Accountable in the ‘presence of God’

Accountable in the ‘presence of God’

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has pledged that from now on, “with God’s permission,” no prime minister shall be held accountable at a court, he will only be accountable “to those who vote for him, and in the presence of God.” That is a perfect expression of Islamist democracy featuring worship of the ballot box as long as it produces votes “for us.”

It might be useful to recall some names and numbers. 

The leader of the 1980 military coup, Gen. Kenan Evren, and his Constitution won 91 percent of the vote. Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov boasts an impressive 90.8 percent, and, among his neighbors, Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazaybayev (81 percent) and Turkmenistan’s Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov (97 percent) have both posted impressive numbers. Mr Berdimuhamedov’s predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, had won 99.5 percent in 1992. Kyrgyz leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s 2005 victory produced a neat 90 percent. Elsewhere in the former Soviet lands, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus boasted 80 percent of the vote in 2010. 

In Ghana Jerry Rawlings gained power in a military coup in 1979, retook power in another coup in 1981, and then got elected president in 1992 and 1996. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia’s fugitive dictator whom Mr. Davutoğlu deeply dislikes for being a dictator, was re-elected in 1999 with 99.6 percent of the vote. Yahya Jammeh in Gambia gained power in a 1994 coup and won three elections in 1996, 2001 and 2006.

In Liberia, the warlord Charles Taylor came to power through popular vote. In 2010, Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, who has an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for the deaths of hundreds of thousands and for crimes against humanity, won 68.2 percent of the vote. Similarly, Zimbabwe’s eternal president, Robert Mugabe, first came to power through elections in 1980. 

After Artur da Costa Silva in Brazil was elected as president in 1966, he closed Congress, banned the opposition and suspended the free press. In 1972, Juan Maria Bordaberry in Uruguay was elected president only to install a military government, dissolve Congress and ban trade unions. In Peru, Alberto Fujimori, the man whom Mario Vargas Llosa once called a dictator, won three elections. After his downfall he stood trial for corruption and crimes against humanity. 

In Haiti, François Duvalier was elected in 1957, then banned the opposition and declared himself president for life. 

And earlier this year, Mr. Davutoğlu’s neighboring nemesis, Bashar al-Assad of Syria, won 88.7 percent of the vote. Another Davutoğlu nemesis, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, won last July 45.6 percent of the vote (96.7 percent of the 47 percent turnout), one year after he ousted President Mohamed Morsi in a coup d’état. Morsi had won 26.9 percent of the national vote (51.7 percent of the 52 percent turnout). The coup leader’s popular vote was 18.7 percentage points higher than the coup victim’s. 

Of course, none of those impressive election victories could match Saddam Hussein’s 100 percent in 2002 and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un’s same unanimous brilliance.  

Allow me to remind once again; Orson Welles was at least partly right when he said that: “Popularity should be no scale for the election of politicians. If it would depend on popularity, Donald Duck and The Muppets would take seats in senate.” True, unfortunately we don’t yet have a better instrument for democracy than the ballot box. But its über-sanctity over rendering an account before justice in Turkey will only add Mr. Davutoğlu’s name to the fancy collection mentioned above.