June 7: Turkey’s democratic renaissance?
Ernest Maragall - Laura Batalla*
CİHAN PhotoWith their votes, the Turkish people sent a strong message to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Sunday’s free - if not really fair - election.
Amid an alarming degree of polarization and tension, a large majority of Turkish society chose not to back Erdoğan’s ambition to switch to a presidential system. Instead, the people of Turkey overwhelmingly voted in favor of democratic rights and tolerance.
Today, the European Parliament will finally vote on its resolution on Turkey, after being postponed twice. We should use this opportunity to send a message to those in Turkey who are pushing for democratic reform.
Long-standing opponents of opening chapters 23 and 24 in the EU accession negotiations, which cover issues related to the judiciary, fundamental rights and freedoms, should now reconsider their position as it only damages the prospects of democracy in the country.
On 7 June, Turkey was presented with a choice between turning towards a pluralistic, inclusive and tolerant democracy, coming closer to the EU, or majoritarian-style rule, drifting further away from the European Union. With Sunday’s vote, Turkey clearly chose to come closer to the EU.
The EU should not turn its back on the millions of Turkish citizens who voted for the EU’s founding principles: Democracy and respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. And the only way to do this is to revive the stalled accession process by opening new negotiation chapters.
Turkey’s new parliament will be more diverse and representative, with more women and minorities than ever. By surpassing the (unfair) election threshold, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has taught Turkey a lesson in democracy, bearing the loss of human lives and repeated attacks on HDP offices throughout the election campaign.
The HDP’s success lies in its transformation from an exclusive pro-Kurdish party into a party in favor of rights and freedoms for everyone in Turkey. With this message, the HDP has managed to reach out to the rest of Turkey, attracting a significant number of votes from Turkish left-wing and liberal voters who have been neglected during Erdoğan’s rule.
At this critical juncture, we should not ignore these positive signals and we should urge EU institutions to support Turkey’s democratic renaissance.
* Ernest Maragall is a Catalan MEP from the Greens/EFA group. Laura Batalla is his policy advisor.