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December 30, 2012, Sunday

Assessment of a year

As is custom, I dedicated my article assessing the current year for publication on the eve of next year.

Although it is not possible to define an entire year with only one adjective I can generalize that 2012 for Turkey was an idly spent year, at least it was not as well made use of as expected.

Most importantly, the Uludere incident, which saw 34 smugglers mistakenly killed by the military in Şırnak's Uludere district on Dec. 28, 2011, haunted the country in 2012. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government which successfully and boldly investigated all shadowy events perpetrated or attempted by military juntas and deep state gangs in the past (in an incomprehensible way) attempted to cover up the Uludere incident. As the government tried to cover up and downplay the Uludere incident, which I regard as an intervention of the newest type against civilian rule and the democratization process, the magnitude of scandal and its impact likewise soared. The scandalous Uludere incident concretely suggested that the AK Party, which displayed an outstanding political will to investigate shadowy events and became the biggest political party of Turkey thanks to its struggle against the despotic state, has started to adopt the reflexes of the despotic state.

With its approach towards the Uludere event, the AK Party demeaned and foiled the huge efforts it exerted to solve the Kurdish question in the past years in a single move. As a political party in which people have invested great hopes it has greatly undermined its efforts and socio-political credit for solving the Kurdish issue by inciting untimely and extremely meaningless debates on capital punishment and lifting the political immunities of specific Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies.

In addition to the Kurdish issue, the AK Party government, which was deemed as the only address that would find a well-intended solution to the chronic problems of Turkey, pursued its habit of acting by state reflexes, a practice it has observed since the June 12, 2011 elections and in 2012 as well. Therefore not the slightest headway was made in addressing issues of either our Alevi nor non-Muslim citizens that call for resolve. In 2012 we also witnessed several negative developments in terms of fundamental rights and freedoms such as the nationalization of Mor Gabriel Monastery's lands or ignoring the Alevi community's demands for the establishment of cemevis. Neither the Halki Seminary on the island of Heybeliada near İstanbul was opened nor the obstacles that prevent our non-Muslim citizens, whose numbers are decreasing day by day, from feeling like first class citizens removed.  

As recalled, the impulse to be relieved of the shame of being ruled by the constitution of the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup was the greatest motivation ever fostered among voters in the 2011 elections. Further spurring the motivation to have a new constitution with its pledges, the AK Party secured nearly half of voter support. However, just like they did in 2011, the political parties have failed to fulfill their promises to draft a new constitution in 2012. Instead of striving to have relief from the shame of a constitution from the coup era, rapidness in passing person-specific impromptu laws marked the year 2012.

The year 2012 did not unfold as one to be recalled with appreciation in terms of transparency and public adulation, the leading causes for ill-governance in Turkey. The AK Party which has promised to struggle against corruption and illegitimate actions and make all public institutions and organization accountable has backpedaled in its efforts to make the all public institutions more transparent and accountable. Instead of making legal arrangements that will allow the government to audit military expenditure and military funds, which have never been audited, the government preferred to pass the Court of Accounts Law. New amendments granted 18 out of 132 state bodies immunity and exemption from public control. Another change applied in July disabled Court of Accounts control over all state institutions. Hence the government budget for the year 2013 was decided on in absence of a Court of Accounts report delivered to Parliament and without looking into how the budget of previous year was spent. It is the first time a budget was passed in Parliament without any control reports assessed or taken into account beforehand since the founding of Turkish Republic.

As the AK Party tricks itself into believing that its control over the state has increased, its efforts to promote tolerance and diversity have slowed down. During the periods when the AK Party has been convinced by this belief, debates on abortion, raising a religious generation and the closure of dershanes, private educational institutions that prepare students for examinations, and schools have erupted in Turkey. Again during these periods, the government has abandoned political strategy and adopted the armed solution strategy, has started to ignore demands of the Alevis and the problems of non-Muslim groups and become intolerant to freedom of the press and expression. In other words, 2012 was the year when the AK Party started to act with the old reflexes of the state instead of meeting the expectations of the people.

The effects of this approach have also been observed in Turkey's foreign policy. Because of the lethargy caused by excessive self-confidence, the government exhibited a reluctance to continue EU membership negotiations (of course, the EU presidency of Greek Cypriots had a negative impact on this issue) and a lack of enthusiasm to implement the reforms which are required by the EU acquis. In addition to this, Turkey has re-adopted the arguments of the late president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), Rauf Denktaş. These events can be considered as a concrete example of this new trend.

Fortunately, Turkey did not its abandon the strategy it adopted regarding the Arab Spring, which gives priority to the people. Thus, some events which will be remembered by the public for the government's good deeds have marked the year 2012. For example, the attitude of the government towards the Syrian issue, which poses a great risk for Turkey, is admirable, as the government has stood behind the Syrian people at the risk of paying a heavy price.

However, the problems caused by the government's decisions or acts which could be regarded as an intervention into the interior affairs of another country is another issue that we had to face in 2012. Turkey's relations with Iraq have been tarnished because of the AK Party government's tense relations with the Nouri al-Maliki administration. As an attempt to compensate for the strained relations with Iraq, the government wanted to establish good relations with the Kurdish Regional Administration (KRG) in Northern Iraq. However, the negative developments in Turkish-Iraqi relations could trigger a big crisis in 2013.

Of course, the internal and external political developments that we witnessed in 2012 deserve to be discussed thoroughly; however, the framework of a column does not allow this. In short, the government has failed to meet expectations in terms of domestic and foreign policy in 2012. Only in the economic field have we witnessed positive developments. We take pride from the fact that while the world, particularly Europe, was struggling with economic crises, Turkey avoided potential damage. Another year has passed with good and bad memories. I hope that 2013 will be a year when good developments dominate the world agenda. I hope that 2013 brings peace, stability and prosperity to both Turkey and the world. Happy New Year.

Previous articles of the columnist