legal referendum. It is the same in the UK where the people chose to leave the EU. As long as it is the people choice, then nothing to be said.

  4. Tony Petersen

    Deciding to count as valid 2,000,000 unstamped ballots in an election that was won by 1,500,000 votes speaks for itself.

    • Graziano Paul Mare

      What are they? Oh the same Christian values that allow us to build walls, let people die, have holocaust, sell weapons to criminals and then blame them for using them against innocents? I see

    • Luísa Cunha Ventura Gagean

      We don’t agree. That’s it.
      Who told you I am a Christian? I am against all kind of dictatorship, and Islam is right now one of the worst. Freedom😜

    • Max Berre

      I find it hilarious when somebody from the former communist bloc says something to that effect. My guess is that nobody in that region who was born prior to the fall of the berlin wall feels that way.

    • Vytautas Vėžys

      Max Berre Not like people who lived in Soviet Union don’t see same patterns “One Union, one government, one socialist republic”.
      And in our Soviet Lithuanian anthem we had words:
      “In glorious Soviet Union
      Equal among equals and free…”
      looks familiar?

    • Karolina

      Vytautas, it is not so much about slogans or manifestos but more about institutions and particular laws that guarantee people’s rights and the continuation of the nature of the state.

    • etc

      Never was or will be.

  5. Ozan Sürel

    It can be defined in comparisions. There is one truth in this; as middle eastern values based on sects and irrational thinking get stronger in a country, democracy becomes just a dream, nightmare for most.

  6. Bart Van Damme

    In a democracy, the people are in power (democracy = demos kratein = the people rule). Which means that there probably are no democracies on this planet.

  7. Andrea Scacchi

    Even hitler was elected. But would you call nazigermany a democracy?
    I won’t.
    By the way Assad was elected and still we consider him a dictator (even to the point of spreading false accusation like the “gas attack” yeah yeah)
    europe is freedom.
    Slavery is freedom.
    The EU is watching you.
    This page, like the EU, is stupid.

  8. Ivan Burrows


    Are pro EU fanatics now saying every country that has a president is a dictatorship ?

    Given ‘the people’ did not vote for El presidente Juncker the claim actually applies to the EU far more than Turkey.

    • Karolina

      Ivan, your comment highlights your ignorance to such an extent that you have just lost every hint of credibility that you may have had.

  9. Νίκος Γιαννίρης

    Democracy is always interpreted by each ones interests.And YES much more democracy in Turkey than let’s say USA or China .Count out the deads from police violence in USA or death penalty and you will see what I mean.In Turkey MAJORITY rules in USA NO.In Greece the government is ruled by 17% coalition.But we still think we have democracy.So what’s your point?

  10. Ali Sadeghi

    Erdogan will now enjoy the same executive powers that an American or French president enjoys, but without all the institutional checks and balances that exist in the US and France.

    The judiciary, the legislative, and the civl society will lose a lot of their independence under the new system. Which means, in effect, Turkey is now more authoritarian than democratic.

    • Katerina Mpakirtzi

      Εχει η τουρκια καμια σχεση με τις ευρωπαικες αξιες? Να ξερουμε τι λέμε… οχι α-νοησιες. Αλλο αν εχουμε δημοκρατιες του ενος ανδρος… τυραννιες δηλ.

    • Nikolas Lodakis

      Ενω my fellow Greeks Greece and EU is. Go on and fool yourselfs.

    • Yiannos Phiniotis

      I don’t think that any of the EU countries can be compared to an Islamic dictatorship. So get your acts together!

  11. Burak Tayanç

    EU should debate and focus on their own union related issues rather than focusing on other countries internal issues.. especially a country never been in need of EU should not occupy EU’s agenda that much. :)

    • Galina Dimitrova Valcheva

      Well in that case, why this man wants to enter Turkey in EU? I heard that he is preparing a referendum about this!

    • Burak Tayanç

      That’s correct as he recently mentioned there may be a referandum in the future whether Turkey should remain as a candidate state or not. But it seems that the status of visa exemption agreement between Turkey and EU will indicate if such action is needed.

  12. Manuel Alegria

    and what do we care about Turkey???
    One of the many M East countries that will only survive under strong dictator leader…

    • Galina Dimitrova Valcheva

      Well because he wants to be part of EU! And h is able to create the next big conflict in Europe!

  13. Vassiliki Xifteri

    In order for democracy to flourish, you need to have an educational system that would promote dialect, transparency, and the common good. E.U. countries have a long way to go and so does the rest of Europe. Unless we fight corruption, we won’t be able to experience true democracy. (Yes, I rather look at my hump than check out the neighbour’s. What kind of an example are we setting in order to be able to speak about democracy?)

  14. Rob Eastham

    I’m a strong supporter of the EU project and voted remain in the UKs referendum, but (before we start getting on our morale high horse upon “our” democratic values and respecting the views of the people) the real question is – is the EU democratic? I do not see a single policy within the EU Parliament which addresses the big issues of concern by the European peoples and nor do I see a democratic mandate by which we can stop and check their progress.

  15. Katerina Mpakirtzi

    No. Referendum was fake. One person put 5 Evet (Yes) . Tanks on kurds villages. Refugees from Syria said..Yes. and minorities or differend politics will faces death penaldy. Blood as usually

  16. Constantine A. Macheras

    Let’s stop the jokes guys. Turkey is not a European Country. Has nothing to do with Europe and will never have. Is Turkey a Democracy? Of course not and it will never be. Their government is Junta like the rest of the ME countries. They still have the Sultan and they are happy.

  17. PD Schumacher

    It’s not a hard question. If a President of a so called democracy ( any country) can dictate who becomes minister,judge so on so on. Than that clearly is no longer a democracy but a republic. And any republic in my humble opinion is close to becoming a dictator ship. Very close.

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    One big media per european country will spread the message this week and they gave us the authorization to let “pages” like yours communicate about it. If you think it’s worth it, feel free to share.

    Subtitles are available in english and 6 other languages. If you want any other other informations, it would be pleasure to talk about it with you. History is playing a weird game right now. We need to be clever & united.

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  19. Karolina

    I am surprised by the question. When exactly was Turkey a full democracy?

  20. Serdar Erden

    Turkey was quite democratic country between 2002 and 2010 until Mr Erdogan consolidated power. AKP Government signed a number of democratic and progressive decrees on Kurdish issue and successfully liberalised bureaucracy and economy. Turkey also initiated membership talks with EU. If EU accepted Turkey, Turkey would be democratic country without Erdogan. EU’s dysfunctional bureaucracy and narrow mind lost Turkey and Britain.

  21. Artemimin

    The best question is: Was Turkey a real democracy ever?
    Not really, since Erdogan was elected, the country took a one-way route to dictatorship… The 2016 coup came too late to revert the authoritarian measures, and when the coup failed, the no-return point on the way to dictatorship was reached: this referendum is just only the last step, but the route began on 2003. I would like to hear the opinion of Abdullah Gül, the predecessor of Erdogan…

    • Tchoum Xav

      Europe is a continent. If you talk about the EU. Well the European Parliament is more democratic than all national institutions.

    • Nikolas Lodakis

      Europe now days is EU since we are having a political discussion. EU now days is suffering of Democratic values. It needs to be reform

  22. Julia Hadjikyriacou

    What does this man and his 51% followers have to do to cross EU red lines of human rights? Killing members of the LGBT community, imprisoning scholars and reporters, closing down media,taking advantage of his own religion to manipulate his own people, threatening Greece, Cyprus, Syria, Israel for some Ottoman Empire dream with the backing of a 38 country member Muslim’ anti-terrorism’ coalition which includes Saudi Arabia-the apple of the UK’s defence corporations eye.

  23. Erich Scheffl

    NO -he does islamic brainwash. He does not invest in Education. His strategy: Victim of foreign states, and National proud. Same strategy as Hitler had at his beginning. Proof it at Youtube:

  24. Satsuma Angel

    It is a democracy. Being a democracy does not mean a country is just, or good. It is a dictatorship of the majority.

    • Любомир Иванчев

      Huge mistake. Dictatorship of the majority is bolshevism, not democracy. In democracy you have specific rules and rights according to which decisions are made. And even though a decision is made by majority of vote, this vote has to be made after discussion and debate, not by just abiding by what an angry crowd wants. This is how decisions are made in Parliament and that’s why it’s called a democracy. And the rules on which democracy is based are the rules of free speech and thought, secularism and equality of all citizens before the law. If you remove these rules, even by majority of vote, then you have bolshevism, not democracy.

  25. Любомир Иванчев

    Would you call a state that represses its citizens and violates their civil rights a democracy? Is a country where journalists and teachers are being fired and arrested for their political views a democracy? What do you think?

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