The role of the opposition in democratic systems
In a democratic country, opposition counts. Democratic systems function with checks and balances. They also rely on transparency, accountability and responsibility. In parliamentary democracies, the legislative body is the reassurance of checks and balances. Opposition parties are inseparable components of parliaments and they also function according to the rules of the game, reassuring the application of those checks and balances with their contribution to government policies and constructive criticism. Democracies become complete with opposition.
Governments, meanwhile, have to pay respect to the presence of opposition. They have to internalize and digest the fundamental principle of democracy that dictates “winners do not and should not take all.” The result of the ballot box is only the indication that the election has turned out in favor of a certain political view and the policies that entail it are all embodied in the program of a political party. But there are other views of other political parties and they also need to be taken into consideration. Failure to accept this is severe violation of the functioning of a democratic system and does not bring progress. It only brings backwardness.
The United Kingdom has been going through a critical period in its democratic history. In 2015, there were parliamentary elections which ended with the victory of the Conservative Party, albeit with slim majority. This result followed the famous referendum in the U.K., which brought the decision of the British people on Brexit. All these followed a change in the leadership of the Conservative Party and even in 10 Downing Street. The new Prime Minister Theresa May, with the hope of increasing the strength of her party in the British Parliament, called for early elections. The result, however, contrary to expectations, was a hung parliament.
Theresa May’s coalition government is certainly more vulnerable than her previous one with the slim majority. But democracy in the United Kingdom is stronger. Today, Theresa May will make a speech in order to set out the agenda and the road map in front of her country. According to the extracts from her speech advanced to the press, the British prime minister is expected to make a call to the opposition parties “to contribute not just criticize.”
It is true that the United Kingdom is facing multiple challenges. On the one hand, Brexit negotiations with the EU will start and continue under the responsibility of May’s government. On the other hand, the implications of the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) support for the Tories in Westminster will inevitably affect the balance that has prevailed in Belfast between the DUP and Sinn Fein since the Good Friday Agreement. May, therefore, will have to brave not only foreign policy challenges but domestic ones as well.
But these circumstances do not deter her adherence to democratic principles. She is expected to ask the opposition to come forward with their own views and ideas about how those challenges the country faces can be tackled. She is believed to have said the following: “We may not agree on everything, but ideas can be clarified and improved and a better way forward can be found.”
Turkey is also facing a lot of challenges. On the one hand, negotiations to find a resolution to the Cyprus problem have finally come to an end without any meaningful prospect of resuming. Turkey believes the U.N.’s goodwill mission parameters no longer constitute a promising framework. Obviously, Turkey will now begin to look for alternative policies.
On the other hand, Turkey’s relations with the EU are also in limbo. The European Parliament recently advised the European Council to suspend accession negotiations with Turkey. Even if not suspended, the negotiations will stall.
In Syria, Turkey is preparing for a new offensive. It is apparent this offensive does not comply with the overall policy of the fight against ISIL terrorism, but against Turkey’s self-declared terrorist opponents.
Turkey needs to discuss the challenges it faces with all the components of its democratic system. Opposition parties are those components. The government and the opposition may not agree on everything, but ideas can be clarified and improved to find a better way forward. That is what democracy is all about.