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April 27, 2012, Friday

April 27 memorandum and the CHP

The ongoing change in Turkey has two fundamental political characteristics: The opposition parties either continue to ignore this change or fight it.

With the convenience of being the sole representative of this change in the political sphere, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), on the other hand, tends to dominate or exert its monopoly over this change.

On the other hand, a number of factors, including the current political climate, the public’s demands from politicians and the presence of long-unfulfilled needs, continue to drive the above-mentioned two characteristics. Of course, there are also the advantages of a parliamentary system. That is, if the system functions in a healthy manner, the public becomes the boss, and election boxes are periodically placed in front of political parties. Elections and the pressure of satisfying voters are good guarantees.

Last week, we marked the anniversary of the April 27 memorandum, which can be depicted roughly as the most recent coup attempt. I remember that night very well. I also remember how I was filled with rage and how I felt humiliated as I read that text. As a person who was born and grew up in a hybrid regime that would be wounded once every ten years --1960, 1970, 1980 and 1997 -- and as an ordinary citizen devoid of any political affiliations, I had felt that I was no longer able to accept this attack on my lifestyle. This was in 2007. Ten years had passed since the postmodern coup of 1997. Was it just a coincidence?

Indeed, there is a strong correlation between my feeling such great rage and starting to post articles on the Internet, and the AK Party’s exhibition of an unyielding stance against a coup attempt, and thanks to this stance, its turning into a catapult of the reform process. And there were many people like me in Turkey. The overwhelming majority of the public felt the same rage as me on this military memorandum and this was urging them to side with the AK Party, and this was no joke.

The support extended to the AK Party

The AK Party was aware of this support. Did former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan have similar support in regard to the postmodern coup of Feb. 28? I think he didn’t have as big a backing, but I am sure if he had had it, Erbakan’s pro-state and archaic political mentality would have allowed him to exhibit such a stance. But I know that the postmodern coup of Feb. 28 occurred because he failed to do what he should have done, and the military was still strong and there was a clear possibility of a full-fledged coup. Tens of thousands of people suffered during this process. As the investigation into the postmodern coup of Feb. 28 progresses, we can learn about the sheer magnitude of the victimization, and how many people lost their jobs and prestige and had to live an abject life.

So, there is a serious connection between the attitudes exhibited at that time and the formation of the current political scene. The political parties, like the Motherland Party (ANAVATAN) and the True Path Party (DYP), which collaborated with the coup perpetrators and who shamelessly gave the mandate their voters had given to them to subversive generals all became history. And the Welfare Party (RP), which failed to exhibit a dignified stance against the coup, transformed into the AK Party, thereby going through a sort of purging process.

For instance, I can never forget what Onur Öymen, a senior Republican People’s Party (CHP) executive, had said about the April 27 memorandum: “The General Staff’s observations are no different from ours. We can undersign it.”

And I still remember what Önder Sav, a top CHP executive at that time, had said about it: “Good news for us! Good news for Turkey.”

CHP deputy Nur Serter -- who was a university professor at that time and had collaborated with former rector Kemal Alemdaroğlu, a defendant in the case against Ergenekon, to establish “persuasion rooms” at İstanbul University to persuade headscarved girls to remove their headscarves -- had said: “Long live the Turkish army. The Turkish army heard our voice and lent support to us.”

Now, when you write about these things and argue that the politicians, businesspeople, trade unions, professional organizations and the members of the judiciary that supported the coup should apologize to the public and those who were directly involved in the coup should be punished, you are accused of seeking revenge. For God’s sake, tell me, can the party that made the aforementioned statements, i.e., the CHP, continue to exist in the political scene in the new Turkey?” How can this public have trust in a political party that called the army to arms and hailed coups and military memorandums?

I must note: In these historic days where the change is the key, Turkey needs opposition parties that will pursue high-quality policies, and this is currently one of the biggest deficiencies in this country. However, the opposition parties that were ready to collaborate with coup perpetrators and commit crimes during the coup processes have yet to go through a convincing process of self-criticism and apology. Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said last Thursday: “Those journalists who hailed the May 27 [coup] also hailed the Sept. 12 coup. Those who applauded the 1980 [coup] also applauded the Feb. 28 [coup]. And the Feb. 28 [coup] did not stop them from backing the midnight memorandum of April 27. Oddly enough, many of these journalists are still working as senior executives. This is something that should not go unnoticed.” His words actually underline what I am trying to say.

The thing is: As the coups are being tried, if the groups that voluntarily or criminally cooperated with coup perpetrators do not repent, and if they don’t apologize to the public, this public will not trust them. And if their trust is not earned, no cosmetic changes will be of any use. And this problem belongs to us all as the CHP will continue to occupy that space with its historic shadow that is greater than itself but is hollow inside.

When Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu replaced Deniz Baykal, one of the people who most hailed the Feb. 28 coup, as a result of a shady sex scandal, I was one who welcomed this change. I knew that the CHP would not radically change as its voter base has been traumatized through a continual provocation of their class fears. But...

I don’t think Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s unstable nature, swinging between the old and the new, is the result of the reaction of the party’s voter base to change or due to an intra-party conflict. Kılıçdaroğlu may at times be exhibiting attitudes that do not conform to the old CHP, but he does not follow a single principle. He is more like a foxy state bureaucrat trying to maintain his hold on leadership. While he advocates the new CHP, he deliberately nominates two major Ergenekon defendants for Parliament -- according to rumors, complying with the requests from former President Süleyman Demirel, the civilian mastermind behind the Feb. 28 coup. While he opens his arms to religious groups during his visit to Sarajevo, saying, “A party should not have any problem with religion, and we should be able to overcome the 1970s,” he quickly adds, “I will read the indictment of Mehmet Haberal [a CHP deputy in jail pending trial in the Ergenekon case].” “I am glad the headscarf issue can be overcome,” he says, referring to the reception held on the anniversary of the establishment of Parliament on April 23 -- which the CHP did not attend in protest -- but he is quick to add, “But the reception is not part of the public sphere.” That means he still does not approve of a headscarved woman working at a public institution. He cannot risk an initiative targeting religious groups in Turkey; however, he does this in Sarajevo to allow himself room to backpedal.

In short, the public is perfectly aware of all of this. And they don’t trust the CHP. To earn their trust, the CHP must start by apologizing to the public for its past sins, and it should close itself down and re-enter the political scene with a new party under a new name.

Previous articles of the columnist