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June 08, 2012, Friday

AK Party-CHP summit and changing politics

The most important development last week was the meeting between the leaders of the ruling party and the main opposition party to discuss the Kurdish issue, the country’s the most pressing problem.

In fact, the primary reason for the collapse of the Kurdish initiative that the government introduced in 2009 was a lack of support by the opposition. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) had done everything to ensure that this initiative would remain inconclusive. And when the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), the legal representative of the Kurds in Parliament, preferred unconstructive policies, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) had to act alone in this process. In this case, it was not a hard decision for the hawkish group within the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to leave the negotiating table.

In fact, a resolution to the Kurdish issue would mean a dramatic change in the regime in Turkey. The Kurdish issue is a complicated matter that serves the interests of tutelage and the deep state and weakens the political actors. For this reason, the latest struggle is being carried out over the PKK and the Kurdish issue. The entity that we call Ergenekon, which relies on the craziest and bloodiest methods to achieve its goals, is actually the Kemalist-neo-nationalist state of the 1940s. In 1937 and 1938, thousands of Kurdish people were murdered in Dersim upon the instructions of Mustafa Kemal and İsmet İnönü. The same approach was held and honored by secret organizations and entities after the transition to a multiparty regime in Turkey. And when they fell short, the military took over by staging a coup. And the West remained reluctant do anything about these coups given that the military was pro-Western and secular.

This was best articulated and elaborated by former President Süleyman Demirel who testified before the parliamentary commission set up to investigate the coups last week: “There is no such thing as deep state. The thing you would call a state is supposed to be deep anyway.”

This remark woke me up. True, the regime in Turkey could best be described this way. If a civilian politician, who had to experience the repercussions of the coups and did time in jail, describes the state by referring to its deep elements as something legitimate, you could understand why Turkey has started to change as late as the 2000s.

To this end, the importance of the call by the main opposition CHP, the symbol of status quo and tutelage in Turkey, to the ruling party for the resolution of the Kurdish issue could be better understood. This might be an ordinary incident for some other countries, but the meeting points to a picture that we have been waiting for and a serious democratic breakthrough.

The messages by the AK Party and the CHP before the meeting were fairly constructive. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said: “We do not have biases; we would meet with everybody who would like to contribute to the process.” The CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, on the other hand, borrowed the slogan that Erdoğan used earlier. He said, “Mothers should not cry anymore; the nation expects a resolution from us.” Of course, the current stalemate the prime minister is experiencing in connection with the growing criticisms on the bombing of 34 Kurdish citizens in Uludere by the Turkish F-16 warplanes played a key role in the prime minister’s decision to hold this meeting. It is generally acknowledged that the prime minister and the AK Party did not successfully handle the aftermath of the Uludere disaster. Justice was not served and the government relied on an offensive discourse that hurt the feelings of Kurdish citizens. The AK Party’s attitude worried not only the Kurdish people, but also all citizens who are aware of the linkage between Turkey’s democratization and the Kurdish issue.

The atmosphere at the meeting towards consensus and dialogue could have led to a state of détente. And this was exactly the case. The reason for this sudden change in the CHP’s attitude needs to be explored. Why did they decide to contribute to the process of a solution when before they were dedicated to the irresolution of the Kurdish issue?

Frankly speaking, the CHP was sure during Deniz Baykal’s term that the tutelage which was trying to topple the AK Party government by antidemocratic methods would become successful. It was so sure that the power would be handed to them on a golden plate that they did not feel the need to offer a political solution. They only mission they assumed was to legitimize the illegal interventions by the military in Parliament. It was busy blocking democratic initiatives by taking the reform bills to the Constitutional Court. And for this reason, they viewed this opportunity in the Kurdish debate as a project of treason in an attempt to undermine the public support for this initiative. They were acting this way because a coup was still likely. They did not seek to defeat the AK Party in the elections.

However, the legal case filed with the Constitutional Court asking for the dissolution of the AK Party and the coup plans by the juntas within the army did not work out. The AK Party responded to these attempts by strong reforms; thanks to this strong and decisive stance, the AK Party attracted a great deal of popular support in the elections. Therefore, the picture was crystal clear. Every unsuccessful intervention did nothing but contribute to the increase of popular support for the AK Party.

I think that the same circles finally realized the reality. They concluded that the AK Party would be removed from power only by political means and with the creation of a strong, main opposition party that would be ready in time of political crisis. Former CHP leader Baykal was removed from office by a tape scandal, being replaced by Kılıçdaroğlu. The CHP was so pathetic that they were unable to find a strong leader that would attract the attention and support of the people. Public surveys have identified the relation between the people and the CHP as follows, “If the CHP opposes a political stance of the AK Party, this means that the AK Party’s stance is correct.”

Kılıçdaroğlu was picked as the most popular name in the CHP and this was the reason why the CHP decided play politics. And I think this is good because regardless of the vicious part of this plan, the realities of this country and the dynamics of change will abort these plans. And the CHP will contribute to the progress of this country as it starts to do the right thing.

Of course, by this, I am not accusing Kılıçdaroğlu of being part of this plan. This is not a view that I would agree with. But the dynamic behind this incident was that plan. However, when the pro-tutelage pressure over Kılıçdaroğlu and his team changed tactics, they decided to change the party as well. They found an opportunity to do this. I think that this will not be welcomed by those who pull the strings in the party. The paradox here saves time for Kılıçdaroğlu. The CHP has to contribute to the resolution process in order to gain popularity. But on the other hand, as it does so, the CHP is getting out from under the control of the pro-tutelage figures.

At the meeting, a roadmap for the resolution of the Kurdish issue was not discussed. However, the parties agreed to set up a commission for a roadmap and to invite the MHP to contribute to this process. They also decided to carry on with the AK Party and the CHP in case the MHP abstains from joining. If this meeting becomes a success, this will mean that 75 percent of Parliament will extend support to the Kurdish initiative. And if the BDP becomes part of this process, this will increase to 90 percent. This will eventually mean that there will be a huge pressure on the parties to resolve the problem.

The constructive remarks made by Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu after the meeting are promising. Both parties declared that they do not have preconditions for a start in the process to find a solution. Even if it fails to honor its promises, the CHP will no longer be able to block the discussions. It will be hard to explain its stance to the people. Likewise, the AK Party will no longer be able to rely on the pretext that the opposition does not extend support for the resolution of the Kurdish issue.

I suppose the most important issue now will become the political preference of Prime Minister Erdoğan. What will the priorities of the prime minister be? Will he work to introduce a presidential system in order to become a strong leader or to resolve the Kurdish issue? The potential amendment to Article 250 of the Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK) by which he will have the power to initiate the prosecution in critical legal cases is not a good sign. Maybe we will take on this obstacle rather than the CHP from now on.

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