Since the military coup of 1960, Turkish politics have been characterized by two opposing visions of government. According to the "rule from above" view, which has been dominant among the military elite and some of the civilian political elite, government is an instrument for implementing the enduring principles of Kemalism. Thus, if a government fails to carry out this mandate, it must be replaced by those who are the guardians of Atatürk's legacy, which is identified as synonymous with Turkish nationalism. In contrast, the "rule from below" view, which predominates among more populist-oriented politicians and thinkers, tends to regard government as an instrument for protecting the civic rights and individual freedoms of Turkish citizens. Thus, if elected leaders fail in their responsibilities, they should be voted out of office. Supporters of the first view tend to interpret democracy as a political order in which all Turks share common goals and national unity is not disrupted by partisan politics. When they perceive partisan politics as threatening this democratic ideal, they back military intervention as a corrective measure. Those favoring rule from below tend to accept diversity of opinion, and its organized expression through competitive political parties, as normal in a healthy democracy. These two very different conceptions of government have contributed significantly to Turkey's political history since 1960, an era in which periods of parliamentary democracy have alternated with periods of military authoritarianism.
The legacy of military intervention, in particular a general fear among politicians that it may recur, has adversely affected democratic practices in Turkey. For instance, the successor civilian governments have lifted only gradually the harsh restrictions imposed on political rights by the 1980-83 regime. In early 1995, various restrictions on the formation of political parties and free association remained in effect; civilians accused of "crimes against the state" continued to be remanded to military courts for detention, interrogation, and trial.
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