There have been shining exceptions to it though, like the early Motherland Party (ANAP/ANAVATAN) period after 1983 and evidently the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) first government, as well as its ad hoc policy initiatives. But somehow we are gradually going back to old customs.
I don’t really get football, but I appreciate watching good moves on the field. I can’t say I’ve taken much pleasure in the show-off enterprise called “Turkish football” these past few years. I think this is true for many of us. My football-loving friends have not started to follow European leagues for nothing. For years now, we have been watching our teams roar like lions at home, but turn suddenly into cats in European arenas. After one or two rounds, they get eliminated. If European football is the criterion, our teams do not have the strength to match European teams. But anyway, does the fact that Fenerbahçe’s football team continues to play in the Turkish Super League after being banned from the Champions’ League not portray the importance placed on the “local” league?
Last fall, when the league had just started up, and when people were busy debating what was going to happen as a result of match-fixing evidence, Devlet Bahçeli made a public statement that began “Under pressure from and the decisive action of UEFA…” The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) was able to read the spirit of the people accurately!
The national stance on football always reminds me of the transformation in our legal and justice system that occurred thanks to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). In 1989, the government accepted the individual’s right to apply to the court and became part of the European Convention’s Human Rights system. When Prime Minister Turgut Özal was signing the bill, he apparently said our ailing legal system would be able to change as a result of such a system. This is precisely what happened.
Nowadays, however, because of the perceptible increase in the number of cases brought to the ECtHR due to infractions against basic rights, there is an effort to go around it and thus modify the appeal system through applications to the Constitutional Court. In fact, one day, as a result of cases that built up and increasing compensation decisions by the European court, we may even quit the latter to return to our good old justice system.
More recently and more comprehensively, we actually became introduced to European Union criteria. First, thanks to the customs union, national industry underwent an outstanding transformation. Later, as a result of the membership process, the old and dusty rules began to be re-visited. And though the positive transformative powers of the EU dynamic may be labeled by some as “foreign,” it has greatly contributed to the general transformation of the country.
Since 2005, even though some feel satisfied with the present level of the transformation, foreign criteria will continue to be of importance to us for a long while yet. It is not easy to make strides by accepting the Copenhagen Criteria, or by then renaming it the Ankara Criteria; by watering down the right to make individual applications to the ECtHR by addressing the claims to the local Constitutional Court; or by getting furious with UEFA. If it were, we would have felt the concrete results by now. But since 2005 there have been no reforms in this country that have been truly palpable. On the contrary, we are still holding on to the coattails of reforms made between 2000 and 2005.
As we ride high on self-confidence and bet increasingly on local dynamics, we are losing time on normalization and globalization, thus disqualifying ourselves from reaching a sustainable stability.
‘Panem et circences’
Much was written about the mentality of “the arm may break but stays within the sleeve,” and “Turks have no other friends but Turks.” If this is one course taken by this issue, the other aspect is football, and the industry behind it is to be saved at any price.
The old Latin saying of “panem et circences” -- or bread and circuses (or entertainment) -- was one of the golden rules for governing masses in ancient Rome. More recently, former Portuguese dictator Salazar was proud of ruling with the three Fs: fado, football and Fatima.
As for Turkey, the local bread is the building industry and the consumption society, while the circuses are television and football. It is remarkable that as the new “national policy,” the building industry is the least dependent on imports. And now the same with football -- that we shall be playing amongst ourselves, as suggested by the prime minister!
Alas, by playing football or having any other activity take place just between us, thus remaining local, we run the risk of staying outside the arena of comparison and competition.