Developments in Turkey

Updated: 5 October 2015

Turkey is a geographical and cultural bridge between Europe and the Middle East. A multiparty system was introduced after World War II, but democracy has had difficulty taking roots. Turkey is negotiating for EU membership, and certain reforms are under way, but much remains to be done.

Since 2002 the conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP), has dominated Turkish politics by winning three elections in a row. The party’s founder, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was prime minister until 2014 when he was elected president.

AKP's success is partly due to the fact that the party has improved the situation for the majority, while at the same time expressing a more traditional, Islamic belief. Gradually, however, the party has become increasingly authoritarian.

In 2012 the People's Democratic Party (HDP), a pro-Kurdish party where women have half the seats on the party ballots, was founded. In the parliamentary elections in 2015 HDP passed the 10-percent barrier and entered parliament.

In 2005, membership negotiations started between Turkey and the EU. In order to become member, Turkey needs to adapt the legislation and administrative systems to EU rules. At the moment, a Turkish EU membership looks very distant.

Human rights

Arbitrary detention, torture, violence and intimidation have long been a reality in Turkey. During the last ten years, however, the situation has at least partly improved. In, 2013 the AKP government was met wit the biggest popular protests against its rule so far. Police violence against protesters led to widespread criticism, also outside the country. The government responded by attempting to silence independent voices, using laws that severely limited the access to the Internet. Turkey is also one of the countries in the world where most journalists are imprisoned.

Social conditions

About a quarter of Turkey’s population are less than 15 years old and the population grows by more than a million persons per year. Turkey is in many ways an unequal society, especially when it comes to the relation between women and men. The income gap is large and there are significant differences in economic development between different parts of the country.


Turkey’s natural resources consist of, among other minerals, but the supply of oil and natural gas is limited. In 2002, AKP began its reign with rapid reforms. The country was modernized and the standard of living increased. The economic growth was 8.9 per cent in 2010, and the GDP per capita has seen a rapid increase.

The political uncertainty, however, affect the country's economic development and the Turkish currency has fallen sharply in value during 2015. The AKP party came to power as a "clean" actor, but over recent years the party has been part of a massive corruption scandal, involving several ministers.

The Kurdish people

The number of Kurds in Turkey is estimated to around twelve million, accounting for nearly a fifth of the total population. Before 1990, Turkey's Kurdish population where officially called "mountain Turks" and they were forbidden to speak their own language and form their own political parties.

In 1978 the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was founded, and in the 1980’s a long civil war between the PKK and the Turkish state began. In 1991 the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan was arrested and sentenced to death, later commuted to life imprisonment. After negotiations, PKK withdraw its forces from Turkish territory, and although the conflict has escalated during periods, the situation of the Kurdish population has improved since the 1980’s.

The war in neighbouring Syria affects Turkey strongly. Turkey's government is under increasing international pressure to intervene and protect the Syrian Kurds, especially in the city Kobane, which lies on the border with Turkey.

Page owner: Department for Europe and Latin America

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