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Democratization Process in Iraq and Turkey

Info: 5705 words (23 pages) Essay
Published: 10th May 2019 in Politics

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In this time of history where citizens are increasingly becoming aware of their civil rights and freedom, most governments have to implement democratic systems. Furthermore, pressure from Human rights organization and other international bodies that bar non-democratic countries from participating in various events has triggered democratization in various countries. Democratization as per Sørensen (2010) is the transition from an autocratic system into a democratic one.  Some of the influences of democratization include wealth, education, international participation and the civil society. According to Sadiki (2014), a strong civil society is necessary to mobilize the public around democratic duties. However, in order to have a strong civil society, there is need to create a democratic environment that encourages freedom of expression. The Middle East, particular, has been the focus of most studies due to its attempt to transition from the authoritarian Ottoman regime into a democratic regime. It is, therefore, vital to examine the causes, achievements, and obstacles of the democratization process in Iraq and Turkey.

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Problem Statement

One of the key issues facing Middle East countries is how to establish democratic institutions that promote stability, political harmony, and economic development. This problem is majorly because most Middle East countries have been through long periods of political conflicts and dictatorship forms of government and as such, they are used to such systems. Many countries in the Middle East have failed to establish stable democratic systems and those that attempt often face challenges and reverse to authoritarian systems. These challenges originate from the ethnic and religious conflicts that govern such countries. According to the Freedom House, Middle East Countries with the highest scores of democracy are Tunisia, Israel, Turkey, Kuwait, Morocco, and Lebanon (Santos & Teixeira, 2013). Countries like Iraq and Egypt are partly democratic while others such as Yemen and Saudi Arabia retain authoritarian system (Haynes, 2013). The problem of authoritarian system is evident in the mistreatment of the people, presence of a single political party, a lack of general election, failure to implement the rule of law, and lack of the freedom of expression. Based on this aforementioned negative effects of authoritarian rule, there is need to address how nations can successfully transition from such regimes into democratic systems.

The concept of democratization has received attention from various researchers (Volpi, 2013; Akgün, Perçinoğlu & Senyücel Gündoğar, 2010; Haynes, 2013). However, a majority of these researchers focus their studies on the history of political regimes and few fully address the democratization process. Furthermore, most of these researchers use outdated information that is not in line with the current democratic reforms. Due to this gap in the literature, there is lack of information on how democratic systems work. In addition, there no sufficient data on the factors that can accelerate transition to democracy. Grugel & Bishop (2013) contend that studies on democratic transitions are imperative to provide both citizens and political leaders with knowledge and evidence that it is possible to implement a successful democratic system. The answer to Middle East conflicts lies in the establishment of democratic system in Middle East countries. The current study aims address this problem by filling the gap that exists in the literature on democratization in Middle East countries.

Discussion of Methodology

The objective of this discussion is to analyse the democratization process in Turkey and Iraq. Data needed for this analysis is only obtainable from secondary sources. Secondary data collection method was preferred for various reasons. First, it is a readily available source of data and this saves both time and money. Second, secondary data is easily accessible from library books and internet sources. Although Wilson (2010) argues that secondary-sources provide low-quality data, this limitation was delimitated by sourcing from government sources and other official institutions. The other research method that the researcher could have used is primary methodology. In primary methods, surveys are used to collect data through data is collected through surveys using interviews and questionnaires (Wilson, 2010). It was impossible to use this method because the research could not access the target population in Iraq and Turkey through surveys.

While using secondary methods, the researcher used data from articles, books, government websites, and trade institutions. While searching for articles on the internet, the researcher used key words. It was critical to use key words because they ensured the collection of only relevant data only. The key words used included “Democratization process,” “democratization in Iraq,” “Democratization in Turkey” and “Democratization process in the Middle East”. After searching each of these key words, there was availability of several possible options. The researcher used the inclusion and exclusion criteria to determine the articles to subject to critical analysis. These criteria are on three key factors: the relevance of the article, expertise of the authors and year of publication. The table below illustrates the inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Table 1: The inclusion and exclusion criteria

Inclusion Exclusion
The source topic entails democratization process in the Middle East Presence of key words in the source The source not older than 5 years (journal articles) or 10 years (books) Author(s) have expertise and knowledge in the subject to democratization in Iraq and Turkey. The source topic does not entail democratization process in the middle East Absence of key words in the source The source is outdated. Journal articles are older than 5 year and books 10 years. The expertise and knowledge of author(s) in the topic of the study could not be ascertained in Iraq and Turkey.

The study used recursive abstraction to analyse data collected from secondary sources, which involves analysing the collected data without coding (Wilson, 2010). Therefore, under recursive abstraction, there was repeated analysis and summarization of data sets to achieve until data that is more compact. The study observed ethical consideration. The researcher observed the plagiarism rule by paraphrasing information or quoting while giving credit to the original researchers. In addition, adhering to the specification of the above inclusion and exclusion criteria improved the reliability and validity of the study findings.

Literature Review

Various researchers have attempted to define democratization process. According to one researcher, democratization process is the transition to a democratic political system (Asmerom & Reis, 2016). Anderson (2012) contends that it refers to substantive and significant political changes towards a democratic direction. Overall, democratic process may be a transition from a dictatorship system into a full democratic system or from a dictatorship into a semi-democratic system or from a semi-dictatorship into a democratic system. Furthermore, such a transition may result in a success, like in the United Kingdom, or it may face criticisms and frequent changes such as in Argentina (Capoccia & Ziblatt, 2010). The expected outcome of any democratization process is to make sure that citizens have are allowed to vote and a freedom of expression in their political system.

According to Francis Fukuyama in his classical studies The End of History and the Last Man, liberal democracy is a form of human government (Cederman, Hug & Krebs, 2010). In response to this claim, Samuel P.Huntingtom wrote The Third Wave defining global democratization trend in form of three waves. The first wave brought democracy to Northern America and Western Europe whereas the second wave was the emergence of authoritarian system during the Interwar period. According to Samuel, the third wave began in 1974 is still ongoing up to date. An example of the third wave is the transition to democracy in Eastern Bloc and Latin America (Coccia, 2010). Samuel suggests the Middle East as an example of a region that has gone through all these waves democracy. During the 15th century, the Ottoman Empire dominated and ruled the Middle East and when the Empire collapsed, the Western armies occupied the region. Ginsburg (2012) posits that a political power that emerges from both financial means and legitimacy is what motivates governments. Democratic governments attain legitimacy through the voice of the people in an open election while economic means from appropriate tax systems generate a vibrant economy.

Various factors trigger the democratization process including the civil society, history, and economic development. Although there is an underlying debate concerning the factors that accelerate or undermine the democratization, most have mentioned factors like wealth, culture, social equality, foreign intervention, foreign trade, education, international cooperation among others. Concerning wealth, Grugel & Bishop (2013) argue that a high gross domestic product relates to democracy in that the wealthiest democracies do not practice authoritarianism. For example, the rise of the Nazis in Germany and Hitler is a counter example; the Great Depression was a major blow to the already poor economy of Germany and this accelerated an autocratic system (Ishiyama, 2011). Moreover, during the industrial revolution, most countries did not have democratic system and this implies that wealth is a key factor in the democratization process.

The findings of Møller & Skaaning (2012) study show that economic development increases the chances of achieving a democratic system of government. Similarly, Lindberg & Sverrisson (2016) discovered that various aspects of economic development such as wealth, urbanization, and democratization are closely related democratic regimes. The modernization theory explains the factors of wealth, education, urbanization, and industrialization.  According to this theory, societies progress from traditional into modern societies, which have a good education system, industries, and development of towns; all these factors are antecedents of a democratic society. Research shows that education results in greater political tolerance, reduces inequality, and increases the chances of citizens to take part in political matters (Moran & Parry, 2015).

Besides wealth, Qi & Shin (2011) suggest a relationship between social equality and democratic transition. The likelihood of democratization in an egalitarian society is low because people have less incentive to revolt. In unequal societies, redistribution of power and wealth will be harmful to the elites who will do everything to prevent democratization. This notion is in line with findings from empirical researches that show democracy more achievable in egalitarian societies (Savun & Tirone, 2011; Sørensen, 2010). There are also various claims that some cultures significantly promote values of democracy compared to others. People consider the Western culture, for example, to contain values that make democracy possible and desirable. Foreign intervention especially military intervention also triggers the initiation of democratization as evidenced in Germany and Japan after the Second World War. However, in other cases such as in Syria, decolonization encouraged a transition into democratic systems and dictatorship regimes later replaced these systems.

Description and Evaluation of Research Findings

Democratization Process in Iraq

The history of political systems in Iraq dates back to the Baath regime that was characterized by decades of wars, tyranny and oppression that left the Iraqi society divided, lacking initiatives and susceptible to various sensitivities. The Baath regime operated under a one-party system; a dictatorship form of leadership. Under this regime, the single party dominated every political and social life of the citizens, backed by spying and killing of innocent lives suspected of disloyalty (Bengio, 2012). However, after the successful removal of the Baath regime in 2003, the country began its transition from a dictatorship regime into a democratic one (Bridoux & Russell, 2013). Transition to a democratic system in Iraq began in 2003 and this transition has grown from direct US rule to their partial withdrawal until the full administration of the country by Iraqis themselves (Brynen et al., 2012). According to Diamond (2010), succession of leadership in the Iraqi government involved the use cops and violence between 1958 and 2003. However, since the country reclaimed sovereignty in 2004, they have tried to hold general and provincial elections, write a constitution, and exercise a peaceful transfer of parliamentary life and political power (Diamond, 2010).

Despite this process, Elbadawi & Makdisi (2010) argue that the slow transition to democracy and a couple of challenges in democratization still impact on many Iraqis. The scope of the central government’s powers and the issues of federalism still divide the country. Additionally, there is the conflict of identity of Iraq as a democratic nation yet national interests such as Islamic (Mumtaz, 2010), drive its policies. Moreover, Khalilzad (2010) highlights corruption as one of the negative factors of post-2003 period in Iraq. The three forms of corruption present in Iraq are financial, administrative, and political and each contributes singly to the democratization process. The failure to curb corruption as stipulated by a democratic regime is evident in the using apathy among Iraqis and their diminishing confidence in their country. Corruption has continued immensely to instability and political violence resulting in lack of economic progress (Sadiki, 2014).

In relation to the electoral politics, Miller (2010) states that the electorate and politicians in the country still do not trust the performance-based appeal and instead, are still rooted the comfort zones of sectarian and ethnic affinities. So far, since its transition to democracy, the Iraqi election results reflect the ethnic and sectarian composition of the country. Selim (2012) posits that ethnic and sectarian factors encourage political leaders to slow the improvement of a country’s condition and cub factors like corruption. Furthermore, election of candidates in Iraq depends on sub-identities, and this further denies the country a leader who can inspire the citizens from sectarian and ethnic backgrounds.

Despite the current challenges during the process of democratization in Iraq, Miller (2012) argues that there is hope for democracy in the country. The withdrawal of the US forces from Iraq accelerated its transition to democracy. As per evidence from empirical research, the presence of the United States focussed on securing political outcomes. However, these outcomes only guaranteed the safety of the US troops but did not necessarily impact on a healthy transition to democracy (Paya & Esposito, 2010).Natarajan (2011) argues that democracy involves control of an organization by a majority of its members in order to address the issues that are special to that organization. Therefore, the presence of the US troops interfered with this process. With the US out of the way, the detractors of the political policies were able to debate over vital policies. Besides the withdrawal of the US troops, Tarrow (2013) reports on the improving performance of countries judicial system.

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Santos & Teixeira (2013) report that since its transition, the judiciary exercises the rule of law by ruling of law through based on solid grounds. According to the rule of law, everyone including policymakers is subject to the law (Tosun, 2014). For example, even the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is subject to the rule of law in court; a continual of this trend can accelerate the democratization process for Iraq. In addition, the new culture of subjecting the power of the armed forced to civilian control is a positive move into full democracy. The Iraqi military operates through destructive mechanisms in politics since the coup in 1936 (Tarrow, 2013). However, Bengio (2012) states that due to democratization, the army is adhering to a stringent professional policy of civilian command and this is a great move to a democratic system.

According to Tosun (2014), democratization process in Iraq faces obstacles from international sanctions and an economy devastated by war.  Additionally, there is a political culture of submission, fear, intolerance, and suspicion; a flattened landscape in which any opposition to Baath was driven underground; hostile neighbours whose dictatorship system is threatened by the idea of a democratic Iraq and a nation deeply driven by regional and ethnic divisions. Therefore, before achieving democracy in Iraq, Bridoux & Russell (2013) outline four preconditions that will ensure a smooth democratization process. First, the citizens must be conversant with how a democratic system works. In relation to this, Diamond (2010) argues that it is necessary for citizens to understand the constituents of a democratic government because their opinions are contingent upon such information. Similarly, Khalilzad (2010) asserts that information on how a democratic regime works is vital for citizens to be involved and understand the taking place around them. This is because without such information, citizens are unable to make informed choices about policies and political leaders.

Second, a country’s level of economic development greatly influences the outcome of democracy. As stated in earlier discussions, economic development relates with democracy. Therefore, it is very vital for Iraq to develop economically in order to maintain a democratic system of government. As hailed by the modernization theory, Iraq must create jobs, promote education, and improve infrastructure in order to transform from a traditional economy into a modern one (Mumtaz, 2010). Third, a change of religion is necessary for Iraq. In Iraq, Muslims believe that violence is the solution to every controversy. If Iraqi citizens could shift away from this tyrannical religion, then the process of democratization will be easy. Lastly, every citizen in Iraq should have access to social justice. Sadiki (2014) argues that social is imperative to prevent abuses of basic human rights and enhance social and personal development of citizens.

Democratization Process in Turkey

Turkey has been in the midst of a complex democratization process since the ends of the 1980 coup d’état (Akgün, Perçinoğlu & Senyücel Gündoğar, 2010). Grigoriadis (2010) states that since Turkey conducted its first election after the coup, it has undergone vital transformations that have greatly influenced its democratization process. Keyman (2010) argues that Turkey’s candidacy for EU membership particularly is a catalyst for a broad social and political spectrum that contributes positively to the achievement of political reforms. Although the process of democratization in Turkey has been slow and majorly characterized by piecemeal reforms, Kuymulu (2013) states that it has not met all the criteria that is inherent in a liberal democracy. Turkey’s democratization process has faced both moments of acceleration and obstacles. The country lacks unity between the parties in terms of objectives and legislative reforms that relate to the democratization process. A major indicator of these obstacles is the shortcoming in the process of adopting a new constitution in 2011 (Kuymulu, 2013).

Although democratization in Turkey was interrupted in the past by the military (coup, military takeover and the postmodern coup d’état), it has achieved significant success. Since its transition to democracy, Turkeys has succeeded in the implementation of various reforms. The government introduced substantial reforms on relationships between the civil society and the military, the judiciary and privacy of personal life. For much of Turkish history, the military has exerted influence into political affairs. According to Tezcür (2010), Turkey has undergone a tremendous military led transition from an autocratic one into a democratic one. Concerning the judiciary, the Turkey government is practicing the rule of law. To deal with the memoirs of the authoritarian regime, the judiciary has brought to justice the generals involved in the 1980 coup.

Besides that, the recent “peace process” by the government of Turkey created hope that the Kurdish problem can be resolved and the country can achieve democracy (Tezcür, 2010). The findings one survey in Turkey shows that around 60% of the population are in favour of the peace process and this implies that the citizens desire a democratic government (Tosun, 2014). Moreover, Öniş (2010) states that in a democratic system, the people must be free to air their voice on political matters. To comply with this democratic rule, Turkey has given rights to community foundations and the freedom of expression to its citizens (Öniş, 2010). Turkey has also succeeded in the areas of abolishment of the death penalty, freedom of religion and reform of detention centres and prisons.

The success of transition to democracy in Turkey is also evident in the relationship between the government and the civil society. The concept of civil society is strong in Turkey and the government has become the actor of social change through values like trust, social stability and social responsibility (Öniş, 2013). The civil society organizations (CSOs) in Turkey have influenced modernization and democratization. Grigoriadis (2010) states that these organizations implement values of democracy in people thus building their trust and confidence in democratic systems. However, Keyman (2010) argues that a reform of Turkey’s educational system will further enhance the contributions of the civil society to democracy.

Despite this success, the democratization of Turkey in the recent years has become part of a reverse wave. For democratization to succeed, Rodriguez et al. (2013) assert that the citizens must accept the process. In Kuymulu (2013) attitude survey, 8% of the Turks state that they disliked the American views on democracy claiming that it encourages the “subjects” to regard it as an imposition. Furthermore, as per Robert Dahl, a democratic theorist, no country has ever had a government that fully adheres to the criteria of a democratic process (Rodriguez et al., 2013). Tezcür (2010) identified three dimensions of democracy that include the level of political participation, the degree of political competition and the influence of political and civil liberties. In the Turkish case, these dimensions may be broken down into the role of Islam, the role of the military and the place of Turkish nationalism.

Although the military has played a significant role in democratization in Turkey, Tosun (2014) argues that it has also been an obstacle in this process. As Max Weber posits, if in a state there is monopoly use of force, a liberal state will limit its own use of force within a framework created by law (Tosun, 2014). Öniş (2013) argues that the role of the Turkish military as being “above society” and acting independently from the citizens continues to reverse the country to Ottoman times. Tezcür (2010) argues that if the “guardian” role of the military threatens the political class, then it will have problems in abandoning patronage resources. For example, after the 1980 coup, although the civil government owned the Constitution, the military had a privileged place. It is for this reason that Kuymulu (2013) posits that the attitude of the military in its relationship with the government is still a huge barrier to the democratization process.

The Turkish nationalism and the creation of a political community is also a barrier towards a transition to democracy. Modern democracy is contingent upon implementing and sustaining a political community. As Keyman (2010) asserted, it is impossible for the citizens to decide until someone decides for them. In a political community, people trust and respect each other without knowing each other. Democracy entails that the government that loses in election is confident that the winning government will serve them in the interests of the citizens. However, national identity and political community often overlap in some cases. This scenario is evident in Turkey where by nationalism is very strong but strives to compete with the existence of the policy itself. Therefore, the defensive nature of the Turkish nationalism means that it is impossible to express the cultural rights of minority communities. For example, although the government has permitted broadcasting in other languages, the use of this other languages is illegal in the political life.

The state of Islam in Turkey is also a barrier to achieving modern democracy. Over the past decade, Islam presents major challenges to the democratization process and there has been a negative relationship between democracy and Islam (Grigoriadis, 2010). While democracy call for a separation between the private and public dimensions of life, in Turkey, there is, a single interpretation of Islam does not allow for this separation (Keyman, 2010). Modern Islam accepts the separation between democracy and religion but do not deem it right to quarantine their religious life to private life. Therefore, Turkish military’s effort to suppress moderate Islam to public life is a threat to religion and pushes moderates to radical measures that negatively affect democratization.

Summary of Findings

The process of democratization is slow and faces many obstacles in both Turkey and Iraq. In Iraq, the various achievements in its democratization process include the improvement of the electorate, implementation of the rule of law and freedom of expression to the civil society. However, democratization in Iraq faces challenges from economic sanctions, regional and ethnic divisions, and sectarian affinities. On the other hand, in Turkey, the process of democratization seems to be a success. This is because, so far, the country has abolished death penalties, the civil society has the freedom of expression, and the peace process has suppressed ethnic conflicts. Despite this success, Turkey still faces challenges from the dominant role of the military, the restriction of use of Islam in public life and a conflict between the political community and nationalism. Based on this analysis, Iraq is partly democratic while Turkey is a fully democratic country.


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