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International Influences on the Turkish Transition to Democracy in 1983
Working Paper

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CDDRL Working Papers

July 2008

This paper analyzes international influences on the transition to democracy in November 1983.

It is our contention that the Turkish military intervention did not face significant opposition from the United States and the European states and institutions. We support this argument with in-depth interviews of American, European, and Turkish officials, with available memoirs and books written by state officials and Chief of the General Staff Kenan Evren, with foreign newspaper articles published on Turkey between 1980 and 1983, and with official government documents from the US and Europe. These resources show that there were no substantial international sanctions against the Turkish military regime, even though the European Community and some European countries suspended aid to Turkey. Yet, we argue that international actors still played important roles in the democratic transition despite the lack of sanctions against the Turkish military.

During the aftermath of the coup, the US continued to grant aid to the military while the Europeans cautiously expressed concern for the suspension of democracy. The international community did not attempt to empower domestic opposition forces that could have challenged military rule. Thus, it seemed that international actors supported authoritarianism, rather than democracy in Turkey.  However, continuing assistance to the Turkish Armed Forces produced a counterintuitive result, as the American and European actors actually anticipated. The Turkish military was successful in restoring order and repressing opposition forces. This, in turn, gave the military generals confidence that they achieved their initial goals when they first planned the intervention, and therefore, they can lead a transition to democracy. The military’s own persuasion that it should return to its barracks and the fact that the international community believed they would do so were critical factors in determining the continuing support from external actors.

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