Sunday, August 02, 2009

Universal consolidation messages for better democracies of the future times

-Published in Hurriyet Daily News on August 1-2, 2009-

-Hurriyet Daily News'te, 1-2 Agustos 2009 Tarihinde Yayinlanmis Makalem-

This summer we have been witnessing various kinds of democratic consolidation processes in progress around the world. One universal course and three local ones are making the oldest democracy even stronger and the newer and weaker ones more "secure extending their life expectancy beyond the short cycle against the threat of authoritarian regression." These struggles remind us once again what kind of a democratic future is on the horizon. These messages of new times tell us one way or another that the masses want their rights and won’t easily give up until they get them. The changes of these new times are carried through in various ways and means, but serve the same end.

The first signs of a plausible consolidation process are coming from Iran. The protesters, who bravely refused to back down and took to the streets until they regained their democratic rights, finally started to receive some real concessions from the Islamic regime. The Iranian Supreme Leader felt compelled to order the closure of the prison that reportedly held and tortured post-election protesters. What is more, it was also agreed to free more people who were arrested during the continuing rebellion. Many are hopeful that the concessions will continue to gain momentum from this point on and will not die down. We still haven't heard whether the president of Turkey or the foreign minister will make a trip to witness the historic second inauguration of Ahmadinejad, who they congratulated so enthusiastically, though reports from Iran suggest that "Ahmadinejad's cabinet is falling apart; of his original lineup of 21 ministers, only nine remain at their posts. A dozen have either resigned or have been sacked." We can safely predict that greater consolidation news is on the way. 

Turkey is also going through a long overdue consolidation process of its democracy. With respect to the Kurdish issue, the Turkish government has held talks recently with its allies – the U.S. and Iraq -- and is working to expand the cultural and educational rights of the Kurdish people and address the break up of the PKK terror organization in the Turkey’s southeast region. Although some skeptic arguments about the timing of this leaping forward makes sense, still I want to praise the Turkish administration for preparing to take such radical steps to address this historic challenge. According to reports, with some historic reckoning, the Kurdish segment of society is looking forward to receiving greater respect and voice for a set of human rights. Almost anything seems preferable to the 25 year counterproductive militaristic approach to the conundrum. Turkey still needs to take more democratic steps if it wants to sustain itself and spread its influence further. 

In America, the oldest existing constitutional republic in the world, President Obama decided to make health care reform his first and most important 'change' policy. Therefore, for him, not being able to pass this legislation in Congress is not an option. For a man, whose speeches and slogans made millions believe that he was going to 'change' the system, to fail at the first important turning of a corner on the path of this big change would be a fatal blow for his presidency. Knowing this, Obama has been pushing for this systemic overhaul with everything he’s got, to make this change as fast as possible. He even went a bit too far by setting a deadline and basically telling the members of Congress and the American people what to do and when to do it. He has traveled across dozens of states and voices his magical words to tens of thousands of people around the country in order to force Congress to accept his terms and get down on its knees. 

I have been reading about everything on the health care debate for some time now and know that on the one hand the cost of American health care is almost double that of any other Western country. On the other hand, with the current budget deficit, I just cannot bring myself to support extra costs and higher budget deficit, which this systemic transformation will seem to bring. If the current deficit continues growing, there will be no funds to pay for any kind of health care system anyway. The representatives of Middle America; the Democratic Blue Dogs coalition in the House of Representatives and the Moderate democrats in the Senate finally told Obama to stop rushing this enormous overhaul. It was time for the American people to read, to discuss, hear and understand what is being proposed, rather than speeding up the reform proposal in Congress without even fully understanding what the bill entails. And with their opposition, the health care discussion is postponed until September. In one of the largest democracies in the world, despite the fact its very strong president wanted to pressure the system to change, for better or worse, the people of America, through democratic means, once more, push their Congress to heed their voices. 

And in the global sphere, the Great China arrived in the U.S. capital this week with their immense presence. This single G-2 meeting showed in all frankness how the balance of power is changing rapidly in today's world. Although the Chinese president did not even show up at the meetings, the president of the United States, with his most prominent secretaries were present and worked in the meetings. There were no reports leaking to the media that American officials insisted on human rights problems in China or urged China to take on a greater stakeholder role in the world, as was the case in previous years. This time the reports were saying that Chinese officials continually asked their American counterparts why the U.S. economy is being managed so badly and what they plan to do about it. The U.S. banker was there to ask questions this time, not give answers to questions, and then decide whether to continue bailing out its partner. In the global arena, America is now consolidating its sole power status, and the world is becoming multi-polar once more, and this is good for the global struggle of democracy.

Consolidation is the most important vaccine to sustaining the democratic system. And it is in progress in various corners of the universe. Maybe it will be a long struggle before futher progress is visible for democracies, though as Cetin Altan, a famous Turkish writer and columnist, claims frequently: “enseyi karartma" (do not blacken the nape, or in other words, don't be pessimistic), better futures lay ahead. 

© 2009 Hurriyet Daily News 

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