Does Turmoil In Turkey Signal A Weakening Of Democracy Worldwide?

Vowing to purge state bodies of the “virus” that spurred the attempted coup, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has detained as many as 6,000 members of the judiciary and the military.

In the days following the failed coup, the United States has attempted to balance expressions of support for the Erdogan government, while also cautioning them to adhere to democratic princples.

Meanwhile, the defeat of the military coup has led to cheers from despotic regimes in the region, including Iran.

In a letter to his Turkish counterpart, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said the failure of the coup represented a “victory of the nation’s will, national sovereignty and democracy over a desperate and doomed measure.”

He added that “events over past few hours showed very well that the nations’ vote, will and demand are decisive.”

According to The Times of Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority also celebrated Erdogan’s survival.

On Friday night, senior Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzook tweeted, “The great Turkish people will settle the battle with the putschists,” while the PA offered congratulations to Erdogan in a phone call.

The unrest in Turkey reflects a larger instability throughout the world and a gradual weakening of democratic rule.

Although the actual number of democracies in the world is at an all-time high, some key trends that are working to undermine democracy, says Andrea Kendall-Taylor of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

A few of the trends are obvious threats to the international order, such as the rise of China, a robustly aggressive Russia and the diffusion of power from traditional nation-states to nonstate actors, such as nongovernmental organizations, multinational corporations, and technology-empowered individuals.

What is less often the subject of debate is the specter of widespread democratic decline.

Rising challenges to democratic governance across the globe are a major strain on the international system. When nations become more autocratic in their domestic politics, they tend to ally with other countries with a similar political environment.

“Democratic decline would weaken U.S. partnerships and erode an important foundation for U.S. cooperation abroad. Research demonstrates that domestic politics are a key determinant of the international behavior of states. In particular, democracies are more likely to form alliances and cooperate more fully with other democracies than with autocracies,” she writes.

In addition to weakening international institutions, such as the United Nations, it could lead to an increase in violence across the globe.

International relations literature tells us that democracies are less likely to fight wars against other democracies, suggesting that interstate wars would rise as the number of democracies declines. Moreover, within countries that are already autocratic, additional movement away from democracy, or an ‘authoritarian hardening,’ would increase global instability,” asserts Kendall-Taylor.

The future of Turkey as a democracy or a pseudo-democracy is unclear, but the emergence of a more authoritarian Erdogan regime cannot be a good sign for the future of democracy.

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