The Limits Of Democracy
Published: May 18th, 2007
By: Steven and Cokie Roberts

The limits of democracy

In his second inaugural address President Bush proclaimed: “It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”

Like most Americans we cherish democratic values and believe deeply in our system. But it’s increasingly clear that Bush’s vision for transforming world politics – particularly in the Middle East – has rammed into an enormous roadblock.

The essence of democracy is not majority rule, but tolerance of dissent and respect for minority rights. What happens when elections bring to power intolerant forces that impose their will on others? What happens when ethnic or religious factions feel abused and assert their right to self-rule?

Both issues are highlighted by the current political crisis in Turkey, a firm American ally in a dangerous neighborhood that shares borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran. As a result, the president’s commitment to “democratic movements and institutions” is being put to a severe test.

Turkey is a Muslim country with a long history of secular politics dating back to the inspirational leadership of Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s. But today, Turkey is ruled by an Islamist party that wants to install one of its own leaders, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, as the nation’s president (who is now chosen by Parliament).

This prospect deeply alarms the country’s secular elite, which fears the imposition of Islamic laws and traditions. Gul’s wife, they note, wears a religious headscarf – exactly the sort of backward, old-world custom Ataturk tried so hard to eradicate from Turkish culture.

Demonstrations against Gul have choked the streets of major cities. Opposition parties blocked his election by boycotting the vote in Parliament, and the courts upheld their maneuver. Turkey’s large and powerful army, which sees itself as the guardian of Ataturk’s legacy, has threatened to intervene.

Meanwhile, Gul’s Justice and Development Party is trying to change the law and create a directly elected president, and the foreign minister confidently predicts he’d get 70 percent of the popular vote. “That’s why we have decided to go to the people,” he told the Turkish Press.

So what’s the pro-democratic position here? It’s not at all clear. The Islamist majority certainly has a point when it says “the people” should elect the president. And the army, which threatens to oust a popularly chosen government, is not exactly waving the banner of liberty.

..



Comments

Please, login to comment.

Share This Story!


More Stories


UV school building project vote passes

Oxford, Sidney schools among recipients of $100k Chobani Foundation grant
Oxford, Sidney schools among recipients of $100k Chobani Foundation grant

Tornado defense twists through Sabers for second straight win
Tornado defense twists through Sabers for second straight win

Sheriff’s office investigates burglaries in Pharsalia

Oxford improves 4-2 with win over Afton
Oxford improves 4-2 with win over Afton

Greene/Oxford wrestling earns first league win

Chenango Sheriffs donate gifts for local children and families
Chenango Sheriffs donate gifts for local children and families

Volunteers needed for first free Bandera Christmas dinner in Norwich

Petition to keep Peebles' open gets 200 signatures

Norwich Wrestling rolls to 54-27 divisional win over Warriors
Norwich Wrestling rolls to 54-27 divisional win over Warriors

pennysaver logo
Shop4Autos logo
greatgetaways logo
Official Evening Sun Facebook Official Evening Sun Twitter