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We will not give up on democracy in Turkey

9 May, 2019Turkey’s decision this week to cancel the Istanbul mayor elections after they were won by the opposition marks another alarming example of the demise in democracy that is happening throughout the world, writes IndustriALL Global Union general secretary, Valter Sanches.

Ruling on unsubstantiated complaints by President Erdogan’s ruling AKP party, Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Body caved in to government pressure and annulled last month’s vote, ordering a rerun for 23 June. 

Victory by the opposition in winning the powerful seat of Istanbul metropolitan mayor posed a major threat to the AKP because it could have led to change in the country. After all, Erdogan was himself once mayor of Istanbul. 

The events in Turkey are part of a global trend. A growing extreme right-wing political movement does everything within its power to dismantle democracy, as in Brazil, where the presidential elections were stolen from the people after frontrunner candidate, Lula da Silva, was thrown into jail. Democracy is being dismantled in Brazil every single day.

For trade unions, democracy is the primary space for fighting for our fundamental human and trade union rights. But it is shrinking everywhere, particularly in developing countries. Lack of democracy leads to low wages, poor social protection, increased unemployment, and discrimination against women, youth and the disabled.

There has been a severe deterioration in democratic standards and institutions in Turkey. The notion of the separation of powers between executive, legislative and judiciary is no longer in place. With the new presidential system, executive power reigns supreme.

With this annulation, Turkey cannot even guarantee free and fair elections, and the rule of law and the principle of a fair trial seem to have disappeared.

Fundamental human rights, particularly freedom of opinion, speech, press and association are in danger. Trade union rights are violated every hour. There is no guarantee of basic human rights in Turkey.

Bad governance and lack of transparency is pushing the Turkish economy towards the unknown. Opponents are persecuted and the government tries to do everything to maintain its control over the country and its population.

The Erdogan administration wants to put the burden on the shoulders of working people, but there is huge resistance in society. 

The cancellation of the Istanbul election result has provoked a public outcry. Turkey has a strong democratic tradition and a progressive civil society with a clear commitment to democracy.

IndustriALL Global Union, together with its allies, will continue to support democracy in Turkey. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our affiliates, the whole union movement and civil society fighting for their rights and dignity.

The 23 June elections are a chance for a new future.