Insult and Charisma: Deployment of an Obsolete Law in Turkish Democratic Backsliding
Discussant: Kriszta Kovács (WZB)
We cordially invite you to the next session of our workshop series on Authoritarian Politics and International Relations at WZB! Defne Över and İrem Ebetürk examine the role of defamation laws in Turkey, where insulting the president is a crime punishable by up to four years in prison. Between 2014 and 2016 as many as 1,845 such insult cases were opened against people including celebrities, journalists and children. Compared to 20 cases opened in 2006 and 175 cases opened in 2011 during the terms of previous presidents, 1,845 cases opened in the first one and a half years of Erdoğan’s rule clearly stand out as a controversial break with the national past.
The authors ask: Why was this law revived following Erdoğan’s election as president? What role do insult proceedings play in politics, and what does this law’s revival tell us about state-society relations in Turkey?
To respond, Över and Ebetürk explore the global context in which laws that ban insulting the head of the state become obsolete, get abolished or deployed; Turkish courts’ construction of the relationship between citizens and the president in filed cases, and public perception of insult cases in Turkey. They argue that this law had two purposes. On the one hand, it helped personalize the power in the hands of a single person, on the other hand, it worked as a strategy of legitimation under authoritarian/authoritarianizing politics. These two aspects worked in a single frame work of democratic backsliding where personalization of power worked through the legitimacy endowed by law and the discourses of democracy that surrounded “lawful” personalization of power. Overall, this study shows that in a world where coups lose their relevance as agents of democratic backsliding processes obsolete laws acquire special importance thereof.
The seminar series aims at bringing together scholars from Comparative Politics and International Relations. We invite papers combining comparative authoritarianism and IR, as well as contributions that help clarify important theoretical concepts and empirical patterns in either discipline. Colleagues interested in presenting in the workshop series should email Alex Tokhi (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Alex Schmotz (email@example.com).
When: Once a month on a Tuesday afternoon (see dates below)
Where: WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Reichpietschufer 50, 10785 Berlin
What: A classic format: 90 minute research seminar with one paper presentation (15 min), one discussant (10), and plenty of time for Q&A
Who: All scholars from WZB and the Berlin area and anyone interested in authoritarian politics and/or international relations
The next sessions you can find here.