Global Pairings

Greece: Turkey as an Example?

Comparing the political cultures of Turkey and Greece.

Credit: adempercem - Shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • The political culture of Turkey is based on clientelism.
  • An astonishing feature of Turkish clientelism is the absence of tax evasion.
  • Turks of almost any political stripe are proud of their state.
  • The word “republic” exists in all European languages except one – Greek.

There is not the slightest doubt that the political culture of Turkey, too, is based on clientelism. (See TG’s recent coverage of Greece here)

The Kemalists’ clients were the secular urban masses in the western part of Turkey. In contrast, the AKP relies on the pious masses in the countryside.

The economic growth in Turkey, in the past decade, was triggered by the AKP’s investment agenda. It focused on building infrastructure in the previously underserved areas of the country.

In contrast, successive Greek governments –- whether formed by the left-of-center PASOK or the right-of-center Nea Democratia — encouraged consumption, including consumption of government services.

This different strategy is one of the reasons why the AKP has been more successful in the creation of jobs than Greece’s political parties.

There is another astonishing feature of Turkish clientelism – the absence of tax evasion.

Sincere philanthropy

In fact, rich people and profit making companies are praised by the Turkish media for their generous contributions to public endeavors, such as building of museums.

A good hundred years ago, this habit existed in Greece as well. For example, Gennadios donated a library and Averof, a cruiser. Unfortunately, this tradition is almost dead.

Perhaps the key difference simply boils down to this: Turks of almost any political stripe are proud of their state. In schools, every morning the famous slogan of Atatürk is recited: “I am proud to be a Turk.” It follows that the idea of stealing money from the state is incompatible with the Turkish mentality.

For the Turks, their republic (Türkiye Cumhuriyeti) has the same connotation as the word “republic” in Europe. In Turkish, it means “the matter of the people.” That comes very close to the Roman concept of res publica (“public matter”), from which the word republic (in the sense of a commonwealth) is derived.

Note that the word “republic” exists in all European languages except one – Greek. It is astonishing that there is no word for “republic” in either ancient or modern Greek. Instead, one uses a term, which has a double meaning: democracy and republic. If one wants to show the difference to monarchy, one says “uncrowned democracy.”

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About Heinz Richter

Heinz Richter is a professor of modern Greek and Cypriot history and politics at the University of Mannheim

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