Çavuşoğlu’s call for a ‘pluralistic democracy’ in Syria

Çavuşoğlu’s call for a ‘pluralistic democracy’ in Syria

Addressing a meeting of Syrian Turkmen last week, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu called for a “real political transition” in Syria towards a “pluralist democracy” based on the “rule of law,” as well as the “freedoms” one generally associates with the democratic system of government.

Çavuşoğlu uttered his remarks against the backdrop of reports that Russia and the U.S. are cooperating with the U.N. to draft a new constitution for the war-torn country. Interestingly, Turkey is currently also in the throes of trying to draft a new constitution. 

Listening as an outsider to Çavuşoğlu a person could easily assume that what we have here is the foreign minister of one of the most democratic countries in the world, who is encouraging one of its neighbors to move along the democratic path, once it has gotten rid of its authoritarian dictatorship. 

What we have instead is the foreign minister of a country that is accused by all of its truly democratic allies of straying off the democratic path and rapidly moving towards an authoritarian system based on the will of a single man, who happens to have been voted in by only half the electorate.

A system, in other words, where the executive is concentrated in a single hand, which is free from the burden of any scrutiny by the legislature or the judiciary and where the courts have been co-opted to serve a single party at the expense of other groups in the country. 

What is intriguing is that Çavuşoğlu can make his call relating to Syria when his own country is under such a negative light presently with regards to pluralistic democracy. It is evident, not just from his remarks, but also from Turkey’s insistence on its failed Syria policy is that what Ankara is really concerned with is not that Syria gets a genuine democracy.

What Çavuşoğlu is calling for is correct, of course, in the strict sense, since the demographic structure of Syria, with its religious, sectarian and ethnic fault lines, ultimately requires a pluralist system. But one wonders if his heart is in the right place in making this call, given what is happening in Turkey today, where there are serious concerns that the essential requirements of any democracy are being rapidly whittled away.

Çavuşoğlu is simply using the principle of democracy as a cover for what Ankara is really trying to achieve in Syria. That is to get rid of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to ensure a majoritarian Sunni rule which is crudely based on that country’s demographic structure and to ensure that undesirable elements, meaning the Syrian Kurds, do not gain a political foothold for themselves, especially at the expense of the small Turkmen minority.

Çavuşoğlu’s disingenuous call also provides us with further evidence as to why Turkey is not at the center of international political efforts to bring an end to the Syrian crisis, but merely on the periphery. 

If Ankara’s democratic credentials were good he would not only be more convincing, but Turkey would also be one of the regional powers that has clout and whose call for a pluralistic democracy in Syria is taken seriously. 

That clearly is not the case today. Given the manner in which developments in Syria are continuing to defy almost all of Ankara’s expectations, and the manner in which the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government continues to row against the current, it is very unlikely that Turkey will have much say over the constitution that is finally worked out for Syria.