Democracy in Turkey?


The article by Turkey’s charge d’affaires (Strength and resilience of Turkish democracy, 3 August) is based on a common misunderstanding – that democracy consists only of the holding of elections.

Many totalitarian regimes hold elections, but where the candidates are pre-selected by the existing regime, or only one party is permitted to run, or voters are intimidated by violence or the threat of it, only the most cynical would call this democracy.

Democracy requires three more elements, all of which should be safeguarded by constitutional provisions: freedom of association, including the liberty to form political parties; freedom of expression, including a free press; and above all, an independent judiciary, whose powers should include supervision of elections.

The independence of judges requires a process of selection of judges on the basis of their legal acumen and personal integrity alone, and without regard for their politics, together with tenure and a constitutionally protected ban on removal of judges (subject only to dismissal after due process, by a tribunal within the judicial system, for disciplinary infractions).

Any regime which closes newspapers and television stations, because they oppose the government, and which arrests or dismisses judges for political reasons only, has no business calling itself democratic.


Philip Marcus