Singapore and Turkey

free essaySingapore and Turkey are two nation states. They lie in different geographical locations, one in South East Asia and the other at the junction of Europe and Asia. Regarding their strategic importance, they are similar. However, they have different ethnic and religious compositions, different histories and systems of governance that do not differ much. They have also joined diffident regional multilateral organizations that have contributed to diverse ways to the countries’ political and socio-economic development.

Singapore

Singapore is a port-island city-state in South East Asia and is considered one of the Asian Tigers. For centuries, owing to its strategic position, the country has always been an important part of South East Asia. The nation was colonized by the British until the 1960s when it gained independence. The British exerted pressure on the leaders, and the country joined Malaysia to form a single country in 1963.  However, with the lack of political consensus on the support of the union with Malaysia, the Malaysian Parliament voted to dissolve the union with Singapore in 1965 thus expelling Singapore from the Malaysian federation. During this time, the fear of communist insurgencies was a major determinant of the politics in the country.

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In any society that is not monolingual and has diverse ethnicities, citizens differ on the issues of approaches, ideals and goals, community values, and religious beliefs. Singapore is no different. The country has three distinct ethnic groups (Wong 2011). There are the Chinese, the Malays and the Indians in addition to other groups smaller in numbers like Philippinos and Thais. In spite of this ethnic diversity, the country is relatively free from racial tensions. One of the reasons the Malaysian government expelled Singapore from Malaysia was the institutionalized discrimination of those of Chinese descent in the Malaysian federation by the government, which Singapore could not agree to. The only significant ethnic discord in Singapore was in 1964when the country was part of the Malaysia Federation. Pew Research Center (2014) refers to the country as the world’s most religiously diverse nation. However, according to Wong (2011), there still simmering ethno-religious tensions. However, rather than the ethno-religious diversity being a source of palpable strain, the city-state continues to be a model of a tolerant and harmonious multiracial metropolis.
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While ethnicity has not been a source of tension in Singapore for most of the nation’s history, this cannot be said about its ethnicity versus that of its closest neighbors. In Singapore, as noted, the major ethnicity is Chinese while in Malaysia, most of the people are ethnic Malays (Wong 2016). For the time, the two nations were a single country, their policies in relation to ethnicities were a source of friction (Kymlicka & He 2005). While Singaporean leaders preferred to have an equal platform for all the ethnicities in the city, the Malaysians preferred affirmative action in favor of ethnic Malays who, in their opinion, had been alienated by the British colonizers in favor of the ethnic Chinese (Kymlicka & He 2005). This issue sometimes has been a source of palpable strife especially in 1964 when there were race-related riots in Singapore, which the Singapore government blamed on the then ruling party in Malaysia (Kymlicka & He 2005). There are no notable differences between Singapore and its other neighbors since Singaporeans of all ethnicities are loyal to their country in what the Economist (2014) has termed an “improbable patriotism.” Thus, the ethno-religious diversity has been a source of strength rather than a source of discord. This fact is attributable to the administration’s positive efforts to put all ethnicities on an equal footing.

Singapore is remarkable for the stability of government in a volatile area. The country also stands out from the other nations in that it has had the same ruling party since Britain granted the state independence (The Economist 2015). The state adopted a Westminster-type government from its British colonial masters (The Economist 2015). The people of Singapore directly elect the president who is the head of the state while the head of the government is the Prime Minister, who appoints his Cabinet from the Parliament. Members of Parliament are elected to serve five-year terms every five years. The introduction of a uniquely Singaporean institution of Group Representation Constituency has ensured that the majority of ethnic Chinese do not dominate the ethnic minorities (The Economist 2015). The judiciary branch is independent of the legislative and executive ones, although the country has been termed as legalistic. The state under the first Prime Minster Lee Kuan Yew practiced benevolent authoritarianism.  Freedom House (2016) still regards the country as partly free because it retains authoritarian principles, and the political class is very concretive rather than fully free as in mature democracies. The People’s Action Party dominates the country’s electoral landscape and wins every election since the country has gained self-government.

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Singapore as a nation is a city-state and as such, it has no hinterland after the government of Malaysia expelled it from the Federation of Malaysia. As a country whose existence depends on the international trade due to its limited internal market, the city has had to enter into international agreements to secure the market for its products and thus ensure its prosperity. Singapore is part of several multilateral bodies and agreements. The country was one of the founding members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Grant 2016). The body has served to expand the economy of Singapore as it provides the nearest market for Singaporean industrial goods (Grant 2016). Furthermore, ASEAN has also helped to stabilize Singapore through its policy of non-interference, which means that regional rivals Malaysia and Indonesia have not been able to interfere in the internal affairs of their tiny neighbor (Grant 2016). Singapore is also a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, which has its headquarters in Singapore (Chowdhury 2010). It has further underlined the impact of Singapore as an international hub while ensuring that the country can benefit from the free trade policies the cooperation promotes.

Turkey

The nation-state now known as Turkey was for hundreds of years the epicenter of the Ottoman Empire, which stretched from Greece to the Middle East, North Africa and straddled most of the Mediterranean Sea. After the Empire joined Germany in the First World War and lost, most of its constituent parts that were other nationalities, for instance, the Greeks, the Armenians, and Magyars, started agitating for independence from the Ottoman Empire. The empire went through political upheaval. The Turkish War of Independence and the overthrow of the monarchy brought some measure of peace into the country. Although before the empire was a monarchy and a theocracy (the Sultan also served as the Caliph), the new state became a secular democratic republic. The country was then a single party state as the founding president Ataturk Kemal sought to establish his policies in the nation. The country seems to be still evolving with the recent change of the system of government to a strong Presidency.

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Turkey has significant ethnic minorities. These comprise of Greeks, Arabs, Armenians, and Kurds. The number of ethnic minorities is around 30% of the population (Shafak 2016). However, in terms of religion, Muslims form between 90 % and more than 98% of the population while Christians and Jews make up the rest (Shafak 2016). There is little if any religious-based discord in the country. However, ethnic tension between the government and the Kurds has subsisted for several decades. The government does not consider Kurds and other Muslims, who are not ethnic Turks as minorities (Shafak 2016). This approach has been a root of frustration and agitation from the Kurds, who have sought self-determination in the country. Through the Kurdish People’s Party, the Kurds have fought for autonomy from Turkey, which Turkey has attempted to crush with limited success (Shafak 2016). The Kurds feel that the ethnic Turks have political, social and economic hegemony in Turkey, and it causes the racial discord in the nation.

Turkey has had many hitches with regard to cross-boarded ethnicities in the nation. These have come in what many consider being Turkey’s strongman antics in the region. The notable example is the Armenian Genocide that occurred during the Turkish War of Independence, which historians deem to have been ethnic cleansing (Linden 2012). Turkey has refused to acknowledge its part in the genocide and even refuses to accept that genocide has taken place. It has led to a strained relationship with Armenia and other countries that acknowledge the genocide. In the same vein, there had been a tension between Turks and Greeks before the two nations became independent countries (Linden 2012). Historical tension fueled by the centuries of Ottoman rule over the Greeks fuels this animosity. In the immediate days of founding the Republic, this led to the frequent wars between the countries as they sought to establish themselves. In recent decades, it has manifested itself in the Cyprus debacle (Linden, 2012). The two nations have virtually divided Cyprus into two by occupying different parts of the island. Kurds also live in several of Turkey’s neighbors (Linden 2012), which has been a source of tension between Turkey and some of its neighbors, which has made Turkey frequently raid some of those countries in pursuit of Kurdish insurgents. For instance, in 1992, Turkey violated the sovereignty of Iraq by launching 20,000 troops to flush out Kurd militants in Iraqi territory.

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Turkey is parliamentary democracy in which the Prime Minister is the head of the government while the president is the head of state. The Prime Minister heads the Council of Ministers (Gumuscu 2013, p.226). The legislature in the nation is the Grand National Assembly. The judicial arm of the government is in theory independent. It is also a member of the European Court of Human Rights and thus accepts its decisions as if they were from Turkish Courts. The country had a strong military presence in national elections. Several times, the military overthrew the governments it felt did not adhere to the Kemalist secularism (Atatürkçülük) like in 1960, 1971, and 1980 (Gumuscu 2013, p.226). This phenomenon has declined in the recent times with the current president lauding for his determination to rid politics off the military in his tenure as the Prime Minister. The political system in Turkey continues to evolve with the recent adding of more executive powers to the president who is now elected directly by the people as opposed to parliament. The government of the current ruling party the AKP has been accused of being Islamist in nature contrary to the secular principles of Turkey. In spite of this, Turkey is considered a secular democracy in the spirit of its founding president Mustapha Ataturk.

Turkey lies between Europe and Asia. Thus, it has had to enter into multilateral agreements to grow both economically and politically. The nation is a member of the Organization for Economic Corporation and development, which has assisted the country to grow economically by adopting sound policies (Aras 2015, p.270). Moreover, Turkey is a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. This way, the country played a big role in the maintaining of peace between the communist and free market nations in Europe during the cold war, which gave Turkey an international profile. Being a predominantly Islamic state, the country is also a member of the Organization of Islamic Corporation (Aras 2015, p.273). In this front, Turkey has been the voice of moderation in this forum, earning plaudits from observers. For instance, several times, Turkey has failed to vote in the affirmative in the member’s condemnation of Israel. Turkey has long sought to be a full member of the European Union and is currently in accession negotiations with the EU (Aras 2015, p.271). However, perceived growing authoritarianism, human rights abuse and lack of press freedom is holding Turkey back. Entry into the EU would lead to a larger market for Turkish goods and enhance government accountability in all areas.

Future Evolution of the Two Nation States

Singapore has grown as the nation since its break from Malaysia. The country’s location is strategic. Since its independence from Malaysia, the country has grown into one of the most developed states in the world. The country’s per capita earnings are among the highest in the world, and there is ethno-religious peace in the country complied with high levels of patriotism. However, the nation has some issues. Its governance is still autocratic. It is a potential destabilizer in the future as the people start calling for their freedom. However, its economic outlook looks promising. Its strategic location, combined with a large market for its goods in the ASEAN means that the nation is likely to continue growing economically, absent of political destabilization. On the political front, however, the country might see a future shift from its conservative autocratic rule to a more democratic one. It might be a potentially violent one as the ruling party has amassed a significant amount of power that it might not want to let it go.

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Turkey, like Singapore, lies in a strategic region. Unlike Singapore, the country is not a small city-state. The country is likely to continue playing a major role in world politics due to its unique position of having both European and Islamic values and will thus continue acting as a bridge between the two. On the other hand, the political situation in the country is going to erupt. The situation with the Kurds might escalate further while the perceived continued Islamization and autocratic policies of the current administration will keep anger simmering in the population, and possibly the armed forces. Economically, Turkey is likely to continue growing primarily due to its strategic location. Its entry into the European market will greatly increase its economic prospects.

To sum up, the paper seeks to explore these aspects the two nation states and predict their future evolution. These aspects include the political developed of the two states, their religious and ethnic compositions, their forms of leadership, a multilateral organization they are part of and the role it has played in their development. From the analysis, it is apparent that while the nations look primed for continued economic success, both look to a precarious future as far as the political front is concerned. This perspective is due to the autocratic regimes in the two nations that might lose power in a violent manner.