Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has said there is “no such thing as a one-party democracy,” criticizing the “shortcomings” of Turkey’s democratic journey.
“While Turkey’s citizens should feel proud of what their democracy has done so far, they also need to feel confident that the journey will continue. This takes reassurance, especially from those in power, that the country’s political leaders are committed to staying the course,” Albright said May 1, speaking at the 10th annual Sakıp Sabancı lecture at Brookings Institute in Washington.
The former top diplomat said all leaders must commit themselves to listen to the ideas of others, even those who did not vote for them, in a veiled warning to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“This is the essence of a ‘democratic context.’ It is about more than just elections. A functioning democracy needs an opposition, it needs a citizenry informed by an unfettered flow of information, and it needs checks and balances so that an electoral majority can also protect minority rights,” Albright said.
“There’s simply no such thing as a one-party democracy. An opposition allows citizens to have real choices, and only when there is a real choice can the winner truly claim a mandate. Those in the opposition also have a responsibility to create an alternative that is viable and that appeals across Turkish society,” she said, citing some “troubling facts.”
Albright criticized the restrictions on media, giving the example of the Reporters Without Borders Annual Index of Press Freedoms, in which Turkey dropped to 154th place in the world in 2013. The former diplomat also said she was “deeply troubled by unsupported assertions accusing Americans and religious minorities of being behind plots.”
“For voters, informed vote is possible only when such allegations have been discussed, investigated and debated publicly by people from many viewpoints, with an emphasis on verifiable evidence,” she said, emphasizing the importance of checks and balances, and an independent judiciary, which are “essential to a healthy, durable democracy.”
“It is vital that measures adopted in Turkey give confidence that the judiciary will be independent, able to resolve disputes competently and quickly and also to restrain power when needed,” she added.