BEJAN MATUR

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BEJAN MATUR
April 14, 2011, Thursday

Candidates for a transition period

I have visited a number of cities in Anatolia on various occasions, and there is an average type that stands out in the meetings I attend. If I were a sociologist, I would call it the precise typology of typical Anatolians.

With its overall sensitivities, perspectives about the future and expectations from politics, this typology fits like a glove to average people of this country.

When I ponder the current political climate in Turkey against the backdrop of this typology, I can see that our people are miles ahead of our politicians.

I think most of you have already made this observation. If not, you can test it out on the streets and see that this is the case. Ours is a country where the grocer in your neighborhood can make wiser assessments than many deputies in Parliament.

So you can easily guess that the elections slated for June 12 will be carried along the fault lines between the wisdom of people that is increasingly asserting itself and the clumsiness and established preconceptions of politicians. This is well evidenced by the deputy candidate lists political parties announced recently. In other words, the grass roots’ drive for demilitarization and democratization is much more advanced than the existing mechanism of politics in Turkey.

Given the incessantly widening gap between the prevalent trends among voters and the existing lineup of political mechanisms that are supposed to fulfill them, one cannot find much reason to be hopeful about the new parliament to be formed after elections, which has been advertised as the one that will make a new constitution.

In this case, we can do nothing but expect “surprising” performances of deputy candidates recently announced by political parties. We will wait and see. Perhaps the new parliament will take a rabbit out of the hat.

We cannot, therefore, reasonably make a projection for the future based on the parties’ deputy candidates. It is certainly not good news that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has announced a list of less colorful candidates that are more likely to be elected. And the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) has a pragmatic list which appears to be wisely prepared. The main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) seemingly novel list is self-contradictory in itself.

Given these lists, we can say that the AK Party is trying to maintain its status quo while the BDP is guided by a pragmatic wisdom that is likely to produce extremely favorable results for itself. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) chooses to lag behind by adding a defendant in the Sledgehammer (Balyoz) case to its familiar policies. It has apparently lost its popularity among bureaucrats that was so noticeable during the previous elections.

As for the CHP, despite the fact that it has earned some points by purging the pro-Deniz Baykal deputies, it is advertising so few pro-change deputy candidates. Moreover, it is unbelievable that the CHP has nominated only one Alevi deputy candidate although it typically attracts Alevi voters as a bloc. It is so ironic that even the CHP, a party that can secure almost all votes from some 3 million Kurdish Alevis in addition to Turkish Alevis, does not feel compelled to do something more for the sake of Alevis. So they nominate only one deputy for about 1.5 million voters. This is what they understand from fair representation.

The picture is gloomier for the AK Party. As a party that has chosen not to re-nominate its only deputy who is a remnant of its Alevi initiative, it does not offer much hope in this respect. Perhaps it thinks it is better to maintain the Alevi initiative without an Alevi deputy in the new period. Maybe this fits better with the spirit of the new era. Turkey has severe problems with which it must deal during this new period. The main bulk of voters’ expectations comprises demands about identity. Many ethnic and religion-related issues need to be settled. Within this framework, I really wonder who the AK Party will employ to look after its much-advertised initiatives after closing its doors to the Kurds and the Alevis. Who other than Galip Ensarioğlu, Cevdet Yılmaz and Gülşen Orhan will the prime minister assign to the ambitious Kurdish initiative project?

Given the current picture about the deputy candidate lists, it appears that voters are supposed to cast their votes to approve -- or not -- the transitional government, not the future of the country. The elections, it seems, will be for a transition. Indeed, in the future, the Turkish government will consist of politicians who have internalized democratization and who have dispensed with discriminatory mentalities and practices in the center. The new political culture shaped according to grassroots trends will create new political mechanisms and, more importantly, teach us that favoritism and cronyism will lead us nowhere. I make this assertion based on the awareness and expectations I observe in society.

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