CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

1Since the authorisation of a multi-party system in Turkey following the end of the Second World War, the country’s political life has been characterised by the continuing appropriation of resources and state posts by the parties in power. This entrenchment of political parties within the state helps to explain how Turkey’s single-party governments have managed to maintain their stability; [1] by appropriating state resources and distributing them to their electoral constituencies, the parties have reinforced their position in power and reduced the potential for political changeovers. These dynamics should also be taken into consideration when analysing the longevity and consolidation of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP), which has been in power since 2002.

2To understand the historical trajectory of the Turkish political system, one must examine the factors behind the lack of autonomy of the state and partisan sectors. In order to do this, one must first isolate the motives that have led the various actors to defy sectoral boundaries so as to “take the state” and attempt to use it for purposes of political consolidation. This on-going practice of state appropriation points to the existence of a number of common tactics used by all of the actors in the political sphere since the end of the single-party regime following the Second World War. It may thus be hypothesised that these tactics, which have shaped the way politics is conducted in contemporary Turkey, are structured by the history of the relations both between the various protagonists of the political arena and between those actors and other spheres of society – especially the state. This article seeks to test this hypothesis by analysing the interactions that can be observed during the period between 1945 and 1950, when the country’s single party disintegrated and its members were scattered among several political parties, all of which were competing for access to power. This article has therefore a number of different historiographical and theoretical objectives.

3First of all, it aims to shed light on the dynamics that were endogenous to this pivotal period of Turkish political history. Although the era has been the subject of much research, it has never been analysed from the perspective of the tightly knit relationship between the party and the state, and how this relationship has shaped political competition. Several different factors contributed to the country’s exit from single-party rule. The transition originally stemmed from an initiative by regime officials to permit the existence of opposition parties, in a bid to externalise the internal criticism within the single party and gain the support of foreign powers that were pushing for a shift to democracy in the post-war period. The main characteristic of this process, therefore, was that it was overseen by the ruling party itself. Although regime officials did have to deal with opposition from members of the Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, CHP), who were denied access to the party-state’s most prestigious positions, there was neither a significant social movement demanding free and competitive elections nor any collective multi-sectoral movements to bring about regime change. Moreover, the transition process did not involve any negotiations between the various actors who were seeking access to power. No national conference was held to agree on the form the regime would take after 1945, and no identifiable pact was made between the various actors on the new rules for political competition which would guarantee, among other outcomes, the autonomy of the political arena. Furthermore, the CHP did not make any kind of pledge to its new competitors to assure them that it would abide by its own new rules for the system it had developed. [2] As a result, the reforms initiated by the ruling party did nothing to bring about the autonomy of the state, whose institutions were tightly bound to the ruling party and whose members had been appointed by that party since the proclamation of the Republic in 1923.

4Although various analyses of the transformation of the Turkish political system tend to attribute the change to one of the above characteristics, most fail to take into account the lack of separation between the political arena and the state, or the resulting effects of this on the observable relationships between the various competitors. Based on the discourse of the actors involved, certain authors consider that the reforms of 1945-1950 represent a new stage in a process of democratisation initiated by Mustafa Kemal in the aftermath of the Turkish War of Independence with the establishment of a single-party “Republican” system. [3] Viewed from a perspective close to that of culturalist theories, the “success” of this import can thus be explained by the presence of modernising secular elites that were predestined to bring Western democracy to the country. [4] While most of the literature does not take this biased view, a number of authors interpret the changes in the Turkish political system as a transition towards democracy [5] or a multi-party system, [6] generally making no distinction between the two concepts. The process has thus been analysed and assessed in terms of a point of arrival [7] that the country is considered to have reached in 1950 when President İsmet İnönü recognised the victory of the Democrat Party (Demokrat Parti, DP) and accepted political changeover. Cemil Koçak is more careful; rather than speaking of a transition to a multi-party system between 1945 and 1950, he argues that the CHP gambled on making the political arena bipartisan by authorising the creation of a competing party of its own choosing in order to maintain a supervised system and exercise easy control over the newcomer. [8] Erik J. Zürcher partly adopts this perspective when he notes that the approval of opposition parties was primarily a strategy formulated by regime officials. However, Zürcher considers the “process of democratisation” [9] to have ended in February 1950, when a compromise was reached between the two main competing parties on the electoral law that would govern the parliamentary elections of 14 May. [10] This type of sequential analysis of the path charted by the regime towards democracy is a common one. The “transition” is explained by isolating different steps: the authorisation of opposition parties to give the regime a surplus of legitimacy in 1945; [11] recognition of the election as the “only game in town” [12] by the CHP and acceptance of a neutral position by President İnönü in 1947; and, eventually, agreement on the genuinely free and competitive nature of elections in 1950 once İnönü had accepted the creation of joint electoral councils chaired by judges, recognised the Democrat victory, and rejected the intervention of officers who had remained loyal to the former single party after its defeat. The story generally put forward by the literature is thus one of a conversion to democracy, and at the same time a transition to peaceful democracy.

5This tale of events contains a series of elements that have been identified by transitology and theories of democratic consolidation as being crucial for the establishment of a stable democracy; according to this perspective, the elites (in politics and the military, for example), having first taken defiantly opposed positions on what form the regime should take, went through a process of convergence (or “elite settlement”) and eventually reached a comprehensive agreement on the rules of the political arena. This is illustrated by the orderly manner in which the 1950 changeover took place, the silence of the army, and the way in which the former president resolved to accept the Democrat victory, having already accepted the establishment of an electoral law that allowed for a genuinely competitive contest. However, this interpretation of the period, and in broader terms the theories of transitology [13] and democratic consolidation, [14] do not square well with the exit route from the single-party system in the Turkish case. [15] Firstly, such theories ignore the continuing existence of major disagreements among the elites in 1950, which can be identified by studying the sources now available for the period. Secondly, they are geared towards an analysis of politicians’ practices of state appropriation, as seen after the changeover, in terms of a deviation from the democratic norm and regression from to the consensus reached in 1950. They therefore play a part in condemning the political parties’ actions for their inconsistency with democratic principles and legitimising the military interventions (especially those of 1960 and 1980) perpetrated in the name of re-establishing the rule of law, democracy, and national unity. With their specific and irreducible view of supposed models of stable democracy, these theories prevent the country’s political trajectory from being viewed in a positive light.

6The sources now available for analysing the period offer a means to disprove this type of interpretation. The collection of documents on the former single party, which can be consulted at the archives of the Presidency of the Council in Ankara, are an invaluable resource, yet one that is largely untapped by works on the period following the Second World War. These documents can be used to reconstruct the steps taken by local and national CHP leaders to retain control of the electoral process and the state apparatus after the president of the republic made his first statements in favour of authorising opposition parties. They also provide a great deal of evidence on the guidelines, complaints, demands and denunciations addressed by the local branches of the former single party to their general secretariat. Finally, they offer us an opportunity to understand how the party leaders and public servants worked in a coordinated manner to contain the opposition. To my knowledge, equivalent records do not exist for the Democrat Party. [16] However, an analysis of various national press publications has helped to diversify the information sources consulted. The daily newspapers studied were Ulus (the publication of the CHP) for the period between January 1945 and May 1950, Cumhuriyet for July 1948 to May 1950, Hürriyet for April 1949 to December 1959, Tanin for January 1945 to September 1946, Yeni Sabah for April 1944 to June 1950, and Zafer (the publication of the DP) from its establishment in May 1949 to May 1954. [17] Memoirs published by former officers [18] provided information on the politicisation of members of the military and the initiatives they undertook during the period in question.

7These different sources reveal that, for the CHP, the benefit of authorising opposition parties lay in the possibility it offered to open up the political arena while also retaining firm control over the state machine, which could then be mobilised by the CHP to win the political contest that it had agreed to transform. The political changeover of 1950 was therefore a consequence that had not been foreseen by the former single party. It stemmed from a “misperception” by the party’s officials about their own capacity to mobilise the state apparatus, the breadth of support the party could expect to find among the central elites, and their ability to call in favours. The Turkish political system, in its post-reform state, was thus not built on a consensual basis, since all its participants were fully aware that the dominant actors had no intention of dividing up the political arena or reversing the entrenchment of the CHP within the state.

8First of all, I shall demonstrate that although the CHP abandoned the principle of single-party rule after the Second World War, and while it staged a conversion to free and competitive elections to capitalise on its pro-democratic reinvention, it did so while simultaneously equipping itself with the means it deemed necessary to keep control of the state, secure its own re-election, and maintain its wide-reaching control over society. Secondly, I shall analyse the reactions that this strategy elicited within the opposition and in other social arenas (such as the media, military and judiciary) and that, within the space of a few years, would undermine the solution adopted by the government. The opposition rejected the new rules imposed by the regime on the political arena and thus earned the support of the main newspapers, which saw this as an opportunity to advance their own demands to gain autonomy for their sector. Furthermore, against the backdrop of the sharp decline in state resources that characterised the post-war period in Turkey, the CHP failed to secure the acquiescence of strategic state sectors. In particular, they neglected to garner the support of the military, whose members firmly championed the opposition, which they saw as a means to achieve the sectoral reforms they desired. These various shifts in position and the collusion that they generated between partisan, military, administrative, and media actors forced the CHP to give in to the main demands of the opposition and subsequently to accept defeat when the Democrat Party won the parliamentary elections of 1950. In that context, the apparent agreement among political protagonists in 1950 was partial and forced. It did not lessen the actors’ widespread mistrust of their respective competitors, as it prevented the establishment of a consensual system and failed to separate the state and political spheres at the time of the 1950 changeover.

An illusory opening: conversion to democracy and control of the state apparatus

9Following the end of the Second World War, swayed by the pressure exerted on the regime by its international partners and the opposition encountered by the ruling party within the apparatus of the party-state, the president and his prime minister authorised the establishment of opposition parties and the holding of multi-party elections. While making a show of its conversion to democratic ideals, the former single party in fact did nothing to ensure a fair electoral process for its competitors and continued to retain control over the state machinery. The conditions under which regime change took place in the aftermath of the Second World War therefore prevented the establishment of either a consensus on the rules governing the political arena, or a relationship of trust between political protagonists.

Externalising the opposition and controlling the electoral process

10The first signs that President İnönü gave of his support for liberalisation of the regime were intended both to counter internal opposition within the CHP and to provide guarantees to the country’s new international allies. [19] In 1944, the country’s economic difficulties put the single party in a weakened position. Although the country had maintained its neutral position during the Second World War until February 1945, the Turkish economy had been hit hard by the war. Industrial GDP had collapsed by 23 per cent and agricultural GDP by 35 per cent. [20] Prices increased fivefold between 1939 and 1945. At the end of the war, per capita income stood at only 63 per cent of the 1938 level. [21] In the space of a few years, the regime had lost a whole range of supporters from its traditional support base, namely landowners, civil servants, and merchants, whose revenues had suffered the impact of the economic policy that the government found it necessary to implement to cover the cost of its preparations for joining the war. Within the parliamentary group, party officials who had been excluded from positions of power made use of such grievances to oppose President İnönü and his prime minister in order to distinguish themselves from Saraçoğlu’s exhausted government. Faced with the regime’s dwindling support base, rising internal opposition, and the changing external constraints which plagued the country, the dominant faction of the party-state attempted to implement a series of solutions, all of which collapsed one after the other.

11To begin with, senior party officials decided to call a vote on a land reform law, submitting a bill to the parliament during the first few months of 1945. For İnönü, this “law to give land to small farmers” (çiftçiyi topraklandırma kanunu) represented a way to renew the social coalition that underpinned the regime by redistributing a proportion of the property owned by major landowners, religious foundations, and the state to landless farmers, so as to turn Turkey into a country of small landowners who would be bound to the regime by its provision of large-scale access to property. [22] As soon as the bill was submitted to parliament, it caused an outcry among the CHP group, leading the government to hastily conclude the debate and push the law through. The law was passed unanimously on 11 June by the 345 deputies who agreed to participate in the vote. However, 104 other elected officials chose to abstain in protest. [23] Internal opposition within the CHP then capitalised on this forcing through of the bill to denounce the autocratic practices of the regime’s leaders. On 7 June 1945, Celal Bayar, [24] Adnan Menderes, Refik Koraltan, and Fuat Köprülü submitted a motion to the CHP parliamentary group in which they requested that the Turkish Constitution be implemented in its entirety, that the parliament be able to fully play its role in monitoring government activity, and that constitutional freedoms and political rights be respected. The motion was rejected a few days later by the parliamentary group.

12The dismissal of the motion by a still largely disciplined CHP group was a typically decisive solution. In response, however, the party decided not to put forward official candidates in the parliamentary by-elections held on 17 June 1945. A total of 96 candidates stood for the single seat up for election in Istanbul, [25] but the leadership of the CHP exerted tight control over the polling stations to ensure that its preferred candidates were elected. The experiment was not repeated, however, given that it had only served to exacerbate internal divisions and give rise to objections from the defeated candidates. Instead, the party leadership chose an alternative solution, which consisted of expelling the members who were most conspicuously opposed to the line adopted by the government and allowing the creation of opposition parties. [26]

13In a speech on 1 November 1945, İnönü announced his intention to authorise the creation of opposition parties. He then went on to announce that the 1947 elections would be free and direct. [27] Officially, the system had shifted to democracy. But what the president had in fact chosen was a suppressed opposition and elections controlled by a state machine which the CHP had fully penetrated. This was a solution that had already been attempted by the regime, first in 1924 with the Progressive Republican Party (Terakkiperver Cumhuriyet Fırkası) and again in 1930 with the Liberal Republican Party (Serbest Cumhuriyet Fırkası). Mustafa Kemal successfully shut down these two parties a few months after their creation once it had become clear that their appeal was too broad. İnönü was therefore not venturing outside familiar territory. Moreover, the land reform was intended to guarantee the former single party a pool of voters whom its leader believed – mistakenly, it would turn out – could be relied upon to provide safe majorities. On 7 January 1946, the signatories of the motion submitted in June received permission to form the Democrat Party (DP). This new competitor was not of particular concern to the former single party, which had the necessary means to ensure its own re-election. Feroz Ahmad notes the opportunity that the new party represented for the CHP; it was to play the role of symbolic opposition [28] and fulfil the function of a plebeian tribune, representing a safety valve that could be activated to contain the hostility harboured by part of the electorate towards the regime.

14The former single party’s parliamentary majority gave it command of the electoral process; it was able to control both the timetable and the practical arrangements for the election. Although the municipal elections were supposed to take place in September 1946 and the parliamentary elections in 1947, the CHP parliamentary group decided to hold the former in May and the latter in July 1946. These decisions caught the DP off guard. In the absence of legal provisions to ensure the openness of the political system, [29] it decided not to run in the municipal elections of 26 May 1946. [30] Anxious not to appear as a puppet opposition, however, it did participate in the legislative elections of 21 July, [31] during which it was subjected to pressure and threats from members of the state apparatus who remained loyal to the ruling party. The CHP had set the administration to work as early as January 1946. In a letter sent to the party’s general secretariat on 5 January to prepare for the upcoming municipal elections, Emin Erişirgil, the head of the party office responsible for the elections, recommended to CHP provincial inspectors that they should “coordinate with anyone who may be useful, such as mayors [muhtar] and night watchmen [bekçi, stationed in neighbourhoods]”. He continued by stating that “officials who openly show their opposition to the party […] must be reported to the general secretariat and removed from their jobs or their workplaces”. [32] During the summer 1946 campaign, DP candidates and their supporters were subjected to various instances of pressure and intimidation. Members of the provincial administration refused to register Democrat candidates. [33] Individuals whose names appeared on DP electoral posters were arrested on the orders of the subprefects (kaymakam), [34] and their election materials were confiscated by the police. [35] The gendarmerie forced members of local Democrat branches to hand over their cards and register with the CHP. If they refused, they were detained indefinitely. On polling day, those who resisted – these individuals could easily be identified by the public voting and secret counting systems (açık oy, gizli sayım) – were immediately sent to a police station. All of the provincial administration (prefects, subprefects, mayors and village leaders), law enforcement (the police and gendarmerie), and municipal logistical resources (buses, trucks, megaphones, municipal halls and so forth) were mobilised to drive the CHP campaign. [36] The party even guaranteed the outcome of the vote by controlling the composition of the bodies that had been established to organise the ballot and count in accordance with the electoral law of 5 June 1946. [37] Several witness accounts attest to massive electoral fraud orchestrated by the CHP. According to Nilüfer Gürsoy, Celal Bayar’s daughter, ballot boxes that contained a majority of Democrat votes were closed and then sent to provincial prefectures to be swapped. [38] Muzaffer Kurbanoğlu, a judge and future DP member of parliament, tells of his surprise when, during a polling station visit in Soma (Manisa province), he realised that the locked cabinet in which the electoral records were stored was bottomless. [39] Even Kasım Gülek, a future minister and general secretary of the CHP, acknowledged a few years later that “these were not honest elections. […] At the time, electoral ballot boxes were found in rivers. They had been clumsily replaced and disposed of.” [40]

15This was the context in which the former single party won a landslide victory. [41] At that point, İnönü decided to turn to one of the party-state’s strong men for support. On 5 August, Prime Minister Şükrü Saraçoğlu was replaced by Recep Peker, [42] a man who had unique knowledge of the apparatus of the former single party – having been its general secretary on several occasions – and had held several ministerial positions since the founding of the regime. İnönü was thus opting for a decisive solution. In the months following the July 1946 election, CHP officials seem to have had considerable success in maintaining the status quo by overseeing what all of the CHP’s opponents, as well as an increasing proportion of the former single party, denounced as a sham liberalisation of the regime.

The construction of a pro-democratic façade

16The solution adopted by İnönü and the hard-liners against the opposition quickly proved to be untenable. Peker’s government failed to silence DP leaders, whose accounts in the international press forced the regime to provide more evidence of a conversion to democracy as of March 1947, when President Truman presented his aid plan to Turkey and Greece. The process of political opening forced the former single party to work on its institutional façade [43] to show off its pro-democratic re-invention. As soon as Peker’s government was formed, a group opposed to his approach emerged within the CHP. The young parliamentarians who made up this group were in favour of a liberal approach that respected the rights of the opposition and supported the establishment of truly competitive electoral contests. These moderates (ılımlılar) benefited from İnönü’s shift during the summer of 1947 and came to stand for an alternative solution on which the president could rely in the face of the extremists (müfritler) who supported Peker.

17On 12 July 1947, while the Conference of European Economic Cooperation in Paris was bringing together the countries that wished to become beneficiaries of the Marshall Plan, İnönü published a press release in which he stated that “the opposition can work without fear of being closed down by the ruling party” and that citizens could “seek to transfer power from one party to another with complete confidence”. [44] On 26 August, the CHP group met to discuss the implications of the president’s statement. After a few days of debate, the moderates managed to convince İnönü of the negative effects of the prime minister’s hard line and succeeded in having him replaced. [45] This was a victory for the liberal wing of the party, from which the president and his prime ministers recruited several of the strongmen to participate in subsequent governments until the party’s defeat in 1950. From that moment forth, CHP governments abandoned their hitherto favoured solution. They adopted a resolutely pro-democratic front, made several modifications to electoral law and feted press freedom. In a sign of appeasement, Prime Minister Hasan Saka submitted the new government’s programme to the Democrat Party before submitting it to a parliamentary vote. [46]

18The moderate wing of the CHP therefore gained influence within the party by mobilising a liberal political line that İnönü could use to convince his international partners of the sincerity of the political transition that he was orchestrating and detract from the growing appeal that the DP was enjoying in an increasing number of spheres of society. [47] However, despite the repeated declarations made by İnönü and his prime ministers in favour of making the political arena autonomous and reversing the entrenchment of the state’s former single party – in June 1949, Şemsettin Günaltay told the press that “the state machine will remain detached from the interests of political parties” [48] – until 1950 the CHP consistently mobilised the state apparatus to retain its grip on power.

Strengthening controls over the state apparatus

19The conversion to democracy hailed by the CHP’s new strongmen from 1947 onwards was not accompanied by any desire to reverse the party’s entrenchment within the state. The party continued to rely on the positions it occupied within the state and to use the public resources which it still controlled to continue to dominate elections. [49] To accomplish this, it had to ensure administrative obedience. It therefore brought in new measures that benefited civil servants and gave the senior echelons of the administration, prefects, and the entourage of ministers more control over their personnel so that any individuals who had become subversive could be eliminated.

20Civil servants were given special attention, on several occasions receiving promotions, salary raises, improved pay scales, annual bonuses, and cheap loans, right up to the last few days of the 1950 campaign. [50] Nonetheless, these measures proved insufficient to appease the discontent of some public officials, who began to drift away from the former single party as early as the July 1946 parliamentary elections. [51] In his report of 24 July 1946, Dr. Cura, the CHP inspector in the province of Manisa and member of parliament for Izmir, deplored the fact that a “substantial proportion of judicial and financial figures, as well as teachers and bankers, have turned their backs on the representatives of our party and governing bodies and given their votes to other parties”. [52] The CHP was therefore forced to purge the state administration of its newly subversive elements, which it did under the guise of reforms aimed at streamlining state operations. The first purges began at the end of April 1949. Each ministry was instructed to establish committees that would set objectives to be achieved and choose the elements to be cleared out. [53] In early May, the law on civil servants was amended to allow senior administrators to remove officials who were incompetent, held radical political views, or did not respect the professional secrecy that their role required of them. The sanctions, which were approved by the minister in charge, could not be appealed. [54] In June the same year, the “law on the provinces” (iller kanunu) expanded the prefects’ powers over the management of administrative staff under their control (appointments, transfers, promotions, and demotions). [55] In July, the duration of service needed to qualify for retirement was reduced to 30 years. Up to 10 per cent of employees were affected by the new measure, [56] which also facilitated the departure of 27 provincial prefects and many subprefects. The opposition immediately made its suspicions known about the ulterior objectives of these provisions: the prefects and subprefects who were targeted appeared to have been chosen primarily from among those who no longer agreed to collaborate with the government and provide the information it sought from them. Their replacement thus appeared to form part of a preparatory strategy for the 1950 parliamentary election. [57] Many reports sent by CHP provincial governing boards to the general secretariat of the party testify to the initiatives undertaken to liquidate administrative staff who refused to work for the CHP. For example, on 5 August 1949, Hasan Apaydın, president of the governing body of the CHP branch in Amasya, reported on the errors that had been made in the appointment of certain officials and the support that others had received from subversive superiors after they had been transferred or demoted. This was true, for instance, in the case of the first secretary (başkatıp) of the province’s chamber of commerce and industry, who was first transferred before then finding a post in Amasya on the recommendation of a senior official from the Ministry of Commerce, which allowed him to participate in publishing activities that were detrimental to the CHP. His report also stressed the need to find a solution to combat the trend among reprimanded officials to turn to the justice system. [58] Meanwhile, the report sent by the president of the governing body of the Manisa CHP branch to the general secretariat on 18 July 1949 profiled the type of civil servants whom he was seeking to lead the 1950 campaign. It indicated that “senior administrators must be energetic and be of sturdy political character. Prefects, district subprefects, and sub-district heads should maintain regular contact with villagers”. It specified that “senior public servants of disturbed political character must be dismissed at once”, and that “measures must be taken against public servants who openly criticise [the CHP] and [the] government and who distribute dissenting propaganda among the people”. [59] In a context of declining public resources, the party also relied on the control that it had over para-public organisations. Through this avenue, it received payments from the Red Crescent totalling 377,000 Turkish lira (US$134,642), funds which the prefects were directly responsible for distributing among local populations to ensure that they voted for the CHP list. [60]

21It therefore appears that CHP staff were repeating the appropriation of the public administration that had been common practice since the establishment of the regime in 1923. The president of the governing body of the Liberal Democratic Party (Liberal Demokrat Parti) in Samsun complained of this practice in a letter to the CHP general secretariat on 16 July 1948. He lamented that the province’s printer had been moved to the building that housed the local CHP branch and that its use was therefore controlled by the ruling party’s local officials. In the spring of 1949, opposition parties were still being targeted by members of the administration who worked for the ruling party. DP election documents attest to the Democrats’ clear awareness of the overlap between the former single party and the administration. One leaflet to voters reads:


“Citizen! Voting is your right. Your vote is no concern of the provincial prefect, sub-district governor, gendarme, or official. If one of these individuals tries to influence your vote, immediately notify the electoral commissions and the Democrat Party.” [61]

23Despite statements by its officials and the idea generally accepted in the literature that the CHP had converted to the rules of competitive politics, the CHP therefore intended to continue to use its contacts within the state to contain the opposition and promote its own electoral campaign. This approach affected how political competition evolved in a number of different ways. Firstly, it helped to undermine any trust that may have existed between the competing parties and prevented the formation of any consensus between the protagonists, since the opposition was clearly aware that the CHP was trying to ensure the submissiveness of the administration to reduce the risk of political changeover. [62] For the opposition, a sense of uncertainty prevailed over the elections, the fate of the candidates, voter security, and vote-counting procedures. In a sense, the only thing that was certain was the outcome of the elections, [63] since in the current circumstances the CHP was sure to remain in power. There was thus no identifiable consensus among the political competitors on the new rules for the political arena.

The reconfiguration of intersectoral coalitions

24The solution adopted by the CHP – that of authorising political parties and strengthening its grip over the state apparatus – brought with it consequences that gradually escaped the control of the former single party. The main opposition parties refused to support the various polls held by the regime until the CHP yielded to their demands and once again reformed electoral law in February 1950. This step earned the opposition parties the support of the leading national newspapers, which were opposed to the government’s curtailment of press rights in a bid to silence criticism. Furthermore, the various measures taken by the government to intensify its control within the state institutions themselves proved to be counterproductive. This was particularly apparent in the case of the army, where many officers broke off relations with the former single party and grew closer to opposition parties in order to obtain the sectoral reforms that they were demanding. These steps changed people’s perception of what was possible for all social actors and allowed them to entertain the idea that political changeover might be possible.

The election boycott by the opposition parties and the reconfiguration of political coalitions

25At the first DP congress, which began in Ankara on 7 January 1947, the party declared that it would not participate in the elections unless electoral law was changed. In its closing report, entitled the Freedom Pact (Hürriyet Misakı), the congress demanded the repeal of unconstitutional laws, a vote on electoral law to guarantee the security of the electoral process, and the exercise of national sovereignty and separation of powers between the head of state and leader of the party – the sine qua non condition for a reversal of the former single party’s entrenchment within the state apparatus. The DP threatened a repeat of the parliamentary boycott that it had initiated a few weeks earlier and refused to support the upcoming elections if these demands were not given consideration by the regime. [64] It did not participate in the parliamentary by-elections of 6 April 1947 on the grounds that the security of the ballot had not been assured. [65] Others emulated the Democrats’ decision; the Nation Party (Millet Partisi, MP), another opposition party, backed the strategy of nonparticipation. [66] Even though on 8 July of the previous year the Hasan Saka government had accepted the principles of vote by secret ballot, public counting, and participation of representatives from all the competing parties in the electoral councils, at the parliamentary by-elections held on 17 October 1948 the CHP was once more the only party to put forward candidates. [67] The opposition parties therefore attempted to undermine the solution adopted by the regime by rejecting the new rules for the political arena proposed by CHP governments, which they achieved by making use of the links they had developed with media outlets that were willing to convey their opposition to the former single party.

26In 1946, the CHP still exerted tight control over the press. Article 50 of the law of 25 July 1931 gave the Council of Ministers the power to close down any press entity that disseminated information about the country’s internal politics. [68] In an apparent step towards openness, the parliament had reformed this article on 13 June 1946 and given the courts jurisdiction to close recalcitrant press outlets for periods of no more than two years. [69] On 20 September of the same year, however, the Peker government changed the law once again [70] so as to muzzle newspapers that criticised the CHP’s fraudulent electoral practices. [71] The government also called upon the special court that had been in operation since 20 October 1940 to close down press outlets that were overly critical of the government. In the summer of 1946, a state-of-emergency court ruling shut down the newspapers Yeni Sabah and Gerçek[72] for having denounced irregularities during the parliamentary election. Yeni Sabah’s coverage of the campaigns and elections in the spring and summer of 1946 was entirely representative of the approach taken by newspapers that had decided to break free from CHP supervision. At the time of the local elections of May 1946, the newspaper began to caution its readers about the pressures to which they might be subjected on polling day. [73] Noting the scale of the fraud orchestrated by the ruling party, the newspaper hastened to condemn the way in which the elections had been held and its columns reported the many complaints it had received from citizens who had been prevented from voting by gendarmes, mayors and subprefects. [74] As a result, the newspaper’s reporters were arrested and interrogated and their materials were systematically confiscated by the security forces when they tried to cover the opposition campaign in the summer of 1946. [75] Control of the sector, however, took a less coercive form, since until 1946 the owners of the country’s largest daily newspapers were usually CHP members, as was true in the cases of Yunus Nadi (Cumhuriyet), Asım Us (Vakit) and Hüseyin Cahit Yalçın (Tanin).

27The government’s heightened control over the press quickly proved to be counterproductive; in response to the measures, an increasing number of news outlets began to support the opposition parties’ initiatives [76] as a way to denounce their own treatment and find political contacts that could convey their demands for liberalisation of their sector. [77] In the second half of 1945, Tan and Vatan gave column space to Adnan Menderes, Fuat Köprülü, Refik Koraltan and Celal Bayar, who at that time were still merely representatives of a minority movement within the CHP. By appearing as the most serious competitor to the CHP and placing respect for civil and political freedoms at the heart of its election manifesto, the DP was the main party to benefit from this press mobilisation. At the 1947 DP Congress, Celal Bayar further acknowledged the risk that press outlets had taken in freeing themselves from the CHP in order to work towards “propagandising democracy”. [78] After the congress, the Freedom Pact published by the party was welcomed by the majority of national newspapers. Cihat Baban (Tasvir) considered the pact’s demands to be legitimate, [79] while for Nadir Nadi (Cumhuriyet) the congress’s resolutions were not the “language of the DP but that of democracy, without which [he] did not see how it would be possible to establish a liberal regime”. [80] In Yeni Asır, Şevket Bilgin said that the DP had provided the clarifications required to prove that it was a true opposition party rather than a puppet one. [81] Meanwhile, the dailies Akşam, whose owner remained faithful to the CHP, and Ulus, which was the CHP’s official paper, unreservedly condemned what they saw as democratic blackmail by a party that was refusing to participate in the election if its demands were not met. [82]

28In the years that followed, a growing proportion of the national daily newspapers published the demands of the DP for liberalisation of the electoral process and its criticism of the ruling party for instrumentalising the administrative apparatus. [83] They denounced the electoral fraud carried out by the CHP and systematically challenged the figures reported by the regime for voter turnout at the elections, allowing the Democrat Party to show its potential to mobilise support. When the CHP newspaper Ulus reported a turnout of 60 per cent for the April 1947 parliamentary by-elections, DP-approved observers at Istanbul’s polling stations calculated turnout at no higher than 10 per cent of registered voters [84] and the daily Kuvvet reported a turnout of 15 per cent. [85] In July 1948, the daily newspapers Cumhuriyet, Hürriyet and Yeni Sabah chose to carry the demands of the DP and MP regarding electoral law. They published a letter to the president, the prime minister and the speaker of the national assembly, in which they declared their support for a change in electoral legislation and in the composition of electoral commissions and councils. [86] But the CHP still rejected the principle of judicial supervision of the electoral process. During the parliamentary by-elections of 17 October 1948 (which were once again boycotted by opposition parties), the government announced voter turnout of between 45 per cent and 50 per cent in the thirteen provinces involved in polls. The democrats challenged this figure by suggesting an overall turnout of 10 per cent. According to the daily newspaper Yeni Sabah, turnout was 7 per cent at most. Cumhuriyet initially queried the turnout level claimed by the CHP and then published rumours of fraud, before asserting that the Ministry of the Interior had ordered provincial prefects to falsify electoral records to inflate the turnout level. [87] In its edition of 23 October, the paper went on to suggest that the Ministry should allow it to examine the electoral records to select a few sample districts in which its journalists could contact people who were supposed to have participated in the election, to verify that they had indeed voted. [88] This proposal went unanswered, but these initiatives and the mutual support between the press and the opposition parties forced the CHP to alter its position. Its compliance with the demands of the opposition and the main press outlets – which came about with the vote on the new electoral law on 16 February 1950 [89] – can be interpreted as “a tactic of shrugging off this issue as an issue”. [90] As soon as Şemsettin Günaltay’s government took office on 16 January 1949, the new prime minister said that his main objective was to guarantee the security of elections to allow for wider participation. [91] Low turnout and the opposition parties’ refusal to participate in the by-elections organised between 1946 and 1949 undermined the victories of the ruling party, whose majorities only represented a tiny proportion of the electorate. But for the CHP, recognising the opposition’s demands regarding the electoral rules also helped to depoliticise an issue which, as a result of press coverage, reached well beyond the political arena. It also gave the ruling party reason to fear politicisation of other sectors of society, including within the state, because in certain strategic state sectors, and particularly within the armed forces, the CHP’s use of the state apparatus to stay on top was met with hostility from a growing number of quarters after the 1946 election.

The rallying of strategic state sectors around the opposition parties

29The classic theory developed by Kemal Karpat in 1959 that “the role of the army in the political struggles of the years 1946-1950 was not important at all” [92] has been revisited on several occasions by the literature on the relationships between the military and political sectors in Turkey. However, the influence of the politicisation of the military on the transformation of the regime between 1945 and 1950 is still widely underestimated. For example, according to William Hale, the fact that members of the armed forces did not have the right to vote may have contributed to “the distancing of the Turkish army from politics”. [93] It nevertheless seems that the initiatives of a significant proportion of the members of the armed forces compelled the CHP to change its policy of holding on to power and accept amendments to electoral law, and subsequently to accept its own defeat in 1950. The technique adopted by the CHP to ensure the submissiveness of the military proved to be counterproductive, instead causing the party to lose supporters and fear a hostile reaction from officers opposed to its remaining in power.

30Until 1944, the army was run with an iron fist by Marshal Fevzi Çakmak, the chief of staff since the founding of the regime. His retirement was precipitated by the decision of civil authorities to regain control over the army during Turkey’s preparations to enter the Second World War. As soon as the DP was founded, Çakmak developed ties with its founders, thus helping to legitimise the new party. In the July 1946 elections, he stood for parliament as an independent candidate on the DP’s Istanbul list and was elected. A few days later, he was also nominated for the presidency of the Republic by the new party and received 59 votes, against 388 for İnönü. [94] After he was replaced as head of the armed forces, the chief of staff position lost a number of its prerogatives. As a result of Law 4580 of 5 June 1944, the chief of staff became directly answerable to the prime minister and lost autonomy over troop management. [95] In May 1949, the creation of the Supreme Council of National Defence represented a new stage in the control that the government exercised over the army. This new institution, which coordinated national defence activities, was chaired by the president and composed of members from the Ministry of Defence and the General Staff, who were selected by the Council of Ministers upon nomination by the head of state. [96] Law 5398 of 30 May 1949 dealt a further blow to the chief of staff position. This individual, who was appointed by the Council of Ministers upon nomination by the minister of defence, was no longer accountable to the prime minister. Instead, he answered to the minister of defence, whom he now served as an advisor (müsteşar). [97] Placing the chief of staff under institutional control provoked hostile reactions against the CHP within the officer corps. After the parliamentary elections of 1946, young officers stationed at the army’s headquarters clandestinely organised themselves in response to the support given by army commanders to the former single party. Major Cemal Yıldırım presided over the creation of the clandestine organisation at the Academy of General Staff Officers (Harp Akademisi). He was joined by Colonel Kadri Erkmen (the president of the academy), Commander of the General Staff Naci Aşkun, Colonel of the General Staff Memduh Tağmaç and General Cevdet Sunay. [98] The tight control exercised by the ruling party over the armed forces also motivated exit decisions. This was the case on 12 March 1949, when Lieutenant-General Şükrü Kanadlı, the commander-in-chief of the gendarmerie, conveyed his disagreement with the CHP’s use of the gendarmerie to contain the opposition by resigning. [99]

31Moreover, the country’s economic difficulties obliged the government to make budgetary trade-offs that did not work in most officers’ favour. The substantial increase in officer numbers until the end of the Second World War as part of efforts to prepare the country for a possible entry into the conflict, caused officers’ career paths to stall as the CHP offered multiple benefits to the most senior commanders and generals in a bid to ensure the loyalty of the entire institution. This move turned young officers away from the party and led them to demand reform of the army, including much-needed rejuvenation of the senior officer class. [100] In 1949, not a single officer was promoted to the rank of general. Just one officer became brigadier general in the air force, two others were raised to that rank in the army, and one new rear admiral was appointed. [101] In his work on the reform of the military after the Second World War, Doğan Akyaz suggests that, in this context, “the army, and particularly its lower levels, abandoned the CHP and joined the DP”. [102] Cemil Koçak shares this view, arguing that “the less senior officers generally sided with the opposition or showed sympathy for it, [whereas] senior officers and military high commands generally continued to back the party in power”. [103] In his memoirs, General Cemal Madanoğlu states that after the 1946 parliamentary elections, “apart from the generals, we [the least senior officers] all supported the Democrat Party”. [104] Other accounts by former officers confirm this view. Numan Esin explains how all the students at the Military Academy (harp okulu) read “the Democrat Party’s publications and Kudret, an influential opposition publication affiliated with the Nation Party”, [105] even though Ulus (the CHP’s publication) was the only newspaper allowed at the academy. Orhan Erkanlı, a young officer during the second half of the 1940s, said that almost all of his barracks in the Aşkale district of Erzurum reacted to the creation of the Democrats with “sympathy and hope. […] Barring one or two exceptions, all the officers wanted the DP to win.” [106] During the months prior to the election of May 1950, a growing number of officers announced their backing of the Democrat Party, which promised the military that it would implement institutional reform as soon as it was in charge. [107] On 2 April 1950, Seyfi Kurtbek, Colonel of the General Staff, ended his military career to stand for election as a DP candidate [108] and support an army reform bill. He was followed on 7 April by Lieutenant-General Fahri Belen, second president of the Supreme Military Court, who also left the army to join the DP, [109] and by General Fikri Tirkeş, who called for a Democrat victory on 11 April. [110] In addition, several former generals who had held prestigious positions in the party-state apparatus took advantage of the opening up of the electoral process to leave the CHP and stand as independents or opposition party candidates in the 1950 elections. This was the case of Ali Fuat Cebesoy (a former minister and speaker of the national assembly), Refet Bele and Sinan Tekelioğlu, who announced their resignation from the CHP in March 1950. [111] As Koçak states, at the start of 1950 “those who were behind the CHP probably represented only a minority of officers”. [112] It therefore appears that by wanting to retain power over a military institution that had enjoyed a high level of autonomy until the final months of the Second World War, the CHP exposed itself to the hostile reactions of many officers, who used the existence of opposition parties as an opportunity to present their sectoral demands. Furthermore, although members of the military did not have the right to vote in 1950, several accounts show that they mobilised their civilian families and friends and convinced them to vote for opposition parties. [113]

32As the officers became increasingly hostile towards the CHP, it became obvious to all social actors that the army would no longer offer en bloc support to the ruling party in future elections. These initiatives also encouraged representatives in other sectors of the state apparatus to free themselves from the CHP and turn to opposition parties for support for their sectoral demands. [114] They therefore contributed to making alternance of power a future possibility for the opposition parties, which made a conspicuous show of their growing ties with officers who had freed themselves from the CHP. İnönü could no longer ignore such internal discontent within the military or the strengthening of relations between the opposition parties and officers who assured them that they would not allow the CHP to repeat the fraudulent practices it had managed to deploy in the previous parliamentary elections. The amendments to the electoral law in February 1950 and İnönü’s recognition of the Democrat victory after the May 1950 parliamentary elections were therefore by no means an indication of consensus between all competitors on the new rules of the political arena. At most, they were points of temporary convergence or partial agreements between competitors – ones subject to multiple constraints – that made the solution favoured by the CHP in 1946 impracticable and gave İnönü no choice but to admit defeat in May 1950.


33At the conclusion of this study, it appears that the progressive opening up of Turkey’s political regime was based on experimentation with several solutions devised by the former single party, which sought at all times to maintain control over the state. Without such control, it seemed to be incapable of mobilising and allotting the resources necessary for its potential re-election. This approach failed because the party did not succeed in renewing the agreements that had bound it to the most strategically important social and state sectors and did not have sufficient public resources to maintain a large enough clientelist network. The political changeover of 1950 was therefore made possible by the reconfiguration of collusive dealings between different sectors, rather than by a consensual agreement on the new rules of the political arena.

34This period may be viewed as a phase in which political and military actors learned how to function in a multi-party system, a period which had many effects on the country’s political development. On one hand, the routine dealings with the bureaucracy and the military constituted the main foundations of the strategies deployed by political parties to gain access to and remain in positions of power. They therefore helped to relegate elections to an issue of secondary concern, and help us to understand why from 1950 onwards no dominant party lost power on a regular basis until its agreements with the military and the administration had broken down. This pivotal role of the state encouraged the Democrat Party to replicate the practices initiated by its predecessor of intertwining the state and party sectors once it was in charge. It used these practices to remain in power until it was overthrown by the army in 1960. This also provides avenues for research into how the AKP has held on to power since 2002 by mobilising the state apparatus to its advantage. On the other hand, within the army, the processes at work in the second half of the 1940s helped to reinforce the perception that the military had a political role, which encouraged other factions – both dominant and dissident – of the army to strengthen their ties with political parties in order to form hegemonic social coalitions and defend their sectoral interests as effectively as possible. These are thus promising avenues for understanding why the presence of the military in politics during the second half of the twentieth century was not out of the ordinary.

35The Turkish case points towards a multi-sectoral analytical approach for studying pluralistic configurations, one that is attentive to the observable interactions between agents located in multiple areas of the social space. By taking into account the effects of intersectoral dealings (between political, bureaucratic, military and other actors) on the internal economy of related sectors, it should thus be possible to reconstruct the specific characteristics of the political trajectories traced by other regimes. [115]


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    Gilles Dorronsoro and Benjamin Gourisse, “Une clé de lecture du politique en Turquie: les rapports État-partis”, Politix, 107, 2015, 195-218.
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    Concerning the role of such commitments in structuring a competitive political arena, see Myriam Aït-Aoudia, “Les dilemmes des nouveaux partis face à la participation à la première élection pluraliste post-autoritaire: retour sur un impensé à partir du cas algérien”, Revue internationale de politique comparée, 20(2), 2013, 15-32.
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    See in particular Fehmi Akın, “Atatürk ve demokrasi” [Atatürk and democracy], in Bayram Kodaman et al., Uluslararası Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Sempzyumu Bildirileri 22-24 Ekim 2008 (Isparta: Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi, 2008), 226-40.
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    See in particular Bernard Lewis, “Why Turkey is the only Muslim democracy”, Middle East Quarterly, 1(1), March 1994, 41-9 (47-8).
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    Feroz Ahmad, Demokrasi Sürecinde Türkiye 1945-1980 (Istanbul: Hill Yay, 1994); Osman Akandere, “Bir demokrasi beyannamesi olarak ‘dörtlü takrir’in’ amacı ve mahiyeti” in Kodaman et al., Uluslararası Türkiye, 260-70; Nilgün Gürkan, Türkiye’de Demokrasiye Geçişte Basın [The Press in Turkey’s Democratic Transition] (Istanbul: İletişim Yay, 1998); Kemal Karpat, Türk Demokrasi Tarihi (Istanbul: Afa Yay, 1996).
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    Feroz Ahmad and Bedia Turgay, Türkiye’de Çok Partili Politikanın Açıklamalı Kronolijisi 1945-1971 (Istanbul: Bilgi Yay, 1976); Taner Timur, Çok Partili Hayata Geçiş (Istanbul: İletişim Yay, 1991); Metin Toker, Tek Partiden Çok Partiye (Istanbul: Milliyet Yay, 1970).
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    For a critique of such analyses in terms of transitions to a Western democratic model, see Céline Thiriot, “Historicité et conjoncture des transitions démocratiques en Afrique”, in Myriam Aït-Aoudia and Antoine Roger (eds), La logique du désordre. Relire la sociologie de Michel Dobry (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2015), 177-95; Caroline Dufy and Céline Thiriot, “Les apories de la transitologie: quelques pistes de recherche à la lumière d’exemples africains et post-soviétiques”, Revue internationale de politique comparée, 20(3), 2013, 19-40.
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    Tanel Demirel, Türkiye’nin Uzun On Yılı. Demokrat Parti İktidarı ve 27 Mayıs Darbesi (Istanbul: Bilgi Üniversitesi Yay, 2011), 43.
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    Erik J. Zürcher, Turkey: A Modern History (London: I. B. Tauris, 2004), 209.
  • [10]
    Zürcher, Turkey: A Modern History, 215.
  • [11]
    Such analysis echoes works that view actors’ strategic capacity as the motor that drives transition. See in particular Alfred C. Stepan, Rethinking Military Politics. Brazil and the Southern Cone (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988).
  • [12]
    Michel Dobry, “Les voies incertaines de la transitologie: choix stratégiques, séquences historiques, bifurcations et processus de path dependence”, Revue française de science politique, 50(4-5), 2000, 585-614 (612).
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    There are countless works to refer to here. See in particular Guillermo O’Donnell and Philippe Schmitter, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain Democracies (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986); Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996).
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    John Highley and Richard Gunther (eds), Elites and Democratic Consolidation in Latin America and Southern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992); Larry Diamond, Developing Democracy: Toward Consolidation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999).
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    For a critique of the transitology paradigm’s ability to describe complex situations, see Thomas Carothers, “The end of the transition paradigm”, Journal of Democracy, 13(1), January 2002, 5-21.
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    In the archives of the Presidency of the Council, the collections on the legal proceedings brought by the military junta against the main leaders of the DP between 1960 and 1961 contain many documents that make it possible to analyse the Democrats’ exercise of power between 1950 and 1960. However, no useful document was found for analysing the period during which the DP was in opposition (1946-1950).
  • [17]
    The publication periods consulted were sometimes limited by the availability of copies in the institution where the research was carried out (the Atatürk Library in Istanbul). Since the aim of my research was to gain information for a general research project covering the period between 1945 and 1960, the periods consulted sometimes also went significantly beyond the time frame covered by this article.
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    Talat Aydemir, Talât Aydemir’in Hatıraları (Istanbul: Nadir Kitap, 1968); Fahri Belen, Ordu ve Politika (Istanbul: Bakış Matbaası, 1971); Orhan Erkanlı, Anılar… Sorunlar… Sorumlular (Istanbul: Baha Matbaası, 1972); Numan Esin, Devrim ve Demokrasi. Bir 27 Mayısçının Anıları (Istanbul: Doğan Kitap, 2005); Dündar Seyhan, Gölgedeki Adam (Istanbul: Nurettin Uycan Matbaası, 1966); Hulûsi Turgut, Türkeş’in Anıları. Şahinlerin Dansı (Istanbul: ABC, 1995).
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    A few days after the Yalta Conference, the regime abandoned the neutral position it had adopted during the Second World War and declared war on Germany and Japan on 23 February 1945. This move allowed the country to participate in the United Nations conference in San Francisco on 25 April of that year. On 19 May 1945, İnönü made his declarations in support of establishing “democratic principles” (“Cumhurbaşkanımız hitabesi”, Tanin, 20 May 1945, 1). In a speech delivered on 1 November 1945, İnönü stated his intention to correct the main defect of Turkish democracy: the absence of an opposition party. See Feroz Ahmad, The Making of Modern Turkey (New York: Routledge, 1993), 102.
  • [20]
    GDP only returned to its 1939 level in 1950 (Zürcher, Turkey: A Modern History, 199).
  • [21]
    Demirel, Türkiye’nin Uzun On Yılı, 46.
  • [22]
    The law provided for the seizure of property belonging to landowners with more than 125 acres of land and up to three quarters of that held by landowners with more than 50 acres in the most densely populated areas. The peasants who were to receive expropriated parcels would have access to interest-free loans (Zürcher,Turkey: A Modern History, 210).
  • [23]
    “Toprak kanunu dün kabul olunarak Meclisten çıktı”, Yeni Sabah, 12 June 1945, 1 and 3.
  • [24]
    Celal Bayar was the last prime minister appointed by Mustafa Kemal. He was reappointed when İsmet İnönü became president on 11 November 1938, before being forced to resign on 25 January 1939.
  • [25]
    “Seçim bugün yapılıyor”, Tanin, 17 June 1945, 1 and 6.
  • [26]
    Three of the four signatories of the June motion were expelled from the party in the autumn of 1945. Celal Bayar resigned from his position as a member of parliament and announced his intention to leave the CHP in order to found a new party, if he deemed it necessary (“Celal Bayar millet vekillişinden istifa etti”, Yeni Sabah, 29 September 1945, 1 and 3).
  • [27]
    Cemil Koçak, Türkiye’ de Milli Şef Dönemi, vol. 2 (Istanbul İletişim Yay), 137-41.
  • [28]
    Ahmad, The Making of Modern Turkey, 104.
  • [29]
    Myriam Aït-Aoudia’s works on the development of multi-party competition in Algeria (1988-1992) show the importance of “mechanisms adopted by the executive to establish a political opening” as well as the constraints faced by opposition groups when they “viewed the election as a horizon of possibilities”. See in particular Aït-Aoudia, “Les dilemmes des nouveaux partis”, 18 and 20; and “La naissance du Front islamique du salut: une politisation conflictuelle”, Critique internationale, 30, 2006, 129-44.
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    “Demokrat Parti belediye seçimine girmiyor”, Yeni Sabah, 9 May 1946, 1.
  • [31]
    “Demokrat Parti seçimlere giriyor”, Yeni Sabah, 19 June 1946, 1.
  • [32]
    Archives of the Presidency of the Council (hereafter BCA) 490.1.0.0/356.1493.3.
  • [33]
    “Vur, fakat dinle”, Yeni Sabah, 5 July 1946, 1-2.
  • [34]
    “C. H. P. nin tazyiki artıyor”, Yeni Sabah, 7 July 1946, 1 and 5.
  • [35]
    “Tazyik ve tehdit tahammülsüz”, Yeni Sabah, 21 July 1946, 1 and 5.
  • [36]
    Alaybeyioğlu, “Memurlar ve Halk Partisi”, Yeni Sabah, 10 July 1946, 1.
  • [37]
    The electoral councils (seçim kurulları), which were composed of members of the municipal assemblies, selected the members of the election commissions (seçim komisyonları), based at the polling stations, from among the mayors and members of municipal assemblies of the area covered by each office (T. C. Resmî Gazete, 6326, 6 June 1946, 728-35).
  • [38]
    Mehmet Ali Birand et al., Demirkırat. Bir Demokrasinin Doğuşu (Istanbul: Doğan Kitap, 2007 [1st edn 1993]), 33.
  • [39]
    Birand et al., Demirkırat, 33.
  • [40]
    Birand et al., Demirkırat, 34.
  • [41]
    The CHP won 395 seats and the Democrats 66. Six independent members were elected.
  • [42]
    “Recep Peker kabinesi kuruldu”, Tanin, 7 August 1946, 1.
  • [43]
    Vanessa Codaccioni et al., “Les façades institutionnelles: ce que montrent les apparences des institutions”, Sociétés contemporaines, 88(4), 2012, 5-15.
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    “İnönünün beyannamesi”, Cumhuriyet, 12 July 1947, 1 and 3.
  • [45]
    “Peker nihayet istifa etti”, Yeni Sabah, 10 September 1947, 1 and 6.
  • [46]
    “C. H. P. meclis grupunun uzun toplantısı”, Yeni Sabah, 9 October 1947, 1 and 3.
  • [47]
    In 1950, the land law had still not been implemented; no government wanted to risk losing its last supporters among landowners.
  • [48]
    “Meclis dün kapandı”, Hürriyet, 11 June 1949, 1 and 4.
  • [49]
    Many reports exchanged between local CHP sections and the party’s general secretariat show the efforts undertaken by its members so that “officials who openly exhibited opposition to the Party […] [would be] removed from their jobs or their workplace” (BCA490.
  • [50]
    See in particular “Memur ve mütekaitlerin durumu mecliste görüşüldü”, Yeni Sabah, 22 December 1948, 1; “Memur maaşları”, Cumhuriyet, 26 March 1949, 1; “Memurlara verilecek borç para”, Zafer, 24 March 1950, 1 and 6.
  • [51]
  • [52]
  • [53]
    “Memurlar tasfiye ediliyor”, Hürriyet, 27 April 1949, 1 and 4.
  • [54]
    “Memurları kanunusuz baskıya alan madde”, Zafer, 11 May 1949, 1.
  • [55]
    “Baskı kanunu dün Mecliste kabul edildi”, Zafer, 2 June 1949, 1 and 5.
  • [56]
    “Emekliye ayrılacakların listeleri tanzim ediliyor”, Zafer, 5 July 1949, 1.
  • [57]
    “İdare adamları neden değiştiriliyor?”, Yeni Sabah, 13 July 1949, 1 and 5.
  • [58]
  • [59]
  • [60]
    “Kızılay idaresinin İçişleri Bakanlığı emrine verdiği 377000 lira”, Zafer, 5 July 1950, 1.
  • [61]
  • [62]
    “Kocaeli Demokratlar? Erimi protesto ediyorlar”, Zafer, 11 July 1949, 1 and 6.
  • [63]
    Dobry, “Les voies incertaines de la transitologie”, 612.
  • [64]
    Cem Eroğul, Demokrat Parti Tarihi ve İdeolojisi [History and Ideology of the Democrat Party] (Ankara: İmge Yay, 1990), 25.
  • [65]
    “D. P. beklenen beyannamesi yayınlad?” [DP publishes expected declaration], Cumhuriyet, 4 April 1947, 1.
  • [66]
    “‘Millet’ Partisinin beyannamesi” [Declaration of the Nation Party], Yeni Sabah, 30 July 1948, 1 and 5.
  • [67]
    “Kısmî seçimlere muhalefetin topyekûn girmiyecği belli oldu” [All of the opposition certain not to participate in by-elections], Yeni Sabah, 14 July 1948, 1.
  • [68]
    T.C Resmî Gazete, 8 August 1931, 1867, 375.
  • [69]
    T.C Resmî Gazete, 18 June 1946, 6336, 10779.
  • [70]
    “Neşriyat suçları”, Cumhuriyet, 9 August 1946, 1.
  • [71]
    The new version of the law made provision for prison sentences for the management of newspapers that disseminated information likely to harm the dignity and honour of state officials. It prohibited media outlets from describing any proceedings against them in their columns. The Republic’s public prosecutor could require a newspaper to give up the name of any journalist who wrote an article anonymously or under a pseudonym. If the paper refused, the owner of the newspaper could be sentenced to three months in prison.
  • [72]
    “Basın kanununun tadili”, Tanin, 14 September 1946, 1 and 4.
  • [73]
    In its edition of 24 May 1946, Yeni Sabah’s editorial board had this message for its readers: “Citizen! National sovereignty begins with the freedom to vote. Go to the polling stations. […] If someone tries to force you to vote for a party other than your choice, leave the polling station and do not use your ballot” (“Seçime bir gün kald?”, Yeni Sabah, 24 May 1946, 1 and 3).
  • [74]
    “Hür seçim böyle olur!”, Yeni Sabah, 29 May 1946, 1.
  • [75]
    Yeni Sabah muhabiri zabıtaca tevkif edildi”, Yeni Sabah, 17 July 1946, 1 and 5.
  • [76]
    In its report of 18 July 1949, report, the governing body of the CHP in the province of Manisa noted that “the creation of a multi-party system of democracy in our country has given the press greater importance. Unfortunately, in our country almost all of the press supports the opposition parties. Only a few newspapers remain linked to our party.” (BCA490.
  • [77]
    Nilgün Gürkan, Türkiye’de Demokrasiye Geçişte Basın (1945-1950) (Istanbul: İletişim Yay, 1998).
  • [78]
    Gülay Sarıçoban, “Çok Partili Hayata Geçişte İktidar-Muhalefet İlişkileri 1946-1950”, Master’s thesis, 2005, Hacettepe University, Atatürk İlkeleri ve İnkilap Tarihi Enstitüsü, 95.
  • [79]
    Cihat Baban, “Demokrat Parti Kongresi”, Tasvir, 8 January 1947, 1.
  • [80]
    Nadir Nadi, “Demokratlar’ın Kongresi”, Cumhuriyet, 8 January 1947, 1.
  • [81]
    Şevket Bilgin, “Milletin Beklediği Büyük Neticeler”, Yeni Asır, 10 January 1947, 1.
  • [82]
    Necmettin Sadak, “Demokratik, Antidemokratik”, Akşam, 28 January 1947, 1; Erim Nihat, “Demokrat Parti Kurultayı Dağıldıktan Sonra”, Ulus, 12 January 1947.
  • [83]
    “Celâl Bayar baskı yapan idarecileri takbih etti”, Hürriyet, 30 May 1949, 1.
  • [84]
    Sarıçoban, “Çok Partili”, 115.
  • [85]
    Döndü Bal, “Demokrat Parti’nin kuruluş çalışmaları ve çok partili siyasi hayata katkıları (1939-1950)”, Master’s thesis, 2001, Gazi University, 148.
  • [86]
    “Gazeteler de C.H.P. yi protesto ediyor”, Yeni Sabah, 8 July 1948, 1.
  • [87]
    “Dedikodulara yol açan bir seçim tamimi”, Cumhuriyet, 21 October 1948, 1 and 4.
  • [88]
    Nadir Nadi, “Teklif ediyoruz”, Cumhuriyet, 23 October 1948, 1.
  • [89]
    The vote in parliament for a new electoral law that yielded to the main requirements of opposition parties on 16 February 1950, was a necessary condition for a Democrat victory. The text established a system of judicial control over the electoral process. The highest levels of the judiciary were occupied by members of the Court of Cassation and the Council of State. Milletvekilleri seçimi kanunu (Ankara: Ulus Basımevi, 1950), 29-69.
  • [90]
    Michel Dobry, “Le jeu du consensus”, Pouvoirs, 38, September 1986, 47-66 (52).
  • [91]
    “C. H. P. il kongresi”, Yeni Sabah, 1 January 1950, 1.
  • [92]
    Kemal Karpat, Turkey’s Politics: The Transition to a Multi-Party System (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959), 247.
  • [93]
    William Hale, Turkish Politics and the Military (London: Routledge, 1994), 93.
  • [94]
    TBMM Tutanak Dergisi, eighth legislature, 1(5), 5 August 1946, 2.
  • [95]
    Doğan Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin Orduya Etkisi (Istanbul: İletişim, 2009), 334.
  • [96]
    “Millî Savunma yüksek kurulu”, Zafer, 14 May 1949, 1 and 5.
  • [97]
    Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin, 335.
  • [98]
    Cemil Koçak, Türkiye’de İki Partili Siyâsî Sistemin Kuruluş Yılları (1945-1950). Dönüşüm. Ordu, Din, Hukuk, Ekonomi ve Politika, vol. 4 (Istanbul: İletişim, 2015), 131.
  • [99]
    “Jandarma Genel Komutanının istifa sebebi”, Cumhuriyet, 13 March 1949, 1 and 3.
  • [100]
    As early as 1941-1942, Colonel of the General Staff Seyfi Kurtbek, who became the Democrat defence minister in 1952, set up an illegal organisation (the Seyfi Kurtbek ekibi) to challenge the way in which İsmet İnönü and Fevzi Çakmak jointly ran the institution (Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin, 62).
  • [101]
    “Terfi eden subayları candan kutlarız”, Zafer, 29 August 1949, 1.
  • [102]
    Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin, 63.
  • [103]
    Koçak, Türkiye’ de Milli Şef Dönemi, 129.
  • [104]
    Quoted in Koçak, Türkiye’ de Milli Şef Dönemi, 131.
  • [105]
    Esin, Devrim ve Demokrasi, 37.
  • [106]
    Erkanlı, Anılar, 343.
  • [107]
    “Meclis, Millî Savunma bütçesini görüşüyor”, Cumhuriyet, 24 February 1949, 1.
  • [108]
    “Kur. Alb. Seyfi Kurtbek ordudan ayrıldı”, Zafer, 2 April 1950, 1 and 5.
  • [109]
    “Gl. Fahri Belen D. P. ye girdi”, Zafer, 7 April 1950, 1 and 6.
  • [110]
    “Adaylık yüzünden Halk Partisinde ihtilâf arttı”, Zafer, 11 April 1950, 1.
  • [111]
    “Ali Fuad Cebesoy C. H. P. den istifa etti”, Yeni Sabah, 27 March 1950, 1 and 5.
  • [112]
    Koçak, Türkiye’ de Milli Şef Dönemi, 143.
  • [113]
    See in particular Turgut, Türkeşin Anıları, 233ff.
  • [114]
    For example, similar attempts by the CHP to control the judiciary had the same effects. They led several of the country’s most influential judges to move closer to the opposition. This was the case of the president of the Court of Cassation, Halil Özyörük, along with four other members of that court (Judges Şefkati Ozkutlu, Mesut Güney, Galip Kıroğlu, and Ali Hikmet), who announced their parliamentary candidacies and their registration as independents on the DP lists in 1950 (“Halil Özyörük D.P. aday listesinde yer aldı”, Cumhuriyet, 15 April 1950, 1; and “Parti merkezlerinden gösterilecek adaylar”, Cumhuriyet, 17 April 1950, 1 and 3).
  • [115]
    This work was carried out at the Tepsis Center of Excellence supported by the heSam Research and Higher Education Association, reference no. ANR-11-LABX-0067. It received state support managed by the National Research Agency as part of the Paris New Worlds Future Investments programme, reference no. ANR-11-IDEX-0006-02. It also received state support from the National Research Agency, reference no. ANR-12-GLOB-003, “Matières à “transfaire”: Espaces-temps d’une globalisation (post)-ottomane”.

This article analyses the transformation of the one-party system into a multi-party system in Turkey between 1945 and 1950. It shows that this transformation was not made on the basis of consensus among political competitors but as a result of successive adaptations by the former single party to deal with the constraints of the post-war period. No steps were taken during the transition to a multi-party system to separate political parties from the state. Only by fracturing the collusive transactions that linked the former single party and strategic sectors of the state coulda change in power be achieved through the ballot box in 1950. The Turkish case thus allows us to analyse the complexity of pluralist political configurations, and encourages future research that takes a multi-sectoral analytical approach, attentive to the interactions between actors located in multiple social fields.

Benjamin Gourisse
Benjamin Gourisse is an associate professor of political science at the Université Paris-Dauphine and a member of the Interdisciplinary Social Sciences Research Institute (IRISSO –UMR CNRS 7170). He is the author of La violence politique en Turquie. L’État en jeu (1975–1980) (Paris: Karthala, 2014 (Recherches internationales)), and the co-editor (with Marc Aymes and Élise Massicard) of L’art de l’État. Arrangements de l’action publique en Turquie de la fin de l’Empire ottoman à nos jours (Paris: Karthala, 2014 (Meydan)). His research focuses on the sociology of political crises, the state, and political forces in Turkey.
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