The ‘non- negotiated revolution’ of Turkey
The term of ‘negotiated revolution’ was first used by Herbert Adam and Kogila Moodey in a book of that title with reference to South Africa, in 1993.
Then, Rudolf Tökes published Hungary’s “Negotiated Revolution” in 1999. George Lawson’s article on the issue (“Negotiated Revolutions: the prospects for radical change in contemporary world politics,” Review of International Studies, 2005: 31) generalizes the concept with references to South Africa, the Czech Republic and Chile’s experiences.
Lawson’s thesis is that the time of classical modern revolutions is over but that “radical change” is still possible through less costly and more peaceful transitions which can be called a “negotiated revolution.” If such a transition could be possible, Turkey definitely needed one. Turkey was in a mess at the end of the 1990s, not because it was being governed by a series of coalition governments, but because those governments were not able to deliver some of the radical changes that Turkey badly needed. The political system needed to respond to socio-political pressures rising from Islamists/conservatives and from Kurdish socio-political dynamics and reform itself accordingly.
The chance came when the newly formed ex-Islamists/conservatives formed a majority government in 2002. Then, many assumed that the ex-Islamists, who have long been excluded from the political establishment, would pave the way for a radical socio-political transformation rather than pursue a “delayed Islamic revolution.” If there could be such a thing as a “negotiated revolution,” something like it would happen in Turkey. Nevertheless, things got sour, especially after the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power for the third time.
The reasons for the unfulfilled hopes may be open to debate. Nevertheless, one should first recognize the basic problem: the fact that there was no negotiation from the beginning to lead to a negotiated radical change. The regime of rigid secularism and its guardians (be it the political apparatus or ordinary secularist people) resisted any sort of compromise. It was not possible to even remove the ban on students with headscarves entering universities through negotiation and compromise. The conservative government managed to overcome the domination of rigid secularism only by becoming more and more powerful.
Besides, despite high expectations on behalf of both Kurds and Turkish democrats, it has been not been possible to get any closer to a solution to the “Kurdish question” because the process of negotiation and compromise could not even be started.
Finally, Turkey is caught in the middle of “a process of radical change” which does not “mean radical change.” The military authority is diminished by the rise of a strong civil government but the politics of militarism have remained. The rigid understanding of the “secular republic” has been challenged, but the rigid understanding of “national unity” has remained. The actors of the political establishment of the ancien regime have been radically challenged but the political establishment has remained. On top of everything, all change that was accomplished was not the result of democratic negotiation but of power politics.
Since the time of revolutions is over, it could have been the so-called “negotiated revolution” for Turkey. But because it was not possible to have a process of negotiation and compromise, Turkey is left between two bitter choices: the restoration of the ancien regime with different actors or political chaos. The most recent political crises centered on the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), is a bad sign of political chaos that none of us should hope for.