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January 22, 2012, Sunday

Political parties

There are four political parties represented in Parliament. One of them is considered a dominant party because it represents the majority and holds the governmental powers.

 It is able to do whatever it wants to. Two of the remaining three other parties are ethnic-nationalist. Because they represent different ethnic groups, they cannot contribute to the unity and stability of the country. If they could reach consensus and agree on a definition of the nation as a legal and political entity that goes beyond ethnic identity, the country would be relieved, and this would be the beginning of a big democratic move. The remaining is the main opposition party. This party has two problems: 1) It is not clear which groups this party relies on and is based upon and nor is it clear as to which worldview it represents in its relations with these groups. 2) By what practical programs it will implement the worldview it represents is not clear. This party calls itself revolutionary, but it emphasizes the state rather than the society. The state cannot make a revolution. It only preserves the current state of affairs and administers the change by controlling the process. Secondly, it also calls itself social democrat, but it is linked to labor groups. It is a member of the Socialist International, but throughout its history it has repressed socialism. It also strongly opposed the referendum that sought to change some articles of the 1982 Constitution.

How about the ruling party? It argues that it has completed its novice and intermediate periods in the first two election terms and that it is now serving in its period of mastery. This means that it is a party that learns. It must have been credible during its terms of office in respect to getting accustomed to the problems of the country and offering plausible solutions to these problems, as evidenced by its consecutive election successes three times in a row. But it is also so sure of its mastery that it basically says “Let me do the jobs my way.” It makes its decisions behind closed doors.

The guardian is gone; what about the guardianship?

No party wins an election for no apparent reason. It attracts support as long as it responds constructively to the expectations of the people. The public had three expectations from the Justice and Development Party (AKP): address the bureaucratic guardianship to ensure consolidation of democracy; increase social welfare and facilitate a more equitable distribution of income; and resolve the Kurdish issue. To what extent has this party fulfilled these expectations? The bureaucratic guardianship has been removed. Proper measures have been taken to ensure that the armed part of the bureaucracy no longer interferes with political affairs. However, the institution and the norms (law) that perpetuate the domination (guardianship) of the state over society remain the same. The change in guardians is temporary. Society cannot get rid of the guardianship of the party that seizes power and the state apparatus when institutions and the law are not in agreement.

Let me give two examples for my arguments. The military judicial system is still influential; information concerning the salaries of military officers remains confidential. The government has not made any satisfactory statement on the Uludere disaster. However, the essence of democracy is accountability because the power it relies on is the authority and legitimacy delegated by the people. It is not inherent.

The second example concerns the structure of the parties. The political parties, seen as the backbone of democracy, are actually dukedoms; it is almost impossible to change the party leader. There is almost no freedom of ideas within the parties. Is it possible to imagine that the parties, with this authoritarian outlook, will assume leadership for the advancement of democracy?

The Kurdish issue cannot be resolved without integrating the Kurds with the system. However, even though the method is different in the discourse, the same mentality that focuses on security persists.

But the real problem is the social pragmatism and inactivity that fail to offer a blueprint for the master on how to build a new type of society. This allows the master to act within an unlimited sphere of action and an unchecked and uncontrolled space of implementation. If sleeves are going to be rolled up to build a better Turkey, then it should not start with amending the constitution but revising the election law, the law on political parties, the criminal code and the anti-terror law, which all promote authoritarian practices and arbitrary actions. The making of the constitution should be performed in a freer and more participatory environment.

Previous articles of the columnist