Another one bites the dust?

Burak Kara/Getty Images Democracy has had a rough run over the past year or so. Military interventions in Thailand and Bangladesh ended decades-long experiments with elected governments. In Lebanon and Ukraine, the “color revolutions” of 2004 have barely been able to hold back revisionists seeking to grab back the power of the state. Elections in ...

602153_070502_turkey_05.jpg
602153_070502_turkey_05.jpg

Burak Kara/Getty Images

Democracy has had a rough run over the past year or so. Military interventions in Thailand and Bangladesh ended decades-long experiments with elected governments. In Lebanon and Ukraine, the "color revolutions" of 2004 have barely been able to hold back revisionists seeking to grab back the power of the state. Elections in Nigeria last week were a debacle, while earlier polls in the Congo were followed swiftly by a resumption of political violence. China cheerfully peddles its recipe for one-party state-sponsored growth with a side of brutality throughout Africa. Russia, meanwhile, increasingly doesn't even bother to pretend it's a democracy, while those who point that out have developed the disturbing habit of turning up dead.

Now Turkey may succumb to the anti-democratic tide as well. The mildly Islamist ruling party enjoys wide support, but not from the military or the traditional governing elite. An attempt by the government to move its candidate for the presidency through parliament met with widespread protests by secularists and an ominous veiled threat from the military to intervene if necessary to protect the separation of mosque and state. A court ruling against the government and a call for fresh elections have postponed a direct clash between the two sides. The conflict seems to pit modernity and secularism against democratic values, however—not an appetizing choice.

Burak Kara/Getty Images

Democracy has had a rough run over the past year or so. Military interventions in Thailand and Bangladesh ended decades-long experiments with elected governments. In Lebanon and Ukraine, the “color revolutions” of 2004 have barely been able to hold back revisionists seeking to grab back the power of the state. Elections in Nigeria last week were a debacle, while earlier polls in the Congo were followed swiftly by a resumption of political violence. China cheerfully peddles its recipe for one-party state-sponsored growth with a side of brutality throughout Africa. Russia, meanwhile, increasingly doesn’t even bother to pretend it’s a democracy, while those who point that out have developed the disturbing habit of turning up dead.

Now Turkey may succumb to the anti-democratic tide as well. The mildly Islamist ruling party enjoys wide support, but not from the military or the traditional governing elite. An attempt by the government to move its candidate for the presidency through parliament met with widespread protests by secularists and an ominous veiled threat from the military to intervene if necessary to protect the separation of mosque and state. A court ruling against the government and a call for fresh elections have postponed a direct clash between the two sides. The conflict seems to pit modernity and secularism against democratic values, however—not an appetizing choice.

To get to the bottom of these developments, FP talked Turkey with Andrew Mango, a longtime scholar of the geopolitically crucial country. In this week’s Seven Questions, he explains that the conflict has roots deep in Turkish culture and that neither side can claim a monopoly on democratic values. Sitting uncomfortably between the West and the Middle East, Turkey has long been a bridge between the two; its direction will have far-reaching implications for them both. Check it out.

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