Democracy: A work in progress

Democracy is always a work in progress.  It is something which is a living entity and needs careful nurturing. To live in a democracy is a huge privilege, for which people in the past have given up their lives. The democratic nations are like a big family and we need to look out for one another.

Recently, I was appointed as one of the delegation acting as election monitors for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, looking at the conduct of the elections in Turkey. These took place at the end of June.

Modern Turkey, as a democracy, is less than 100 years old.  There have been forward and backwards steps during that time. Yet modern Turkey was founded on tolerance and, for instance, its women were given the same democratic rights as its men.

The free and fair conduct of elections is something of great importance to the international community. It is right and proper that the process should be open so that minorities are protected and unfair advantage will not accrue to any sector of society.  It is for individuals to decide whether or not they should stand for office, but as a woman I have to admit feeling disappointed that women candidates are not as numerous as they could be.

Turkey is the friend and ally of the United Kingdom. However, a friend should not be afraid to be a critical friend and offer support to bring about improvements. The elections in Turkey took place in a state of emergency and with restrictions to the freedom of individuals and to the press.  Changes to the constitution were introduced very close to the time of polling and the balance of power will shift to a presidential system, with fewer checks, balances and oversight within the parliamentary system.

As part of the international delegation we shall be producing a report which will be as objective as possible, to put these elections into context.