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Civil-Military Relations During the AK Party Era: Major Developments and Challenges

The remarkable transformation of Turkish civil-military relations since the AK Party’s rise to power has not led to total democratization in this area. Although EU reforms reduced the military‘s formal and informal powers and trials about contemporary and historic coup cases might indicate that the military has been subordinated to civilian authority, achieving democratic civil-military relations would require a balance of power between civilians and the military: While the military must relinquish its role as the country’s guardians, civilians must work to regain the trust of military officers that they lost through the Ergenekon and Balyoz cases. Perhaps then Turkish civil-military relations can reach a democratic level, promoting democratic consolidation in the country.

Civil-Military Relations During the AK Party Era Major Developments and
Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan chairs the Supreme Military Council meeting. AA
 

The dominant role of the Turkish military in politics has constituted one of the significant obstacles to the consolidation of democracy in Turkey. The Turkish military has controlled politics since the establishment of the Republic in 1923 and more strongly starting in the 1960s through direct and indirect military interventions and the prerogatives received following various coups. The Turkish military sees itself as the guardian of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s reforms and principles, particularly secularism and nationalism, and has not refrained from intervening politically whenever it perceived that these values were in danger. Recently, however, the Turkish Armed Forces has slowly but significantly been losing this power. Since the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi – AK Party) took power in November 2002, there has been a dramatic shift in the balance of power at the expense of the military, establishing a more civilian dominated system. However, the progress in achieving civilian control has not yet transformed Turkish civil-military relations into a genuinely democratic model. 

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