Where are we regarding democratic citizenship?

Where are we regarding democratic citizenship?

There was a rather interesting online meeting during Eid al-Fitr. The Check and Balance Network (DDA), one of Tukey’s prominent civil society organizations, shared with a select group of academics, journalists, civil society experts and some diplomats a 10-year comparative research on where Turkey is regarding democratic citizenship.

I tend not to appreciate political polls much because I believe that whoever pays for the poll gets the result he would appreciate. Yet, when it comes to sociological, economic, in short non-politicized polls – of course if we can ever manage to cut off the influence of politics – Turkey has quite a number of very qualified polling companies. One of such companies is Konda.

The study was a 10-year comparative study and therefore was indeed rather valuable in regard to the evolution of the perceptions of the Turkish society. Recently, the Turkish Parliament paid for a research to check to what degree the Turkish people considered the Turkish legislature marking its centennial as an avenue where remedies were sought to national problems. The result showed the parliament should spend more time to build a better image.

Same is apparently valid for Turkish political parties. Well, in a country where every two in five considered themselves “not among the first class,” confidence in politics and political parties might be a problematic area. Thus, the research revealed that confidence in political parties and politicians was very low. I should add, however, that journalists in most polls rank just above politicians and just below lawyers at the bottom of “who do you trust most” lists.

Still, the Konda finding that public confidence in justice was not improving at all and according to most citizens “first should come equality, justice and freedoms and only after them might come the survival of the state.” To what extent did such a conviction stem from the public erosion in the justice system? Konda research said most people believed the justice system lost its independence and reliability by coming under stronger political I influence.

Of course, it was a rather alarming statement by Konda research that at least half of the population believed elections were not just and fair but it was rather comforting to see the finding of the same poll that an overwhelming majority of people believed elections were the fundamental tool of expression of the will of the nation. 

Confidence erosion in democratic institutions and norms might be expected to lead to unfortunate extraordinary governance expectations, but the poll showed almost two in every five Turks categorically ruled out anti-democratic remedies to cure democratic ailments. 

On the contrary, very much like that famous quote by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk that problems emanating from press freedom should be corrected through press freedom, most people believed anti-democratic problems must be corrected by widening and enriching the Turkish democracy.

I could not agree more with Hayriye Ateş, the chair of the DDA, who stressed the findings of the 10-year research should help to advance the democracy perception and serve as a basis for demand in Turkey particularly to efforts aimed at reforming the constitution, undertaking political and legislative openings.

The research was conducted in the 10-year period with an incredibly high number of people, a group of 266,993 people, from all cities and sectors of the Turkish society, in face-to-face interviews.