Former politicians find there’s life after politics

September 12, 2010, Sunday/ 13:21:00
If we could turn back the clock and travel back 10 or 20 years, the headlines would feature names like Mehmet Ağar, Fikri Sağlar and Erkan Mumcu.The dust has settled for these formerly busy politicians who continue to mull over the future of Turkey in a more “relaxed and productive” way. They are doing a lot of reading and writing, which they could not find the time to do in the past. Through the articles they write and the interviews they give, they are sharing their knowledge with the public. In light of the philosophy that “titles and positions are temporary, living exemplary lives is what’s essential,” they don’t forget to spend time with their families and engage with their social surroundings. Some are collecting calligraphy, some are writing books and others are enjoying the pleasure of being able to take long trips with their family.

‘I don’t remember a single thing about myself from my 20 year political career’

When I asked Eyüp Aşık what he was doing these days he said, “What do people who are from the Black Sea do? They build a building.” Aşık, who was a deputy for 20 consecutive years, complains that he barely remembers anything about his own life from that period. “I barely remember those 20 years. Politics flies away, and you can hardly recall anything pertaining to your own life. Now I am living a normal life,” he said, expressing contentment with his new life. He enjoys spending time alone, relaxing, going on trips, passing time with friends, neighbors and relatives, playing games and having fun. Aşık, who was playing backgammon while responding to my questions, complains that he lost the game because of me. He has simple advice for those who are considering joining politics. “Don’t get carried away with it. Find a balance between politics and your life,” he says and adds, “Those who start engaging in politics around at 40-50 years of age have already lived their own life, but those who start at a young age seem like they are hurting themselves.”

Aşık was a Trabzon deputy from the Motherland Party (then ANAP, now ANAVATAN) and from the True Path Party (DYP) for five terms. He became famous in 1998 when allegations surfaced that he had talked with Alaattin Çakıcı, an alleged crime syndicate boss. He resigned as state minister and deputy due to those allegations. Aşık, who served as the chairman of the parliamentary Human Rights Investigation Commission, said that posting was the position he was most proud of in his 20-year political career.

‘I am busy analyzing every breath I take’

After a busy political life, Ali Talip Özdemir chose to stay out of the public eye. Noting that he is trying to experience the best Ramadan possible, Özdemir summed up his personal life by saying, “I am in my own corner, analyzing everything I do, every breath I take.” One of Özdemir’s recent plans is to spend the Night of Power, Lailatul Qadr, in Hijaz.

Özdemir entered the political stage in 1987 as a deputy from Konya. The first minister of environment in Turkey, he was also the state minister for press and information during the ANAP-DYP coalition, Turkey’s 53rd government. He was elected as the fourth chairman of ANAVATAN in the controversial third extraordinary congress that was organized after Mesut Yılmaz left politics. Özdemir was ANAVATAN’s mayoral candidate for İstanbul in the April 18 local election but was not elected.

‘I got to know my family after the age of 47’

Fikri Sağlar, who has served in all areas of politics for many years, says that like other statesmen it is impossible for him to become completely detached from politics and explains that contemplating national issues keeps him energetic. He writes for the Birgün daily three times each week and, as a former minister of culture, he participates in discussion panels on culture and arts at universities. Sağlar was an advisor for a television series that was based on his book titled “Kod Adı Susurluk” (Code Name Susurluk). He is currently very happy that for the past decade he has been able to freely express his political views on civilian platforms. He describes the current period of his life as “a period of quietness and productiveness.” The biggest benefit of this period is that it has allowed Sağlar to get to know his family. “There has been one benefit, and that is getting to know my family. I had a busy political career from the age of 30 until the age of 47-48, and I could not see my children grow up and reach marriage age. I really started to get to know my wife and my children after 47. At least now I am making up for that time. I go on vacation with them. I find the opportunity to have breakfast with them. I can take a walk in the forest or walk by the pier and read books together with my wife,” he says.

Being able to be next to his wife, Serap Sağlar – who is an Ankara State Theater actress – when the curtains rise and her plays are being performed gives Sağlar a different kind of joy. He listened to the views of different people in various towns and says these experiences made him richer. While Sağlar is optimistic about Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s leadership, he believes it would be “naive” to draw conclusions in the midst of all the debates going on about the referendum. “The politics after the referendum regarding the constitutional amendments will serve to indicate the CHP’s development and democratic development in Turkey more generally. Will the election law for political parties change, will the election threshold be removed and will people be able to organize according to their thoughts? All this will become clear during the period after Sept. 12,” he says. Sağlar was a deputy from İçel for four consecutive terms during the Social Democratic People’s Party (SHP) and CHP governments. In his own words he was expelled from the party because “I put the party’s interests behind the public’s interests.” Sağlar, who served as minister of culture during the 49th, 50th and 52nd governments, was a member of the parliamentary Susurluk Commission, which was set up after the accident of the same name.

‘I don’t want to say anything until 2011’

Erkan Mumcu said he didn’t want to say anything until the year 2011. Mumcu became actively involved in politics in 1995 in ANAVATAN (then ANAP) before wrapping his political career up in 2008 with ANAVATAN. He was the minister of tourism during the 57th government. He was removed from office by ANAVATAN leader Yılmaz because of harsh criticism he made about the government and of Yılmaz at a meeting organized to mark the party’s 20th anniversary in 2002. He later became minister of education and minister of tourism in the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government. He resigned from his position and from the AK Party in February 2005. He returned to ANAVATAN and was elected chairman in the fourth extraordinary congress held on April 2, 2005, in which he was the only candidate. Some believe his lack of participation in the voting round during the presidential election in 2007 brought his political demise. It is also believed that a voice recording belonging to former Chief of General Staff Gen. İsmail Hakkı Karadayı is essentially what ended Mumcu’s political career. According to the recordings of Karadayı, who is a member of the Encümen-i Daniş, or Consultation Council, Karadayı said he asked Mumcu not to attend a presidential vote in Parliament in 2007. He delivered a moving speech during the sixth extraordinary congress held on Oct. 25 and 26, 2008, in which he did not run for party leadership, and sadly left his position.

Mehmet Ağar: ‘I want to stay away from the media and politics’

Mehmet Ağar is another politician who wants to maintain his silence. Ağar, a statesman and member of the police force who prefers to stay away from politics to be able to get over the years of exhaustion, says: “I would like to be by myself and keep my distance. When I decide to speak to the press, I will call you.”

Ağar was born at Çankaya palace, where his father worked, in 1951. He chose to be a police officer like his father, Zülfikar Ağar. He studied finance at Ankara University with a scholarship from the police directorate and, after he graduated in 1972, he began working for the chief of police and presidential guard. After working as the director of the İstanbul Personnel and Public Security branch office for five years, Ağar became the police chief of Ankara. During this period he developed close relations with politicians and later became a DYP deputy. Ağar, who served as leader of the DYP and the Democrat Party (DP), resigned after his party failed to pass the election threshold in the July 22, 2007 elections. His remark that “we made a mistake by not participating in the vote and the public punished us for that” made headlines.

‘I wish I knew then what I know now’

Ali Müfit Gürtuna’s life after being a mayor is not as “comfortable and free” as assumed but he does not complain about it. Just as he has been doing since primary school, he continues to read and write. Gürtuna, who expressed regret by saying, “I wish I had the knowledge I have now back when I was the mayor,” tries to share his knowledge with every segment of the nation by reserving more time for publications and conferences. In addition to his articles, he has a book titled “Yeni Siyaset: Değişimin Doğru Rotası” (New Politics: the correct route to change). Explaining that ever since his early youth he has tried to avoid making concessions to his idealism, the experienced mayor said, “A person who loses his reference point will not know where to start and where to stop.” He carries out all his work within the Turquoise Movement, which he describes as a “thought club” that focuses on political thinking. Gürtuna does not neglect his hobbies and has calligraphy, ebru, prayer bead and pocket watch collections. Gürtuna has had the opportunity to spend more time in his social surroundings since he left politics. He is currently looking forward to meeting his old-time friends again at the “40 years in one friendship” meeting.

Gürtuna, who joined politics in ANAVATAN in 1983, is best known for when he was the mayor of İstanbul. After Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was removed from office, the municipal assembly elected Gürtuna mayor in November 1998. He was re-elected by the public in the local elections on April 18, 1999.

Minatürk, a popular site for both tourists and local residents, and the Disaster Coordination Center (AKOM) were both established during his term in office. His Golden Horn project won the environmental award of the year.  After his first term as mayor ended in April 2004, Gürtuna did not seek re-election.

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