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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
Turkey's polarised political culture
Bulent Ecevit

The crisis that has prompted Turkey's early elections, and the demise of Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's government, throws a harsh light on the underlying weaknesses of Turkish political culture.


Perhaps what is different this time is that external pressures for change are so intense

It is a culture whose abiding features are paternalism and patronage, a culture where ageing patriarchs continue to hold sway.

It is a culture apparently caught between hardline nationalists on one side, and Islamists on the other, and where the parties of the centre have never managed to get their act together.

It is a culture where the military have become an alibi for the mistakes of the politicians, who can always say: "If we make a mess of things, the generals will save the day."

None of this is news to Turkish voters, who have long been disenchanted with their self-seeking politicians.

Every big crisis - whether economic or political - produces impassioned calls for a new and modern political culture which can finally solve the country's problems.

Perhaps what is different this time is that external pressures for change are so intense.

The world more than ever needs Turkey to play a whole series of geopolitical roles - in Europe, in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, in the unfolding drama of Iraq.

So everyone wants strong leadership in Ankara, but fundamental reform of Turkish politics still looks a long way off.

Turkey's election

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25 Jun 02 | Europe
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