Turkey Table of Contents
Since the early years of the Turkish republic, the civil bureaucracy has played an important role in politics. It became one of the bases of Atatürk's power and was a key instrument of his reform policy, which emphasized adherence to the "Six Arrows" of secularism, republicanism, populism, nationalism, etatism (see Glossary), and reformism (see Atatürk's Reforms, ch. 1). During the 1930s and 1940s, a consistently high percentage of parliament members had a civil service background. However, the power and social prestige of the official elite declined with the emergence of competitive political parties in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Civil bureaucrats generally believed they worked in the service of the entire nation, and they tended to view politicians, especially those affiliated with the Democrat Party (Demokrat Partisi--DP), as being too partisan to comprehend the difference between policies beneficial to the nation and those merely serving special interests. Democrats and their Justice Party (Adalet Partisi--AP) successors did not appreciate these attitudes, and consequently bureaucrats lost credibility and influence among these politicians, who tried, generally with little success, to restrict the autonomy of the civil service.
The military regime that seized power in 1980 was less tolerant of an independent bureaucracy than its predecessor had been in 1960. Accordingly, it took measures designed to reduce the bureaucracy's autonomy and involvement in partisan politics. For example, civil servants lost the right to challenge or appeal decisions made by members of the Council of Ministers or the Council of State. Martial law commanders were empowered to remove or reassign civil servants under their jurisdiction at their own discretion. In April 1981, a Supreme Board of Supervision was established to oversee the bureaucracy. Its investigations resulted in a large number of officials receiving administrative or penal punishments and prompted many senior bureaucrats to leave government service. The tension between the military government and the civil service did not cease with the end of military rule. When Turgut Özal became prime minister at the end of 1983, he proclaimed that streamlining the bureaucracy was part of the fundamental administrative reform he intended to implement. Gradually, however, cooperation between bureaucrats and political leaders was restored; by the early 1990s, it was no longer fashionable to blame civil servants for the country's problems.
In early 1995, the civil service operated in accordance with provisions stipulated in the 1982 constitution and subsequent regulations. For example, civil servants are appointed for life on the basis of competitive examinations and can be removed from their posts only in exceptional cases. They must remain loyal to the constitution and may not join political parties. If a public employee wishes to compete in National Assembly elections, that individual first must resign from government service. All disciplinary decisions pertaining to civil servants are subject to judicial review.
Since the military coup of 1960, Turkish politics have been characterized by two opposing visions of government. According to the "rule from above" view, which has been dominant among the military elite and some of the civilian political elite, government is an instrument for implementing the enduring principles of Kemalism. Thus, if a government fails to carry out this mandate, it must be replaced by those who are the guardians of Atatürk's legacy, which is identified as synonymous with Turkish nationalism. In contrast, the "rule from below" view, which predominates among more populist-oriented politicians and thinkers, tends to regard government as an instrument for protecting the civic rights and individual freedoms of Turkish citizens. Thus, if elected leaders fail in their responsibilities, they should be voted out of office. Supporters of the first view tend to interpret democracy as a political order in which all Turks share common goals and national unity is not disrupted by partisan politics. When they perceive partisan politics as threatening this democratic ideal, they back military intervention as a corrective measure. Those favoring rule from below tend to accept diversity of opinion, and its organized expression through competitive political parties, as normal in a healthy democracy. These two very different conceptions of government have contributed significantly to Turkey's political history since 1960, an era in which periods of parliamentary democracy have alternated with periods of military authoritarianism.
The legacy of military intervention, in particular a general fear among politicians that it may recur, has adversely affected democratic practices in Turkey. For instance, the successor civilian governments have lifted only gradually the harsh restrictions imposed on political rights by the 1980-83 regime. In early 1995, various restrictions on the formation of political parties and free association remained in effect; civilians accused of "crimes against the state" continued to be remanded to military courts for detention, interrogation, and trial.
Data as of January 1995
Turkey Table of Contents