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Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Europe's Liberals need to learn from Turkey

If you or I were in Turkey, opposing the illiberal authoritarian regime of Dictator Erdogan, we would risk being thrown out of our jobs, having our homes trashed by thugs, imprisoned or being quietly dragged away at night and shot. Erdogan's fifteen year regime has used every legal means plus emergency powers to repress free speech and democracy in Turkey.

Some 60,000 are held in 'emergency detention'. 150,000 public sector employees have been thrown out of their jobs since 2016, following a purge of the armed services in 2013 in which commanders not loyal to Erdogan were jailed at show-trials. Police, judiciary and universities have been purged of potential opponents, but above all Erdogan has complete control over news media and has jailed hundreds of independent journalists. 150 media outlets were closed after 2016, and government censorship is active and present in all others. All news in Turkey is Erdogan news. Internet access and use is restricted and any website can be (and are) blocked at the whim of the censors. Even Wikipedia is banned. In the run-up to the election, Erdogan's party got 67 hours of election broadcasting. His biggest rival Ince got 7 hours. the Iyi party got 12 minutes.  

Yet despite all this, people still communicated. Somehow they managed to meet and talk, to canvas, to spread the message. 87% of voters turned out to vote, and despite the repression and crackdown, Erdogan managed only a slim parliamentary majority. People organised themselves to guard polling stations and ballot boxes from Erdogan's thugs. Even Kurdish voters, some of whom faced an 8km walk to cast their votes, passed the magic 10% threshold as their HDP party gained 12%, despite the party leader having been imprisoned by Erdogan. 

Free speech. Free association. The right to form political parties. Erdogan has trampled on all these most fundamental rights - yet still somehow he failed to win the victory he needed. Universal suffrage and most of all the secret ballot have kept democracy alive in Turkey. They are the most precious of our rights, and worth our blood to defend. 

We need to learn from the Turks the ways in which democracy can be nurtured under an illiberal regime.

10 comments:

Andrew Douglas said...

All very bad, except the throwing out of 150,000 public sector workers. That represents a good start.

right-writes said...

Looks like Turkey's democracy will soon be qualified to tick a few more boxes on a few more EU application forms.

asquith said...

If Turkey weren't (inexplicably) "allied" to the west, necons & other interventionists would be fulminating against the Erdogan regime the way they fulminate against the less-bad Assad regime in Syria.

We can't control what happens in Ankara or Riyadh but we can hopefully control what happens in London, and demand that Maybe stops goving the red carpet treatment to the leaders of those Islamic states and enabling this sort of thing or vote for someone else, who will do that.

Raedwald said...

Andrew Douglas - Our own government are preparing to decommission our amphibious landing capability and downsize the Royal Marines to a ceremonial company. A good start?

And I'm sure we can get rid of all those uncorrupted judges, police with rectitude and scores of air traffic controllers ....

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

"Democracy is like a bus - it is useful to get to where you want to go"

- a quote (near enough I think) from the man who built this house

Andrew Douglas said...

Raedwald,
Yes of course there are good parts of government (although surprisingly few), and our own Governement is hopeless at recognising which are good.

And of course it is appalling that Erdogan is weeding out opponents of his oppressive regime from Government jobs.

My point was .the rather more minor (and possibly contentious) view that in general reducing Governement jobs is a good thing, not a bad one.

Anonymous said...

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise wrote at 1151:

"Democracy is like a bus - it is useful to get to where you want to go"

You missed the last phrase, which was "and then you get off".

He, Erdogan, has clearly read up on how it was done during the 1930s, and has applied his islamic twist to the recipe.

Timothy Davis U.S.A. said...

I just read that Her Imperial Majesty Elizabeth II (to you in Great Britain) Mrs Elizabeth Windsor (to myself in the United States) just signed the Brexit law. Congratulations to all that worked so hard to start taking your Country back.

The real work bgins now.

Andrew Scarborough said...

Thanks Tim.

Mr Douglas, I understand what parts of the (un)civil service you were referring to, and agree wholeheartedly.

Is Turkey still being fast tracked into the EU? If so, can we be fast tracked out please?

anon 2 said...

It's time to re-create the Turkey Trot!