Students of liberal democracy have long highlighted its many paradoxes. Most notably, individual rights, although a necessary (albeit insufficient) condition for the existence of liberal democracy, often stands in tension with the dictates of electoral majorities. Nowhere is the tension between individual rights and democratic principle of popular sovereignty more apparent than in the contemporary Turkish context. Exemplifying that trend, the Justice and Development Party (JDP) came to power in 2002 after winning 34% of the vote, and maintained its rule through successive electoral victories in 2007 (with 47%) and 2011 (with almost 50%). Despite professing a commitment to democratic governance and contributing to democratization process early on, the JDP has taken an illiberal turn since 2007. As its popular support increased progressively, the ruling party began steering away from democratic practices, placing restrictions on the freedom of the press, and undermining judicial independence. It is within that context that Turkey offers broader lessons on how executive institutions can employ popular support and the legitimacy it affords them to undermine the effective workings of democracy.
Yeşim Arat is 2014-15 FSI-SHC International Visiting Scholar and 2014-15 Aron Rodrigue International Visitor at Stanford University, and Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Boğaziçi University, Turkey. She is the author of The Patriarchal Paradox: Women Politicians in Turkey (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1989), Rethinking Islam and Liberal Democracy: Islamist Women in Turkish Politics (SUNY Press, 2005), Violence Against Women in Turkey (with Ayse Gul Altinay-Punto, 2009-Turkish version, 2008 Pen Duygu Asena Award) and numerous articles on women as well as Turkish politics. Arat was the Provost of her university between 2008-2012 and is a member of the Science Academy, Turkey. She is currently working on a book on post-1980 politics of Turkey. She will be in residence at Stanford from October 6, 2014 through November 6, 2014.
The event is co-sponsored by the Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, Mediterranean Studies Forum and Stanford Humanities Center.