IRI Co-Hosts Panel Discussion on Turkish Public Opinion Survey

IRI and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) co-hosted a roundtable looking at challenges to the democratization process in Turkey.  Discussion focused on IRI’s recent national public opinion poll (PDF) and its implications for Turkey’s often complicated democratic system. 

The poll, which was conducted from March 29-April 14, 2008, provides a useful snapshot of Turkish public opinion on individual and national economic outlook, the 2009 local elections, secularism, the performance of governmental institutions, European integration, foreign relations, and the controversial closure case against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).  The roundtable’s participants included democratic development practitioners and Turkish policy experts.  Lindsay Lloyd, IRI’s Europe Regional Director, and Richard Kraemer, NED’s Program Officer for the Middle East and North Africa, served as moderators. 

The roundtable invited pollster David Williams, of Dave Williams and Associates, and Turkish economist Dr. Fuat Andic to open with an in-depth analysis of the poll.  Williams, who helped develop IRI’s survey, placed particular emphasis on the role the economy played in Turkey’s democratic development, explaining how many citizen’s political perceptions and beliefs were shaped by the country’s economic stability.  Williams argued this tendency was evident in responses to questions regarding what Turks want politicians to talk more about, of which a plurality cited economic issues.

Subsequently, Dr. Andic provided a Turkish perspective and historical context on a number of the issues covered in the poll.  He also offered possible explanations behind some of the attitudes highlighted in the survey. 

Following the presentation, Lloyd and Kraemer opened the discussion to the participants.  Based on the survey data and subsequent analysis, a number of comments involved Turkey’s economy, the impact of the strengthening Anatolian middle-class on the political system, and how the AKP will balance its tremendous popularity with its near closure at the hands of the Constitutional Court for anti-secular activities.

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