Column: Politics is now a more tedious path in Turkey

Yasin AktayBY: Yasin Aktay*

As of April 17, 2017, Turkey did not only switch to a new system of administration. The constitutional amendment package approved through the April 16 referendum is also leading to direct and indirect effects on political habits, mindsets and practices in Turkey. So to speak, we are going through a complete paradigm change at the level of political practices.

Those who have become accustomed to look through the old political paradigm are still trying to compare the concepts, institutes and habits of the new administration with that of the old administration. Yet, the mistake made when comparing the two paradigms is, hereby, made in this regard as well.

The concept of a party-member president is really not a political practice that is alien and impossible to understand. There are a series of examples of this even in the most developed countries if we opened our eyes and took a look around the world. But certain circles in Turkey are unable to see the slightest bit beyond the environment in which they were born and raised.

Our new political world is gradually going to see that the concept of a party-member president is not at all in contrast with democracy, politics and political participation.

Everybody needs to remember first and foremost that the “non-partisan presidents” or non-partisan administrations is political urban legend. A look at all the past presidents in the history of the Republic of Turkey is more than enough to remember this fact. Turkey’s founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and İsmet İnönü were directly party-member leaders, but back in their day there was no other party either.

Therefore, comparing the currently accepted presidential system with that period is not very appropriate. There was no other party until 1946 and, as a matter of fact, the leader of that sole party was also the president. Comparing the “one-party” period and a presidential system featuring a party-member president, in which parties and candidates compete freely once every five years and the people as a result decide, is completely impossible and unnecessary.

The concept of a non-partisan president that they tried to fool the Turkish people into believing following the May 27 coup remains a huge lie. All presidents, every one of them have been partisans – the most fanatical of them too. The non-partisan discourse has been good for nothing other than further increasing the gloom of the tutelage system guarded by the presidents.

The concept of a party-member president is a more honest regulation that ends this lie told to the people and makes politics as transparent as possible. The most indirect result of the presidential system will be to further strengthen the foundation of political ethics with the ending of a lie that has been told to the community from the very beginning.

The paradigmatic transition, as a result of the approval of the presidential system causing tremors in the political sphere, is also inevitable. The system has now been accepted and even though some are not happy with the referendum outcome, the decision made by the nation through a referendum will eventually eliminate all kinds of arguments, problems accepting the situation and dissatisfaction. What’s left now is to reasonably seek the means to compete within this new system. In the meantime, all parties, political actors will end up having to readjust themselves. The tremor within the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) today is a natural result of this.

The CHP had substantially started to adjust itself to the requirements of the presidential system. By attending the commemoration meeting held for the late Necmettin Erbakan, whose party they had shut down numerous times, to reach the 50 percent required by the referendum, the CHP opened their doors to alliance with even the Felicity Party (SP). Seeing and presenting their own margin of flexibility in relation to social and political consensus through these alliances will be a practice that will further pave the way for the new politics.

This is exactly why, from now on, there will be no chance of someone being elected in the event they conflict with our community’s fundamental values. Since this is known, former President Abdullah Gül is a name that former CHP leader Deniz Baykal considers as a candidate the CHP can present against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. These considerations are taking place outside of Gül and Mr. Gül has said that he does not take any of these seriously, but the fact that the CHP even thought of him as their candidate is giving important signals in relation to the paradigm that will dominate the new political grounds.

It is said that this is what has stirred up the CHP. It does not seem possible to present a candidate against Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) with the current political mindset. It is being questioned whether CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu will run for president as the leader of his own party against Erdoğan as the chairman of the AK Party in the 2019 elections. If he does run and fails to win, he will also lose the chance to be elected as a member of parliament, because one cannot run as candidate for both president and member of parliament at the same time. If he does not run, he will be accepting defeat against Erdoğan from now. And this is a tragic paradox that actually leads the discourse of the opposition to lose all credibility.

The CHP’s opposition in the referendum was nothing other than its fear of this tragic situation it would be facing. It was feeling sorry for its own state, but the CHP chose to use the nation as a shield against this threat that would inevitably strike it.

However, the referendum has concluded and its fears have come true. Politics was an excessively tough and tedious path for the CHP anyway. Yet, it had still found the easy way out and was continuing its opposition in the “better be the head of a dog than the tail of a lion” mode. Now, politics has become more tedious than before. Achieving success requires working harder and being closer to the people.

It’s a hard job.

Best of luck to the CHP.

*Yasin Aktay is the vice chair of the ruling Justice and Development (AK Party) in Turkey.

(Published in Yeni Şafak Turkısh newspaper on May 6,  2017)