Report shows Turkish democratic backslide worst of 41 states

During a period of democratic downturn in industrialized states around the world, Turkey’s backsliding from democracy has been the worst out of 41 countries examined, according to the findings of the independent German Bertelsmann Foundation in a recently released report.

The report, titled “Sustainable Governance Indicators,” measures Turkey against countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), of which Turkey is a member, and the European Union, to which Turkey is an applicant for accession.

Turkey was one of 26 countries in the survey whose democratic standards have regressed since 2014, along with Poland, Mexico, and Hungary, according to a report by German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW).

The Bertelsmann report cites the state of emergency in place in Turkey between a July 15, 2016 coup attempt and July of this year as contributing significantly to Turkey’s democratic backsliding.

Under the state of emergency, Turkey was governed by government decrees, with many of them used to summarily dismiss lawyers, teachers, academics, police and other public workers from their jobs. This period also saw hundreds of journalists charged and over 200 media outlets shut down under a sustained crackdown on media critical of the government.

Turkey has been the world’s most prolific jailer of journalists for several years running, and this year several journalists have been handed down life sentences without the possibility of parole for alleged involvement in the coup attempt or links to the Gülen movement.  The Bertelsmann report also mentioned the Turkish government’s seizure of businesses allegedly linked to the Gülen movement.

A July 2017 piece in the Financial Times reported that the Turkish state had seized assets of alleged members of the Gülen movement worth $11 billion dollars from over 1,000 companies.

Despite the crackdown and loss of democracy in Turkey, the Bertelsmann report found that trust in the government has increased in Turkey, a trend also witnessed in Poland and Hungary that Bertelsmann Foundation board chairperson Aart de Geus described as “alarming.” (SCF with Ahval)

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