If a majority in Turkey votes to re-instate the Death Penalty, what does that say about the concept of democracy?

My last blog, a gentle exploration of the IN/OUT decision that faced the UK in June, now resembles the deceptive calm before the storm. It displays the totally misplaced confidence in a ‘Remain’ outcome anticipated by so many around the world. Collectively we have since been tumbled in a political maelstrom, gradually washing up tangled and disorientated on unknown beaches. And as journalists and political commentators create mind jams of informational traffic and kaleidoscopes of emotion, it is the assurance of Democracy that urges us to our feet to take the first wobbly steps towards the blurry horizon of our new destiny.

With so much that could be said I will stick to the general themes of my blogs, for there is a particular issue on which I have questions, but no answers. It’s to do with the whole abstract concept of “democracy”. Does, can, or should the view of the majority always guarantee that the action to be taken is the right thing to do?

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At every opportunity we are being reminded of the almost sacred and unquestionable rightness of the democratic process: “the rule of the majority”. I am sure it is a sound basis upon which to make decisions… most of the time. But are there ever times when democracy, or the views of the majority, doesn’t reflect the right thing to do? Is there even an objective “right” thing to do?  Or are there just consequences?

Take the case of Turkey. If the Death Penalty is re-introduced in the wake of the coup – because a majority wants it – does that make it right? After all, the majority used to vote against the abolition of slavery, women’s votes, aboriginal rights, gay marriage… Surely getting it right is down to education and consciousness?

Taking the area of society I know and understand best as an example, namely our Criminal Justice System (CJS), I can say, with some degree of certainty, that when people vote for the largely punitive approach to offenders that we have today, they are voting for the wrong thing. It may serve their own feelings for justice and vengeance that are fed by the media, but it does not serve the more objective and complex mission of the CJS “to help prisoners lead law-abiding and useful lives in custody and after release”. However, it is only now, thanks to the increasingly widespread acknowledgement and evidence that the current system is a “scandalous failure”(David Cameron, 2016), plus the vision of a Justice Secretary with an open mind and genuine will for rehabilitation, that the public are beginning to be in an informed enough position to vote for the things that will work more effectively.

Last year Michael Gove and his team at the Ministry of Justice took on the unprecedented task of consulting and listening to the experts on the ground: charities, artists, educators, prison officers, even me! Most importantly, they also acted on the knowledge and advice they received. Similarly, audiences of my talks on the subject emerge more educated on an area of life they previously “had no idea” about. The facts, statistics, evidence and the alternative ideas presented all place them in a position from which they can evaluate and decide, with a greater conviction and degree of accuracy, what is “right”. However, those  people who are educated in the complex issues and solutions, are as yet still in the minority, so the will of the majority, who will still be voting from a more emotional, media-spun, regressive perspective, will win.

If Turkey votes for the reinstatement of the Death Penalty by a majority vote, has democracy been successful? Or is it flawed in a way that needs to be addressed? Fairly urgently.

 

4 thoughts on “If a majority in Turkey votes to re-instate the Death Penalty, what does that say about the concept of democracy?

  1. Great question. In my opinion democracy is definitely flawed, and the arrogance with which our country has tried to impose it on others is shocking and inappropriate. It is generally too simplistic and completely fails to value the contribution that minorities have to offer. The “majority” is often not a majority of the population. The EU referendum is an example of it at it’s worst and should never have taken place – most people who voted, voted for or against a tiny part of EU regulations, or what they believed to be EU regulations and thus metaphorical babies were thrown out with bathwater because the EU in/out black/white was too basic a choice when such a complex system was at stake. My questions are – how can we use Deep Democracy at governmental level? What other methods of choosing are there that might work better?

  2. You can’t put Democracy on trial just because one despotic leader chooses to manipulate it to his own ends in a very extreme way.; that is not the failing of Democracy. In a country where the press and media have be stifled and forced to follow the government line, and oppression is reaching a level where anyone will be too afraid to vote against the official line, we see Erdogan putting out his spin in trying to justify his megalomania to a foreign audience.
    It could, of course, be argued that the referendum campaign was an attempt at a similar type of manipulation, though without the underlying threat of retribution, by giving out misinformation as both sides so blatantly did. If this was the case then it didn’t work and Democracy prevailed.

    • I think I am just asking questions about majority vote being a sound basis for certain decisions. If, in this country a majority voted for capital punishment and Democracy dictates that we go with the majority, is that right?

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