The Democracy Package : ‘Ungenerous’ or ‘Unsuccessful’?

The Democracy Package : ‘Ungenerous’ or ‘Unsuccessful’?

The political debate turned to be like reading coffee cups, from a long time ago, and it is also true for the case of the so called ‘democracy package’. For long, we are expected to elaborate on signs and symbols of Prime Minister Erdoğan’s speeches and even of his mood and use these signs and symbols as tools of political analysis. In most cases, he ‘hints’ rather than ‘expresses’ his politics on something and we are expected to feel happy to know that ‘he has something in mind’ and we will know what it is when ‘the appropriate time’ comes, so we should not worry about this or that problem. The last package was announced in the same fashion that, PM was preparing for an important democratization move and we were supposed to wait until the day he would decide to launch it. And then, after it was revealed, we are expected to reflect on its good parts as signs of generosity without which we would be in worse position, after all.

 Again, for a long time, we are expected to feel grateful for anything which is said and done by this government, in the name of democratization no matter how minor or controversial; since it is only ‘we; the poor subjects of a mighty government’, need more democratization. Is not only the government who hold this view of democracy, the democrats, liberals and almost all those who are in opposition seem to have a similar understanding. That is why many expressed ‘disappointment’ rather than ‘objection’ concerning the content of the last democracy package. I am not saying that it was pointless to expect the government to deliver more democratic rights and freedoms, but feeling ‘unconvinced’ is different than feeling ‘disappointed’. The same is true for expecting the government to ‘deliver’ rights and freedoms, rather than expecting the government to ‘acknowledge’ them.

 Indeed, it is the weak that needs rights and freedoms more than the powerful. That is why the standard of democracy is more determined by the protection of rights and freedoms of the weak, of the disadvantaged and of the minorities on one hand, and by acknowledging the rights and freedoms of the individual against the community, on the other. Yet, it does not mean that the powerful do not need democracy, since it does not need protection that it already has power to protect its interests.

This may be true only for pre-modern societies, and modern authoritarian regimes. Well, it is no secret that our government is not keen on democratic politics and rather more driven by the idea of power politics. Nevertheless, it seems to be forgotten that modern societies in general and Turkey in particular cannot survive the challenges of being a modern middle class society without implementing democratic policies. Besides, Turkey has long been suffering from ethnic and sectarian divisions as well as social polarization, and the democratic politics is the only remedy that we urgently need.

 Under the circumstances, nowadays it is rather the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government who needs more democracy to be able to ‘govern’ a complex and conflict ridden society. And the success of the democracy package is more important for the government than anybody else. Unless the government recognizes the difference between ‘ruling by power’ and ‘governing by ability’, it will suffer further governability crises. The present government has no problem to have the power to rule, especially after it managed to overbeat those power centers that were against it; yet it loses its ability to govern more and more to the point of escalating political crises. Then, the basic problem with the last package is that it does not seem to help the government to overcome its difficulties, by getting more consent of the segments and circles that the government fails to be able to govern, namely; Alevis, Kurds, the seculars, the liberals, the new urban youth, or in other words, anybody who is not strongly committed to the AKP government. That is why it can be evaluated as ‘unsuccessful’ rather than ‘ungenerous’. No democratic government is supposed to get total consent. Nevertheless, modern societies cannot govern unless they achieve a certain level of consent; that is why they have to negotiate rights and freedoms with others who do not agree with them on many points. This is the basis of modern governance and that is why democracy is not only a modern political ideal but also a necessary political tool to be able to govern without trouble.

 The problem of democracy in Turkey is less to do with the government’s commitment to the ideal democracy but its failure to have basic wisdom concerning democracy as a political tool of modern governance.