Burying democracy? Lessons from Greece for Turkey

Published 15.06.2015 20:23
Updated 15.06.2015 22:17

"We do not have the right to bury European democracy in the place where it was born," said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in a statement released Monday Tsipras was referring to the choice he now faces, stay true to the 36 percent mandate he received from the Greek people, or give in to the demands of the European Union and other creditors of Greece. Agreeing to continued austerity, spending cuts, freezing government hiring and pension cuts would be an insult to the Greek people who elected him. Not agreeing to them may plunge Greece into a decade of financial ruin. In Brussels, Sunday, talks immediately broke off as the Syriza-led Greek government balked at EU demands for continued austerity and the EU rejected Greek demands for more time and money. Any agreement would need to be passed by both the Greek parliament and eurozone member states, principally Germany. This means that this Wednesday's meeting of European finance ministers in Luxembourg will probably be the day of judgment for Greek debt.

Monday morning, financial markets plunged globally, with both Asian and European stocks off significantly. The German DAX index lost over $10 billion in value at the open, begging the question, what is Germany's move here? The German stock market has lost more in value in the last few weeks than Greece would need in the near-term. Wouldn't it make sense to bail Greece out? Why does Tsipras insist on not continuing down the path of austerity agreed to by previous governments? Turkish politicians, pay attention.

Whether or not you believe in Tsipras' sincerity, his words ring true. If "The West" values democracy, the right to self-determination and sovereignty it will respect the wishes of the Greek people, they have plainly spoken against austerity. Forcing the government to abandon their election promises does not seem to be in line with the ideals and wishes of a democratic Europe. Does Europe care? Should a German member of parliament be able to dictate what the Greek people should want? Of course not. Accepting Greece into the eurozone wasn't done without due diligence. The Germans and the other eurozone members knew exactly what they were getting into. Actually, the Germans may have wanted exactly this scenario to play out, a self-devaluing currency for an export-driven country solves a major problem for the Germans. So what's the lesson here? What can Turkey learn from this Greek tragedy? Specifically, how can Turkey use Greece's experience to form a government, following Turkey's elections last week?

One thing is clear, a 36 percent vote for Syriza appears to be more than enough for Tsipras to speak on behalf of the Greek people. It's also clear that the Greek parliament respected the wishes of its people and the smaller parties acknowledged they had lost. For the losing parties of Turkey, I made a recommendation last week, come together, form a coalition and govern if you believe you can. In the aftermath of the elections, the ultra-nationalists declared that they would not get into bed with "snakes," referring to the pro-Kurdish separatist Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). Well, if that's the case, the losing parties can also not form a coalition.

What now? Should Turkey travel down the path of Belgium and wait for several years until a government is formed? Does Turkey have that luxury? Unlike Belgium, Turkey lacks the euro common currency. Also, Belgium's experiment without a government would probably only work in such a small country. Turkey's population is eight times as big as Belgium's. So, Turkey needs a government, but the losing parties wont form a coalition with the winning party nor will they with their fellow losing parties. Any suggestions?

The people spoke. They said they wanted the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to govern. They also said they wanted to see it happen with support from other parties. That hasn't happened. In this stalemate, the only option left is to leave it up to the people again. Your wishes were not heeded. Try again. Snap elections are not only necessary, they are unavoidable. Short of individual MPs supporting the AK Party without joining the government, there doesn't seem to be an alternative.

Turkey will vote again, most probably in August or September, and a new government will be seated. To quote Tsipras, "This is not a matter of ideological stubbornness. This is about democracy."

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