Oct 09 2018

Turkish democratic backslide worst of 41 states, German foundation finds

During a period of democratic downturn in industrialised states around the world, Turkey’s slide away from democracy has been the worst out of the 41 countries examined, the independent German Bertelsmann Foundation has found in a report published this year.

The report measures Turkey against countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), of which Turkey is a member, and the European Union, to which Turkey is an applicant for accession.

Turkey was one of 26 countries in the survey whose democratic standards have regressed since 2014, alongside countries including Poland, Mexico and Hungary, German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.

The Bertelsmann report cites the state of emergency in place in Turkey between July 2016, shortly after the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government survived a botched coup attempt, and July this year, as contributing greatly to Turkey’s democratic backslide.

Under the state of emergency Turkey was governed by decree, with many of these used to summarily dismiss lawyers, teachers, academics, police and other public workers from their jobs.

This period also saw hundreds of journalists hit with charges and over 100 media outlets shut down under a sustained crackdown on critical media.

Turkey has been the world’s most prolific jailer of journalists for several years running, and this year several journalists have been hit with life sentences without parole for alleged involvement in the coup attempt or links to the Gülen organisation, which the government has accused of plotting it.

The Bertelsmann report also mentioned the Turkish government’s seizure of businesses allegedly linked to the Gülen organisation, a religious group made up of followers of the Islamist cleric Fethullah Gülen.

A July 2017 piece in the Financial Times reported that the Turkish state had seized assets of alleged Gülenists worth $11 billion dollars from almost 1,000 companies.

Despite the crackdown and loss of democracy in Turkey, the Bertelsmann report found that trust in the government has increased in Turkey, a trend also witnessed in Poland and Hungary that the Bertelsmann Foundation Board Chairperson, Aart de Geus, described as “alarming.”