Anxiety Across the Region, But Hope Too

Democracy takes many different forms. In the United Kingdom, universal suffrage post-dates many of the key building blocks that make up our open society: the independence of the judiciary, the rule of law, individual freedoms, free media and effective professional associations. There are many paths, but, as David Cameron said, we in Britain “cannot remain silent in our belief that freedom and the rule of law are what best guarantee human progress and economic success.” Twenty-first century economies require open societies in which economic and political progress go in step together.

Britain, of course, stands ready to help in this process, and a British institution is already making a difference here in Kurdistan in refining further the quality of parliamentary processes. The Kurdistan Regional Government is ahead of the game in the region and I was delighted to see the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) starting a series of seminars and workshops with the Kurdistan parliament.

The first WFD event was on the role of the opposition, how that can be defined and how parties can work together in the national interest. That is the real meat of a vibrant, representative parliamentary system. More broadly, over the coming year, the WFD program will look at strengthening the links between electors and the elected, getting parliamentary messages out to the broader public and strengthening parliament’s ability to hold the executive to account. This is important work. Iraqi Kurdistan is ahead of the pack. It has rejected and fought tyranny. It has committed to the democratic path and a market economy – big challenges. It is building its democratic institutions step by step and is on a transition towards a modern democracy. Kurdistan has its moment of opportunity: it can provide a visible demonstration to the region that the most resilient governments and societies are those that can adapt and change to meet the demands of their citizens, and that accept their right to express their opinion about how this is done.

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