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The Warring States of Turkey

A decade of stellar political and economic performance had convinced many analysts that Turkey could act as a model for the rest of the Muslim Middle East. But, over the last few months, the government’s efforts to counter the influence of the Gülen movement have jeopardized many of Turkey’s achievements.

BANGALORE, INDIA – Turkey’s democratic experiment appears to be floundering. A decade of stellar political and economic performance had convinced many analysts that the country could be an inspiration, if not a model, for the rest of the Muslim Middle East. But the government’s actions over the last few months – which mark a trend, rather than being isolated incidents – have jeopardized many of Turkey’s achievements.

It all began with a wave of corruption charges, based on considerable evidence, brought against government officials, businessmen, and politicians’ family members. Of course, corruption by itself does not pose a serious threat to democracy, especially in the developing world. India, for example, remains a functioning democracy, despite high-level corruption that far exceeds anything that Turkey has experienced.

The problem in Turkey has been the government’s excessive response to the corruption investigations: removing thousands of police officers and reassigning hundreds of prosecutors and judges. The authorities’ heavy-handed retaliation for a legitimate inquiry became an international scandal, eroding confidence in the commitment of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to democratic norms.

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