US’s Albright calls for greater democracy in Turkey

“There is another kind of energy that must be tapped, and that is the power of democracy.”

“There is another kind of energy that must be tapped, and that is the power of democracy.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Turkey's continued stability, girded by its economic successes, must be matched by continued democratization, said former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright Thursday.

“Hopefully as more and more pipelines conduct oil and gas through Turkey’s borders and beyond, we can ensure that partnership and trust will flow along with them,” said Albright of U.S.-Turkish relations while speaking at the 10th annual Sakip Sabanci Lecture at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “Of course there is another kind of energy that must be tapped, and that is the power of democracy.”

Albright’s comments come as Turkey prepares for presidential elections in August and parliamentary elections in June, 2015.  

She added that all leaders in Turkey must commit themselves to listening to the ideas of the entire Turkish body politic, not just those that elected them. The former top U.S. diplomat also emphasized the need for Turkey’s opposition to form a credible alternative to the ruling Justice and Development Party. 

“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,” said Albright.  “Those in opposition also have a responsibility to create an alternative that is viable and appeals across Turkish society.”

Turkey’s leading opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, has consistently polled roughly 20 percent in general elections since 2002 with a similar showing in presidential elections. Its strongest recent showing was in 2011’s parliamentary elections in which it took nearly 26 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, known as the AK Party, has grown its share of the vote from just above 34 percent of the vote in 2002’s parliamentary elections to nearly 50 percent of the vote in 2011. It has also taken home roughly 40 percent of the vote in local elections since 2004. 

The results of this year’s presidential elections are still being contested by the parties, but the AK Party is predicted to take somewhere between 44 and 46 percent of the vote. 

Asked whether she would repeat calls that she made in 1997 while Secretary of State for Turkey to adhere to democratic norms as it struggled through a perilous period in its history, she said she would, but would have several private conversations “on the side.”

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