The Uneasy Democratization of Turkey's Laic-Ethnocracy

  • Bilge Azgin

Student thesis: Phd


This study aims to scrutinize Turkey's uneasy democratization process during the post-Helsinki period (1999-2010). The research design of the thesis takes the form of a single case study as it seeks to critically link Turkey's democratization problems with the wider theoretical literature on secularism, post-Islamism and democratization. Rather than witnessing the clear-cut victory of liberal democracy over non-democracy as espoused by Fukuyamian eschatology, the advent of the Post-Cold War Era witnessed the proliferation of hybrid grey zone which stood between the continuum of democracy and conventional non-democracy. As a result, many scholars opted to construct 'hybrid regime typologies' in order to capture the incongruous yet enduring coexistence of partially democratic and non-democratic features within each political unit. In line with contemporary developments in the democratization literature, this thesis opts to construct a multi-dimensional hybrid regime typology for the case of Turkey. Besides seeking to capture the core regime principles of the Kemalist one-party dictatorship (1923-1946) under the label of 'laic-ethnocracy', the theoretical framework of the thesis provides an assessable normative benchmark for delineating Turkey's democratization trajectory since the initiation of the multi-party era (1946-1950). After demonstrating how Turkey's successive 'controlled transitions' (1946-1997) consistently aimed at perpetuating ethnocratic hegemony and obstructing the democratic transformation of incompatible aspects of the Kemalist laicism, the thesis seeks to scrutinize the impact of the EU candidacy in shaping the pattern and outcome of the recent democratization process in the domestic arena. In this respect, the thesis underlines how the ongoing political 'transition process' during the post-Helsinki decade (1999-2009) qualitatively differs from all of the previous transitions which had been guided and forcefully controlled by traditional Kemalist state elites. Yet, the thesis also exposes the limited and partial commitment of the post-Islamist AKP government to forge the democratic transformation of Turkey's enduring 'laic-ethnocratic' regime paradigm namely by assessing its reform performance towards the cultural rights of ethnic and belief-rights of the non-Sunni Muslim minorities (e.g., the sizeable Kurdish ethnic and Muslim-Alevi religious minority). Overall, the thesis characterizes Turkey's 'post-Helsinki transition' process as a case of uneasy democratization. In this context, the term 'uneasy democratization' does not only highlight the inconsistencies of main domestic political actors in forging clear-cut democratic transformation of Turkey's enduring 'laic-ethnocracy' regime paradigm, but also to a chronic failure to soothe the deeply-seated cleavages within the socio-political arena.
Date of Award31 Dec 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDimitris Papadimitriou (Supervisor) & Stuart Shields (Supervisor)


  • Democratization, hybrid regime typologies, secularism, nationalism and minority rights

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