Tag Archives: Justice and Development Party

AKP, CHP, and Taming the Paper Tiger

By BARIN KAYAOĞLU

February 17, 2011

[Yazının Türkçesi için buraya tıklayın.]

Last week’s “paper tiger” polemic between Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has turned into a contest of “who’s going to win more votes by attacking the Turkish military?”

First, CHP Deputy Chairman Süheyl Batum likened the Turkish Armed Forces to a “paper tiger” for staying quiet in the face of retired generals getting arrested for allegedly planning several coups in 2003-2004 (the so-called Ergenekon-Sledgehammer-Cage allegations). Meanwhile, members of the AKP continued to present the allegations as if they’re proven by the courts.

But these statements, similar to Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç’s recent “thank God we didn’t go to war with these generals” remark or his crying “they were going to assassinate me” on TV, may not impress voters. Just like the Turkish military losing prestige whenever it interferes with politics, politicians have likewise lost credibility whenever they tried to get the military involved in politics. The case of Mesut Yılmaz, who had emerged as prime minister in the aftermath of the “soft coup” of 1997 and who had lost power soon after starting a fight with General Çevik Bir (to whom Mr. Yılmaz owed his prime ministry), is revealing.

Obviously, at a time when Turkey is becoming a global actor, it is imperative for the military to subordinate itself to civilian authority. And it is also obvious that the Turkish military weakened both democracy and secularism in Turkey every time it stepped into politics as “the guardian of democracy and the secular Republic.” The 1980 military regime’s introduction of mandatory courses on religion at primary and secondary schools is a good example.

But any sensible person who is not a politician playing with paper tigers will see that, given its geographic location, Turkey needs a powerful military. The international situation has never been this uncertain and dangerous since the end of the Cold War. That so many of those dangerous locations are very close to Turkey makes the Turkish military as irreplaceable as democratic institutions. Add to that the popularity of the Turkish military’s victories in the War of Independence, Korea, Cyprus, Southeast Turkey, and Northern Iraq, we can see more clearly how self-defeating AKP and CHP’s latest efforts are.

If partisans of AKP and CHP aim to convert citizens’ presumed antipathy against the military into votes, they should see how absurd they look: If the Turkish Armed Forces are truly a paper tiger, then why are politicians – be they in power or in opposition – bother with this paper tiger instead of the country’s real problems? And why should we, the voters, turn over the country for another 4 years to those who cannot even tame a paper tiger?

Barın Kayaoğlu is a Ph.D. candidate in history at The University of Virginia. He welcomes all comments, questions, and exchanges. To contact him, click here.

You can also follow him on Twitter (@barinkayaoglu) and Facebook (BarınKayaoğlu.com).

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Neden 12 Eylül’de ‘Hayır’ Diyeceğim?

[Click here for the English version of this article.]

BARIN KAYAOĞLU

11 Eylül 2010

Sorunun cevabı aslında çok basit: 2007’de demokrasiyi savunmak için kendisine oy verdiğim Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi o günden beri demokrasi konusundaki samimiyetsiz tutumuyla beni ve benim gibi birçok insanı hayal kırıklığına uğratmıştır. 12 Eylül’de oylanacak değişikliklere ‘hayır’ dememin en önemli sebebi budur.

Başbakan Recep Tayyip Erdoğan 22 Temmuz 2007 akşamı ‘bize oy vermeyen diğer yüzde 50’yi de temsil ediyoruz’ demiş, ancak verdiği sözü tutmamıştır. Sayın Erdoğan 3 yıldır o yüzde 50’yle ve Büyük Millet Meclisi’ndeki temsilcileriyle sık sık kavga etmiş, yapılan bütün eleştirilere bir diktatör gibi öfkeyle tepki göstermiş ve başlattığı polemiklerle Türkiye’yi sorumsuzca yeni gerginliklere itmiştir. Sayın Erdoğan’ın Kurtuluş Savaşı kahramanı ve Türkiye’de çok partili demokrasinin kurulmasında çok önemli bir rolü olan İsmet İnönü’ye ‘Hitler’ demesi bunlara iyi bir örnektir.

2007’de AKP’ye oy verenlerin çok ciddi bir kısmı da gerginlikten sıkılmış olacak ki geçen sene yapılan yerel seçimlerde partinin oyu yüzde 39’a kadar düşmüştür.

Gerçek şu ki, 12 Eylül’de oya sunulacak Anayasa değişiklikleri – iktidarın iddialarının aksine – Türkiye’de demokrasiyi ciddi anlamda ileri götürmemektedir. Buna dair en önemli emare de Başbakan’ın 2009 ilkbaharında önce ‘Kürt açılımı’ dediği daha sonra da ‘Milli Birlik ve Beraberlik Projesi’ olarak nitelendirdiği girişimle ilgili tek bir değişikliğin bile bu pakette yer almamasıdır. Türkiye’nin en önemli sorunlarından olan Kürt sorununun çözümüne yönelik bu boşluk dikkat çekicidir. Değişiklik paketinde parti kapatmaları sadece ırkçılık ve şiddet propagandasıyla sınırlandırmak; yine ırkçılık ve şiddet propagandası dışında ifade özgürlüğünü Anayasal güvence altına almak; hatta ‘vatandaşların etnik, dinsel, dilsel ve kültürel haklarına’ yapılacak basit atıf bile ‘Kürt açılımı’nı hayata geçirebilmek için bir adım olabilirdi. Ancak AKP bu adımı atmamayı tercih etti.

Yine hükümetin ve hükümete yakın grupların ‘evet’ kampanyası çerçevesinde yürüttükleri anti-demokratik propaganda AKP’nin amacının gerçekten demokrasi olmadığı yönündeki şüpheleri arttırmaktadır. TOBB ve TÜSİAD’ın değişiklikler konusunda pozisyon belirtmemesi üzerine Başbakan Erdoğan’ın ‘bitaraf olmayan bertaraf olur’ sözü Türkiye’nin demokratikleşmesini isteyenler tarafından açık bir tehdit olarak algılanmaktadır.

Bu kadar önemli bir dönemeçte demokratik bir tavır sergileyemeyen Başbakan Erdoğan’ın, yapılacak değişiklikler sonucunda yasama ve yargı karşısında daha da güçlenmesinden sonra kendisine yapılacak eleştirilere ne kadar tahammül edeceği de meçhuldür.

AKP’nin demokratikleşme konusundaki samimiyetine gölge düşüren en önemli işaretse 12 Eylül’deki referandumu 12 Eylül 1980 darbesiyle ve genel olarak da demokrasimiz üzerindeki askeri vesayetle bir hesaplaşmaya dönüştürmesidir.

Hukuki olarak – başta Kenan Evren olmak üzere – 12 Eylül darbesini gerçekleştirenlerin zaman aşımından dolayı yargılanıp yargılanamayacakları belli değildir. Anayasa’da yapılan değişikliklere rağmen darbeciler büyük ihtimalle yargılanamayacaklardır. İşin ilginç tarafı, CHP ve MHP’nin darbecilerin yargılanmasında zaman aşımı engelini aşacak düzenleme tekliflerini AKP ciddiye almamış ve bu yönde herhangi bir önlemi değişiklik paketine koymamıştır.

Tarihi değiştiremeyiz ama bugün darbelere son vermenin en gerçekçi yollarından biri Türkiye’de askerin üzerinde sivil otoriteyi sağlamlaştırmaktır. Genelkurmay Başkanı’nın doğrudan Başbakan’a değil de Milli Savunma Bakanı’na bağlanması ve her darbeye meşruiyet kazandırmak için kullanılan Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri İç Hizmet Kanunu’nun 35.inci maddesinin (‘Silahlı Kuvvetler’in vazifesi, Türk yurdunu ve Anayasa ile tayin edilmiş olan Türkiye Cumhuriyeti’ni kollamak ve korumaktır’) değiştirilmesi asker üzerinde seçilmişlerin otoritesini arttıracak önlemlerdir. Bu yönde yapılacak düzenlemelerin tamamı da Meclis’ten çıkarılacak sıradan kanunlarla sağlanabilir. Ancak 8 yıla yakın bir süredir Meclis’te çoğunluğa sahip olan AKP bu konuda hiç birşey yapmamıştır. Bu da AKP’nin darbelerle yüzleşme konusundaki samimiyetine gölge düşürmektedir.

Benim oyum ‘hayır.’ Ancak Pazar günü Türkiye’de yaşayan herkes sandıklardan ‘evet’ de çıksa ‘hayır’ da çıksa ülkenin kalkınması ve demokratikleşmesi için sonuca saygı göstermelidir. 13 Eylül sabahından başlayarak da hem partiler hem de sivil toplum örgütleri yeni bir Anayasa için çalışmaya başlamalıdır.

Türkiye bunu hak ediyor.

Barın Kayaoğlu, Virginia Üniversitesi’nde Tarih Bölümü’nde doktora adayıdır ve her türlü yoruma, soruya ve fikir alışverişine açıktır. Kendisiyle bağlantıya geçmek için buraya tıklayın.

Kendisini Twitter’dan (@barinkayaoglu) ve Facebook’tan (BarınKayaoğlu.com) da takip edebilirsiniz.

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Why Will I Vote ‘No’ on September 12?

[Yazının Türkçesi için buraya tıklayın.]

By BARIN KAYAOĞLU

September 11, 2010

Actually, the answer’s very simple: I voted for the Justice and Development Party (AKP in Turkish) in 2007 in order to defend democracy. But for the last three years, the AKP has taken a very insincere stance on democracy and has disappointed many people. That is the most important reason why I will cast a ‘no’ to the constitutional amendments on September 12.

After winning 46.5% of the vote in July 2007, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pledged to ‘also represent the 50% who did not vote for us.’ But Mr. Erdoğanhas failed to uphold that promise. For the last three years, he has frequently clashed with that 50% and their representatives in the Grand National Assembly; he has reacted to all criticisms like a furious dictator; and he has created tensions by starting new polemics in an irresponsible fashion.

Mr. Erdoğan’s ‘Hitler’ label for İsmet İnönü, a hero of Turkey’s War of Independence and, as leader of the single-party that ruled Turkey from 1923 until 1950, deserves much credit for Turkey’s transition to multi-party democracy, is a case in point.

Quite a few of AKP’s 2007 voters must have felt that disappointment because the party’s votes fell to 39% in last year’s local elections.

The truth is – and despite the AKP government’s claims to the contrary – the constitutional amendments to be voted on September 12 do not advance democracy in Turkey in any serious way.

In spring 2009, the Prime Minister called for a ‘Kurdish overture’ to address the problems of Turkey’s 10 to 15 million Kurdish citizens. Fearing a reprisal from his conservative base, Mr. Erdoğan re-labelled his initiative as ‘The Project for National Unity and Solidarity.’

It is remarkable that not a single amendment addresses the Kurdish question – one of Turkey’s most pressing problems. Limiting party closures to racism and advocacy of violence; or expanding the boundaries of free speech (also excluding racism and advocacy of violence); or even just mentioning ‘citizens’ ethnic, religious, linguistic, and cultural rights’ could have served as a bold step toward realizing the ‘Kurdish overture.’ But the AKP has chosen not to take that step.

The anti-democratic propaganda that the government and groups close to the government pursue againt those who don’t join their ‘yes’ campaign increases the suspicion that the AKP’s real intentions have nothing to do with democracy. Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Erdoğan warned TOBB and TÜSİAD (respectively, ‘The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges’ and ‘The Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Associaton’) that their refusal to endorse the amendment package was tentamount to ‘coup-mongering’ and that ‘those who do not pick sides shall vanquish.’ Those who genuinely want Turkey to democratize have interpreted Mr. Erdoğan’s words as an open threat.

It is unclear whether Prime Minister Eroğan, who can’t act in a democratic fashion at such an important juncture, could countenance any criticism once he gains the upper hand vis-a-vis the legislative and the judicial branches of the government through the referendum.

Another important matter casts a shadow on the AKP’s sincereness about democratization. The party is trying to portray the referendum of September 12 as a showdown with the military’s dominant role in Turkish politics in general and the military coup of September 12, 1980 in particular.

From a legal standpoint, it is not certain that the leaders of the September 12 coup – including General Kenan Evren, leader of that coup – can actually be tried. Despite the constitutional amendments, it is very unlikely that the coup-makers will be tried because of statute of limitations. It is interesting to note that the AKP ignored the two opposition parties – CHP and MHP (respectively, ‘Republican People’s Party’ and ‘Nationalist Action Party’) – when they suggested adding additional provisions to ensure that the coup-makers could be tried.

We cannot change history but there are ways of stopping future coups in Turkey. Strengthening civilian authority over the military is a realistic and obvious way of ensuring that. Subordinating the Chief of General Staff to the Ministry of National Defense – rather than the Prime Minister as it is the case today – is one way. Another measure would be to change the wording of Article 35 of the Internal Service Code of the Turkish Armed Forces (‘The duty of the Armed Forces is to protect and defend the Turkish homeland and the Republic of Turkey as defined in the constitution’), which has served as the legal pillar for past coups. These changes merely require the passage of a few laws from the Grand National Assembly. But the AKP, which has held a parliamentary majority for the past 8 years, has done nothing to that end and mocked those who called on them to deliver on their promises. And that begs the question whether the AKP is really sincere about addressing military coups.

My vote is ‘no.’ But everyone living in Turkey – regardless of whether a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ comes out of the polls – has to respect the outcome if the country is to develop and democratize. And, on the morning of September 13, political parties and civil society groups have to start working on a new constitution.

Turkey deserves that.

Barın Kayaoğlu is a Ph.D. candidate in history at The University of Virginia. He welcomes all comments, questions, and exchanges. To contact him, click here.

You can follow him on Twitter (@barinkayaoglu) and Facebook (BarınKayaoğlu.com).

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