In the last six months, we witnessed two referenda of historic impact that are laden with meanings for the future of Europe and the world. The first one was the referendum for the UK’s exit from the EU and the second one was the Referendum in Turkey for drastically changing the constitution. While President Erdogan is still mesmerised from his great victory and the loud impact it generated both in Turkey and the world, senior European politicians and analysts are desperately looking for some weakness in his new rule that “might” bring him down in the near future or trying to scare him by not allowing Turkey into the EU because of the possible introduction of the death penalty in Turkey where the first victims will be the coupists of July 15, 2016.
What a pity for EU politics, knowing fully well that all this was indeed predictable. Mr Erdogan followed all the bad practices of non-democratic bullying of the electorate before the referendum took place.
He even managed to bring into the game some of the most prominent EU countries like Holland and Germany with his highly-charged pre-electoral campaign tactics. His behaviour was an academic example of purposely creating a non-democratic atmosphere prior to elections, which all EU electoral institutions should have been able to point out and judge accordingly but, unfortunately, we did not see any motion of substance towards this ahead of the elections. On the contrary, the EU seemed itself to be infected by the nonsense of Erdogan’s speeches and actions imbued by political practices of the last century and fully participating in the angry exchange of public statements back and forth between Erdogan and Europe that he, cunningly, set up. This impulsive behavior in Europe towards Erdogan allowed him to fish extra and badly-needed votes in the vast pool of 53 million Turkish voters to, finally, edge towards the highly precious victory he needed.
Empirical literature on average voter-knowledge bears out that the citizens’ level of political knowledge is extraordinarily low but at the same time this does not really matter on election day. “Democracy can work even with a morbidly ignorant electorate because of the miracle of aggregation or law of large numbers” (Bryan Caplan)
In the case of Mr Erdogan I would apply Professor Caplan’s instruction that, “In democracies the main alternative to majority rule is not dictatorship but the markets. A better understanding of voter irrationality advises us to rely less on democracy and more on the market” (The Myth of Rational Voter, Caplan, 2007)
But as Winston Churchill said: “Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Liliana Jakovljevic-Stavri, Professional Electoral Observer-EU and Political Psychologist