Popular sovereignty

On the occasion of the surprise outcome in Turkish elections that kicked out the traditional Turkish parties, a number of Greek commentators have pondered on the durability of Greece’s bipolar system and the possibility of its demise. That is, they take it for granted that the electorate has been disenchanted by the two main parties, or at least that politicians can no longer inspire citizens. Of course, it’s hard to draw parallels between the two countries, as Turkey’s and Greece’s political, economic and social context are quite different. But the reversal of the political scene in Turkey was a response to those who claim that Greece’s bipolar system manages to survive thanks to the current electoral system, which kills small parties in the offing, before they’ve had a chance to stand on their feet. The 3 percent threshold for parliamentary entry (the respective threshold in Turkey is 10 percent) deters the emergence of new political parties, while the fact that votes carry unequal weight and seats are unequally distributed is a disadvantage for the small parties which, on top of all this, also have to overcome resistance from factional interests, the media and other powers which are controlled by the major parties. All these constraints did exist in Turkey – and in a more intrusive fashion than they do here. Still, the newly born Islamic party, despite being attacked on all sides, won 34.3 percent of the vote and an overall majority, sweeping the formerly all-powerful Turkish establishment out of Parliament. Regardless of the Turkish particularities and the democratic deficit, the election result has a scent of popular sovereignty – at least for those of our neighbors who are able to sense, appreciate and uphold a democratic air, however fleeting.

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