It is a tale of two elections: if not the best of times, very far from the worst; and one making a bid for the worst. It is a tale of an election run smoothly, fairly, openly, and well in Azerbaijan, and a chilling preview of the fall of Turkish democracy.
The Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe (PACE) sent observation missions to both countries for their parliamentary elections this weekend. In Azerbaijan, where the polls were open, free of intimidation, and marked by a transparent balloting and ballot-counting process, PACE and other international observers found the elections to be “generally in line with international standards.”
In Turkey? The opposition was attacked and arrested during the balloting, its media closed mid-broadcast, and the opposition headquarters attacked and burned (as shown in the picture at the lead of this report). There, PACE found, in the words of the head of its delegation, Andreas Gross, “This campaign was unfair and characterized by too much violence and fear,” which is remarkably not the worst thing said of the elections.
Interviews with Turks who had voted in the elections reflected this perception. “My country is not a good country,” said Kagan, a worker at Istanbul Ataturk Airport. “I almost regret voting at all.” Melike, who did not wish to give her profession for fear of being identified, said, “What has happened this last year, it is not my country. We are becoming a dictatorship.” Continuing the same theme, Azerbaijanis who voted on Sunday were generally upbeat.
In both countries, the governing party kept (or in Turkey’s case, re-established) its majority; yet while Azerbaijan did so through an open process, Turkey did so through violence, intimidation, and an abuse of the very idea of an electoral process. What Istanbul could not achieve through an appeal to the Anatolian interior, it accomplished through violence and tyranny.
Yet it is Turkey that Europe courts as a potential new member of the European Union, while Azerbaijan sees little but criticism; Turkey, who turns away from European norms and aspirations, is wanted while Azerbaijan, who palpably yearns for a European future and has worked for decades to produce an open and transparent governing process, is shunned.
This is the contrast at the heart of Europe’s integration policy, a striking indictment of a country that claims to value progress and ideals, but truly, values very little. A continent that would welcome tyranny and violence while pushing away moderation and progress is a continent not long for the future.
Today, Turkey’s government prepares to grant itself even more power. Tomorrow, Europe will pretend this did not happen.
Today, Russia looms on Azerbaijan’s border while Azerbaijan shows a commitment to progress and Europe. Tomorrow, Europe will pretend this away, too.
In its hamfisted policy, Europe is making a darker future, even while Baku tries to create a brighter one.
Image Copyright Wikimedia Commons