Turkish political party.
Four members of the Republican People's Party (RPP)—Celal Bayar, Adnan Menderes, Mehmet Fuat Koprülü, and Refik Koraltan—founded the Democrat Party (DP; Demokrat Parti) on 7 January 1946. The immediate impetus for the establishment of the party was to oppose an RPP-sponsored land reform bill. More generally, the DP founders criticized the government for being authoritarian and arbitrary, and for its extensive control of the economy. The DP campaigned on a platform of economic, political, and cultural liberalism.
The DP participated in the elections of 1946, which were held before the party had a chance to build a national organization or make known its candidates. The party gained only 64 out of 465 seats. Over the next four years, party leaders built a strong organization and attracted the support of many groups that had become alienated from the RPP over the previous decade and a half. In the 1950 elections, the DP received 53.3 percent of the popular vote and 86.2 percent of the seats in the Grand National Assembly. On 29 May 1950 the DP formed its first government as the new assembly elected Bayar as president, Menderes prime minister, and Koprülü foreign minister. In the 1954 elections, the DP increased its share of the vote to 56.6 percent, capturing 408 out of 503 assembly seats. In the 1957 general elections, held in the context of growing economic crisis, the DP still managed to garner 325 seats.
Despite encouraging the private sector, DP policies maintained wide latitude for state control over the economy, particularly through investments in the state manufacturing sector. Between 1950 and 1953, inflows of foreign aid and high prices for agricultural goods induced the DP government to encourage agricultural production and exports. A diverse array of policies increased peasant incomes, helping to cement DP popularity in the countryside. After 1953, a combination of declining world prices and a growing shortage of foreign exchange led the DP to implement trade policies that encouraged import-substituting industrialization. Despite growing investment and manufacturing output, large government deficits and the lack of coherent policy led to severe economic problems, and by 1958, the government was forced to impose austerity measures.
The DP pursued a staunchly pro-West foreign policy, joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in February 1952 and, on several occasions, siding with the West, even at the expense of creating tensions with its neighbors. Turkey's support for the Baghdad Pact, for example, prompted the Egyptian government to label Turkey a Western surrogate in the region.
As economic conditions deteriorated, the DP became increasingly authoritarian. A series of anti-democratic laws, designed to cripple the RPP while muzzling dissent in the press and in universities, alienated the liberal intelligentsia and the liberal wing within the party. In early 1960, to stifle growing opposition, the government passed some unconstitutional measures. When these measures only catalyzed further opposition, the government declared martial law. At this point, the DP paid the price for never having established harmonious relations with the military: The combination of economic crisis and increasing authoritarianism triggered a military coup that deposed the DP government on 27 May 1960. The leading members of the DP were subsequently placed on trial for treason. On 15 September 1961, fifteen of them were sentenced to death. Twelve of these sentences were commuted, but Menderes and two of his top ministers were executed.
See also Baghdad Pact (1955); Bayar, Celal; Koprülü, Mehmet Fuat; Menderes, Adnan; North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); Republican People's Party (RPP); Turkish Grand National Assembly.
Ahmad, Feroz. The Making of Modern Turkey. London and New York: Routledge, 1993.
Ahmad, Feroz. The Turkish Experiment in Democracy, 1950–1975. London: C. Hurst for the Royal Institute of National Affairs, 1977.
Saribay, Ali Yasar. "The Democratic Party." In Political Parties and Democracy in Turkey, edited by Metin Heper and Jacob M. Landau. London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 1991.