By Ferhat Polat,
What is democracy? Democracy is a system of government with four key aspects:
- A system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections;
- Active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life;
- Protection of the human rights of all citizens; and
- A rule of law in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.
As we explore the various democratic nations around the world we see that there are variants of democracy. The most main variable is the terms or conditions that direct the democracy in which all citizens of a country are given active participation in the decision making process of their countries.
Turkey's road to democracy has not been an easy one. On the contrary, progress has been, at times, exceedingly difficult; a road beset with obstacles and interrupted by many setbacks. Since the epoch-making general election of 1950, when a party that had enjoyed a monopoly of political power for decades allowed itself to lose a free election and submitted itself to the will of the people, there have been no less than four military ‘interventions,’ as the Turks call them.
What is remarkable is not that these ‘interventions’ took place; that is, after all, the norm in that region and political culture--but that after all four, the military withdrew to its barracks, and allowed, even facilitated, the resumption of the democratic process. Since then, Turkey has passed the test of democratic change not just once, but several times.
Friday night`s military coup against Turkey’s civilian leadership has failed. Thanks to a long history of coups, Turkish people dislike military intervention; all people from diverse backgrounds became together to stand up for their democracy. Many Turkish people share the feeling that a democratically elected government is better than undemocratic military rule.
Turkish experiment in parliamentary democracy has been going on for a century and a quarter--much longer than in any other country in the Islamic world--and its present progress, therefore rests on a far stronger, broader, and deeper base of experience.
Since 1923 which Turkish republic was found by Ataturk successive governments of Turkey wisely did not attempt to introduce full democracy all at once, but instead went through successive phases of limited democracy, laying the foundation for further development, and, at the same time, encouraging the rise of civil society. It is not easy to create and maintain democratic institutions and civil society, therefore Turkey has paid heavy price in order to create a stable democracy.
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the street after Erdogan`s call to confront the military was broadcast on television. Many waved Turkish flags and they chanted their support for the democracy. Some climbed on tanks; some blocked the path of military vehicles with their cars.
All parties in Turkey have supported the democratically elected government of Turkey; they show restraint and try to avoid any violence or bloodshed. Turkish people show the world they stand with democracy, liberty, freedom, and justice. They know what happens when military dictators take over the country.
The events and outcome of this latest coup has shown Turkish people to be hungry for democracy; a military ‘intervention’ has been defeated, it is now up to the politicians to ensure a full and fair democratic system is maintained. No military rule, no dictatorship, no autocratic decision-making, just pure unadulterated political process.
Turkey stands at the threshold of a new era in political and economic development; a key influence in the region. A strong, democratic and humanitarian Turkey can be a leading light in the region and across the world.
Ferhat Polat is PhD student in the Middle East Studies at University of Exeter