‘A Structured and Continuous Relationship Should Be Established Between Civil Society and Politics’

Republican People's Party (CHP) High Disciplinary Board Member and Gazete Duvar Columnist Tuba Torun with whom we’ve talked about civil society and politics, emphasizes that a structured communication should be established between political parties and CSOs at all levels. According to Torun: "A struggle cannot succeed in a single field in civil society, because every issue depends on general politics. Therefore, a mass struggle for democracy is needed."

What do you think are the features of the current system that should be kept and should be changed?

The ideal thing would be a strengthened parliamentary regime upon which the opposition parties agree. There’s the current phenomenon of social state that needs to be strengthened and an executive power which needs to be weakened. A constitution where people’s fundamental rights and freedoms are ensured must be prepared. Besides, more detailed provisions that enable taking the opinions of the civil society where the relationship between civil society and politics is more active should be added into the constitution.

What are the characteristics of a good governance system in civil society?

The independence of the civil society being ensured and whatever they advocate to be freely conveyed to the politicians. The way for civil society to receive as much moral and material support as possible from the state being open. Civil society organizations should defy their freedom to the very end in this sense.

Has the Presidential Government System realized its claim of making the governance in Turkey more effective?

All our fears concerning the Presidential Government System had come true. For example, Turkey was withdrawn from the Istanbul Convention by one presidential decree. It is not possible to talk about democracy in a system based on the opinion of a single person. Moreover, they themselves are now looking for ways to change this system too.

How would the active participation of civil society in local governments be ensured?

When mentioned local governments, what I think is a structure that treats everybody equally. Local governments should also approach CSOs equally. CSOs also need to be a little more agile. It is very important that they can set up the pressure on the local governments in an organized way. In order to strengthen the transparency between local governments and CSOs, local governments need to support CSOs and allocate significant budgets for them.

What should be done to establish an effective relationship between political parties and civil society? 

Every central executive board representatives at all political parties should keep a list including all CSOs and the related civil society organizations should be included in the law-making processes in all legislative activities.

Besides, meetings with civil society organizations should be held regularly, and the demands should reach the highest level of the party from the bottom up, starting from the neighborhood level. Likewise, a reporting system should be created. Without this communication and discipline, neither the communication of civil society with political parties will be strengthened, nor will the organizations gain momentum on their ways to their goals.

Because when politics and civil society organizations support each other, the results can be achieved faster. The role of CSOs is indispensable and very decisive in structures that have adopted democracy. It is very important to ensure bottom-up fluidity in this chain.

“All fields of struggle in civil society depend on general politics.”

How should the negotiation process between civil society and political actors proceed?

I would like political actors to be open to my opinions as a civil society representative. Then, if we would like a law to be passed, I would give examples of what kind of aggrievements the absence of this law causes with concrete examples and statistics. If they are not willing to fulfill the preliminary demands, I would list sub-demands as an option.

CSOs are the most important structures that act as intermediaries between political parties and the public. In order to support civil society, there should be regulations that push civil society on more.

Is there a need for legislative change in civil society? What things should change?

Except for the sections added by the bag law concerning the weapons of mass destruction, there was no provision that disrupted civil society. In the digital age, it is absolutely necessary for CSOs to use online platforms and social media channels effectively.

I think the easiest way for CSOs to introduce themselves to public and communicate with the public would be through local governments. Communication with municipal council members can be strengthened.

What are the ways of effective public-civil society dialogue?

There is no longer a stand-alone field of struggle, the whole struggle depends on general politics. For example, if you are struggling for women, it is not just about doing something in that field. Because if that umbrella structure is off, for example, if the judiciary is not independent, everything you do may go to waste.

This is now a mass struggle for democracy. First, democracy must be ensured. After that, I think that a CSO struggle where everyone expresses their opinions in every field would become freer and more effective.