The importance of political parties for contemporary representative democracies is beyond dispute. Despite their significance for state-level democracy, political parties continue to be regarded as oligarchical and to be criticised because of their internal practices. For this reason, intra-party democracy (IPD) warrants in-depth analysis. This thesis investigates IPD in Turkey, primarily from the perspective of participatory democracy, with the purpose of suggesting reforms to the Turkish Political Parties Law (TPPL).
Turkish political parties and Turkish party regulation provide an interesting case because there is a significant difference between mature democracies and Turkey regarding IPD regulation. IPD in established democracies has always been regarded as a private concern of parties and has been left unregulated. IPD in Turkey, by contrast, is provided for both by the constitution and the TPPL. Although IPD is a constitutional and legal requirement in Turkey, however, political parties in fact display a high level of non-democratic administration. The main reason is that the TPPL only pays lip service to the idea of IPD and requires no specific measures apart from establishing a party congress with a representative form of democracy. By establishing and holding party congresses, political parties are perceived as conforming to the requirements of IPD under the law. In addition, the contested nature of democracy as a concept has impeded the creation of efficacious legal principles. Thus, the existing party law fails to tackle the lack of IPD within political parties and, for this reason, is in need of reform.
Furthermore, almost every Turkish party’s own constitution highlights the importance of IPD and promises IPD. However, these declared commitments to IPD in their constitutions alone, especially in countries where the democratic culture is weak, are unlikely to make much difference in practice. Accordingly, external regulation is necessary to ensure the protection of the rights and interests of the party members with regards to their participation in intra-party decision-making processes.
Nevertheless, in spite of a general consensus in favour of reforming the TPPL, a lack of consensus exists as to what kind of reforms should be adopted. This thesis proposes that reforming the TPPL in line with an approach based on participatory democracy could provide better IPD within Turkish political parties, citing as evidence comparative case studies of the participatory practices for policy-making, leadership selection and candidate selection in mature democracies. This thesis also analyses membership registration and the effect of state funding on IPD, which are highly problematic in Turkey and represent impediments to the flourishing of IPD.