KUALA LUMPUR: US-based Turkish writer and author Mustafa Akyol has warned governments that putting in place authoritarian systems will end up hurting them.
“You won’t be in power forever and when you’re out of power, you will realise that these illiberal systems that you created will make things very difficult for you.”
He spoke at a forum called “Is Democracy Still Relevant?” at the Renaissance Hotel here today.
He cited the case in Turkey which he said was reminiscent of the Game of Thrones television series.
“You have tribes fighting for this Iron Throne and if you win, then you become king but if you lose power then you are an enemy of the state. Turkey has become this leviathan because the president has so much power.
“That’s why elections in Turkey are such a big thing compared with the US where you have people who don’t even vote because whoever becomes the president won’t affect them that much.”
He said in comparison, in the US, even when US President Donald Trump wanted to implement the entry ban on people from seven Muslim countries, the judiciary said it was unconstitutional and so it didn’t happen.
“Fortunately for Americans, these liberal systems have been engrained longer so people like Trump can’t do whatever they want just because he has power behind him.
“If you want to have peaceful societies, you must create peaceful states.”
He said that looking at the majority as the determining factor in a democracy was not healthy.
“In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has the majority behind him but the country is not liberal and so there are liberal democracies and an illiberal democracy.
“Similarly, India is a democracy with Hindu nationalists. There’s a lot of hostility towards the Muslims. India is not worried about minority rights.”
He questioned whether all groups only cared about liberties when they were out of power.
“Muslims love the liberals in France because they are against the ban on the hijab. But when it comes to the right to not wear the hijab in Saudi Arabia, the liberals are then seen as evil.”
As for Malaysia, the country did enjoy a certain level of freedom. “I can see that,” he said.
However, he said there could be more freedom in terms of both politics and religion.
“We need to look at advanced countries in the world and find out what’s their secret.
“I believe their secret is the rule of law and the liberties that they enjoy.”