Turkey’s Middle-Democracy Issues and How to Solve Them: Judiciary, Accountability and Fair Representation
£29.99, 2QT Limited
Turkey, to the outside observer, continues to tread a fine political line between alternative futures. The power concentrated in its president and institutions is ascendant following 2016’s failed coup. Debate around mooted EU membership continues, and there are philosophical difficulties exposed in importing and embodying rule of law requirements imposed as a result of external pressures. This is especially true given organs of state already adopt – or at least pay lip service to – the UN’s principles of democracy.
This tension is Gün’s middle-democracy. He borrows the terminology of the ‘middle-income trap’ – the notional situation suffered by developing companies when industry and wage expectations increase (reducing a manufacturing competitive edge) but new business areas do not arrive. Middle-democracy is the limited application of democratic principles within a faith-based culture with a presidential leader. Avoiding the middle-income trap, Gün argues, requires breaking free of middle-democracy. And it is the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and its ability to hold public officials, including its own membership, to account which will offer both freedom and prosperity.
Gün, a Turkish lawyer of experience, puts forward various high-level suggestions for how a stronger judiciary can be formed, based around increased autonomy for judges by way of a corresponding drawing back of the state. But what really stands out about the book is its commitment to making these arguments in the context of Turkey’s history and culture; and its proposition as a way to increase standards of living and the standard of dialogue, both internally and with the international community. It is a form of manifesto for the future of Turkey.
What it lacks is the academic rigour that wider referencing would bring. Without situating its ideas in and against the views of other (and possibly opposing) thinkers, the book reads – to this reviewer, at least – as an extended op-ed in the form of a monograph. The writing is detailed and considered, and the ideas are cogent but largely unsupported. So, for example, time is devoted to considering how improvements in judicial transparency might increase the number of corporate cases heard with the potential for new sources of revenue and focus from international legal scholars, creating a virtuous circle. Yet there is no support from academics or practitioners on the likelihood of creating such a market. It is just a single viewpoint.
Nevertheless, as an experienced practitioner’s view, its insight and progressive, constructive tone should be welcomed.
Tom Proverbs-Garbett is a solicitor