Justice for my voters and injustice for rest
ŞAHİZER SAMUK – MİNE TAFOLARThe potential risk of the tyranny of the majority where decisions made by a majority place its interests above those of an individual or a minority group, has always been a concern in democratic regimes.
After all, while the majority gets elected in democracies, the existence of a vibrant opposition is one of the necessary conditions of a democratic regime. In other words, in democratic regimes one needs to make sure that the minority is not suppressed by the majority and at least finds the chance to raise its proper demands from the ruling government. While the othering along with the suppression of the minority and the opposition have always been present and recurrent themes in Turkish politics, we believe that it has reached a worrisome degree incomparable to the previous governments during the rule of the incumbent Justice and Development Party (hereafter AKP).
Throughout Turkish history, the ruling parties have used various mechanisms to repress the opposition: the law enforcement forces, torture, custody, violence towards those who are opposed to the government, and teargas. All these oppressive measures have unfortunately been used by those who had been supposedly the adamant supporters of democracy in Turkey and are increasingly been resorted to by the incumbent AKP. We believe that this basically stems from a distorted notion of democracy where the governing parties primarily prioritize the demands of their own voters and disregard the rest of their citizens. This leaves us with nothing but a crippled understanding of democracy for ruling parties’ own voters and not for the other half of the country. This kind of an attitude clearly conflicts with one of the basic principles of democracy: that is pluralism. When the ruling leaders cry out after every top-down conflictual move they are carrying this out from the power they garner from the majority disregarding the very basic demands of the opposition forces, they commit a grave disservice to the very underlying tenets of democracy in our country.
This is actually what we have observed following the Gezi Park protests in Turkey, reaching an unprecedented scale, where thousands of people poured into the streets opposing the government’s top-down decision of constructing a shopping mall in Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park. The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dismissed the protestors as “a few looters.” Unfortunately, we keep hearing similar remarks not only from our prime minister but also from the other members of the incumbent AKP. For instance, Egemen Bağış, current minister for European Union Affairs and chief negotiator of Turkey in accession talks with the European Union, said that the number of people who died in Syria by far surpasses those who died during the Gezi Park protests, trying to underestimate the degree and the brutality of police violence used against the protesters, a country’s own citizens, but potentially non-AKP voters. One cannot justify illegal police violence against one’s proper citizens simply by comparing it with a greater degree of violence committed elsewhere. At this highly watershed period, what our country urgently needs is a self-critical evaluation of what has happened in our country during the course of this past four months and adopting an impartial notion of justice for all, i.e. not only justice for one’s own voters and injustice for the rest but justice for all. Current leaders in Turkey should be aware of the fact that all citizens in democratic regimes regardless of their party preferences are entitled to some very basic inalienable rights that cannot be taken away from them no matter what. Otherwise, if ruling parties keep being concerned about sheer numbers and the majority and forget about the demands, desires, and the rights of their remaining citizens, it would only be a partial justice. It would be a justice only for those who voted for the ruling party. And unfortunately as the history repeated itself in Turkish politics, this will turn out to be a doomed vicious cycle where potentially only the actors are going to change but the perception toward the majority and opposition will remain the same bringing us back to zero after every critical juncture.
Şahizer Samuk is a PhD student at the Department of Institutions, Politics and Policies, at the IMT Institute for Advanced Studies, Lucca. Mine Tafolar is a PhD candidate at the Government Department at the University of Texas, at Austin.