Democracy has been under threat since 1960. The juntas holding that things were going bad wanted to make sure that the country would become isolated and separated from the world. The execution of former President Adnan Menderes and his friends was a heinous murder, committed in order to send a message. The dominant powers wanted to have control over even dreams. But this did not happen.
When the people went to the ballot box, they strongly punished the pro-guardianship mentality. However, those who held that they had the right to stage a coup did not waste time. The people were holding the coup-makers, the juntas, the gangs and the organized crime groups responsible; but the lesson taught at the ballot boxes had a political message for those who understand it. And there was also a small group of elites who saw a coup as a legitimate right, regardless of the election results, including military servicemen, bureaucrats, academics, business actors and media members. This small but influential group wanted to make sure that democracy would be kept under the shadow of guns. However, making a coup was a criminal matter; and the juntas should have been held responsible under the law.
It is a new thing that coup makers are being held responsible under the law. For the first time, military servicemen, police officers and bureaucrats were brought to trial in connection with the Ergenekon investigation for toppling the government and suspending the democratic process. Despite their shortcomings that are subject to criticisms, the special courts reminded us of the beauty of being a state governed by the rule law. What we had was a legal structure that could act swiftly to open an investigation and was empowered to take action vis-à-vis even the strongest figures.
The matter is not limited to coups and juntas alone. Please recall that purse-snatching gangs disappeared. Why was that? The investigation and interrogation methods employed by the special courts eliminated these gangs. Where are these gangs that used to intimate the whole country? Where are the mafia organizations and mobsters? Special courts equipped with extensive powers addressed these problems. The deep structures that used to put pressure upon the local courts remained immune to prosecution due to their strong influence.
The struggle carried out against the coups, the juntas, the mafias and gangs with reliance on the law has attracted the attention of the public as evidenced by their huge support extended to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the elections and referendum. The constitutional amendment package’s most important items were on the judiciary. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) even declared that they would support the package in the referendum in case these items were removed. For this reason, despite the alliance of all other parties against the package, the people supported this initiative at the referendum.
Then all of a sudden, the overall climate has changed. Some problems emerged allegedly after the MIT crisis. In an effort to address these problems, a legal amendment was introduced. Besides, there is no linkage at all between the amendments currently being considered and that crisis. In addition, many things are carried out secretly and for this reason, it is not possible to discuss them. It is a secret how some people in prison are informed about possible steps towards this change in legislation while even leading AK Party figures declare that they have no information on this matter.
Some conservative colleagues misinterpret concerns of their friends; this misinterpretation takes the whole discussion to another level and undermines the democratic progress made so far. Instead of opposing the abolishment of Article 250 without discussion and deliberation and hearing the concerns of their friends, they attempt to blame them. They make a false argument that defending the special courts means defending guardianship. This is not the case. What really matters is how to deal with the coups. Arguing that high criminal courts could address this situation is an invitation to many additional Susurluk scandals. Even though we attribute the indifference to the pressure upon local courts to naivety, how will we explain these courts’ inability to deal with deep structures due to their limited authority?
Viewing this issue as a matter of arm-wrestling leads to the disappearance of wisdom. The struggle against anti-democratic structures is the greatest responsibility of those who love this country. The support extended by the CHP and the Labor Party (EMEP)to the abolishment of the special courts should have raised doubts among the conservative friends. They did not become suspicious of this weird alliance; but they should at least hear constructive criticisms from their friends and brothers because they have sailed on the same boat for many years. That boat is this country. Those who want to sink that boat have been working tirelessly to this end for many years. Some people spend efforts to ensure that this boat does not sink out of their concerns; it will be wrong to remain indifferent to this warning.
Will there be setback in struggle against coups?
This is a question that is the minds of all. Will gangs reemerge after some legal amendments and take revenge? The answer to this critical question is both yes and no. How so? Both sides of the coin should be considered. The junta figures and actors will feel they have won a victory in case legal amendments serve their interests. This, on the other hand, will destroy the morale and strength of those who struggle against the anti-democratic structures just like in the Susurluk investigation. In fact, we could identify a rule and pattern as follows out of past experiences including first attempt for constitutional monarchy: the gangs would liquidate the administrations that failed to deal with the gangs. There is almost no difference between what happened to Sultan Abdulhamid and to those who did not pay much attention to the Feb. 28 gang. The criminal organizations which were not effectively prosecuted in a timely manner have created trouble when they had the opportunity. I hope that such dramatic consequences will not be experienced by the recent amendments. There is the other side of the coin: the people. It is not that easy to move Turkey backwards in its struggle against gangs, juntas, mafias and coups. The wall of fear has been destroyed. It does not seem logical to travel in the opposite direction where the people ask for stronger and more consolidated democracy. The democratic stance of the people will be the determinative element in the current political setting.