Country Report Turkey January 2011

The political scene: Democracy index: Turkey

The Economist Intelligence Unit's 2010 democracy index ranks Turkey 89th out of 167 countries, down from 87th place in 2008 despite a slight improvement in the score. Turkey trails well behind Croatia (53rd) and Macedonia (73rd), which are also EU accession candidates, as well as Romania (56th) and Bulgaria (51st), which joined the EU in 2007. Turkey is among the 33 countries considered "hybrid regimes". The transfer of power is a well-accepted process, but the military continues to play a role in politics. That said, EU-related reforms have gradually reduced its influence and civilian oversight of the security forces has increased. The high level of support for a wide-ranging constitutional reform package in a referendum in September 2010 suggests that popular demand for democratic reforms is strong, although it remains to be seen whether democratic reforms will ensue from the changes to constitution, as much will depend on implementation and enforcement.

Democracy index
 Regime typeOverall scoreOverall rank
2010Hybrid regime5.73 out of 1089 out of 167
2008Hybrid regime5.69 out of 1087 out of 167

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Turkey's law of political parties falls well below European standards

Turkey's score for the electoral process is high, reflecting high voter turnout and free and fair elections. However, since 2008 there has been no improvement in the Political Parties Law, which falls well below European standards, or the electoral system. Several parties have been banned in recent years, even if they do not use violence or advocate violence. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which was elected with 46% of the national vote in 2007, narrowly avoided being closed down by the Constitutional Court in 2008 for becoming a "focus for anti-secular activity". The pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), which had to present its candidates as independents at the July 2007 general election to get around the 10% threshold, was closed in December 2009 and around 40 of its members, including two members of parliament (MPs), were banned from politics for five years. Its successor, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), is also under investigation and could face a closure case ahead of the general election in mid-2011. The participation of women and minorities in national politics is low. After the 2007 general election, just 50 MPs were female out of a total of 550. Legislation to protect minority rights has been passed as part of Turkey's EU membership bid, but it is often inadequate and implementation is still weak.

Freedom of expression is not well protected

The number of lawsuits brought against journalists either by politicians or public prosecutors remains high. Several articles in the Turkish Penal Code, including Article 301 (despite amendments in April 2008), can still be used to prosecute individuals for insulting Turkey or its institutions. Under the new version of Article 301, insults against the "Turkish nation" and the "Republic of Turkey" are still deemed criminal offences. The maximum prison sentence has been reduced from three years to two and comments and remarks made in "criticism" are not deemed punishable. The decision to try an individual under Article 301 has to be approved by the minister of justice, which makes the judicial process vulnerable to politicisation. Internet sites are frequently banned and the right to protest is also restricted.

Democracy index 2010 by category
(on a scale of 0 to 10)
Electoral processFunctioning of governmentPolitical participationPolitical cultureCivil liberties

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Democracy index 2010: Democracy in retreat, a free white paper containing the full index and detailed methodology, can be downloaded from

Note on methodology

There is no consensus on how to measure democracy and definitions of democracy are contested. Having free and fair competitive elections, and satisfying related aspects of political freedom, is the sine qua non of all definitions. However, our index is based on the view that measures of democracy that reflect the state of political freedom and civil liberties are not "thick" enough: they do not encompass sufficiently some crucial features that determine the quality and substance of democracy. Thus, our index also includes measures of political participation, political culture and functioning of government, which are, at best, marginalised by other measures.

Our index of democracy covers 167 countries and territories. The index, on a 0 to 10 scale, is based on the ratings for 60 indicators grouped in five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture. The five categories are inter-related and form a coherent conceptual whole. Each category has a rating on a 0 to 10 scale, and the overall index of democracy is the simple average of the five category indices.

The category indices are based on the sum of the indicator scores in the category, converted to a 0 to 10 scale. Adjustments to the category scores are made if countries fall short in the following critical areas for democracy:

  • whether national elections are free and fair;
  • the security of voters;
  • the influence of foreign powers on government; and
  • the capability of the civil service to implement policies.

The index values are used to place countries within one of four types of regimes:

  • full democracies-scores of 8 to 10;
  • flawed democracies-score of 6 to 7.9;
  • hybrid regimes-scores of 4 to 5.9;
  • authoritarian regimes-scores below 4.
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Whilst every effort has been taken to verify the accuracy of this information, The Economist lntelligence Unit Ltd. cannot accept any responsibility or liability for reliance by any person on this information