Doesn’t MHP want Turkey to become a superpower? by AHMET TURAN AYHAN*

Doesn’t MHP want Turkey to become a superpower?  by  AHMET TURAN AYHAN*

MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli

August 10, 2009, Monday/ 16:36:00
Is the time for an election approaching? If there is some possibility of an early election, then maybe it is possible to understand the increasingly radical stance of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).Will this party, which will most likely be unable to increase its share of the vote unless it puts greater emphasis on democratization than the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), keep pursuing a fairly nationalistic policy? The MHP is not a suitable candidate to lead moves and initiatives that will change the status quo. This policy may maintain the party's current performance, but important conclusions can be drawn upon questioning the reliability of the nationalistic discourse it has been advancing and its stance supportive of the state's arguments.

We can explain the increasingly bitter reactions to the AK Party, which showed its willingness to resolve the Kurdish issue via democratic moves, by either nationalistic and defensive reflexes, or we may see them as part of a major strategy that takes a probable election into account. The current flawed state of a pro-state reflex may be subjected to serious criticism, but if the Kurdish issue is to be used as a probable tool for better performance in elections, this undoubtedly points to a graver situation.

To better analyze the MHP's reflexes, it is essential to make an assessment of the party's general policies before focusing on its relatively secondary actions and moves because I believe it is insufficient to rely on an analysis of this party that is limited to the context of the Kurdish issue without criticizing its ability to deal with the state of the current world. Why do we not see the MHP's consistent approach toward Turkey's longstanding problems while considering that it showed a good performance by staying away from the Ergenekon case, played a constructive role in a crisis involving the 2007 presidential election and acted in line with the government in its abolition of the headscarf ban? The MHP offsets its correct actions with its wrongs. Because of this, it is not a proper candidate to construct the future of Turkey. What are the major flaws in the current situation that the MHP fails to appreciate? Is the MHP remaining immovable while Turkey evolves to become a superpower?

Turkey seizing opportunities

Turkey, as underlined by famous strategist George Friedman, is advancing toward becoming a world power. The void that occurred in the Middle East after the American invasion created a number of opportunities. Turkey, able to use these opportunities, is turning into a regional leader. Its rational policies based on a multilateral approach and its pursuit of zero problems with neighbors in foreign policy have advanced relations with neighboring countries. They further paved the way for a large hinterland that will maximize national interests. The value of peaceful instruments wielded in foreign policy making should be considered in terms of their contribution to the ability of marketing economic relations outside the country. Turkey is now able to use its soft power, abandoned long ago, and the possibilities that will ensure greater economic growth. Attraction of Gulf and Arab capital to the country, foreign policy moves in the Caucasus region and on the African continent as well as a recent Balkan move led by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will create strong economic relations. Turkey's actual gain can be best observed in the web of these relations.

As a result of its successful policies, Turkey has become a role model for countries eager to overcome their barriers. Its influence in the Islamic world was confirmed by US President Barack Obama's visit in April, and it is a star country in not only the Middle East but in Europe because the Nabucco pipeline project has increased its strategic value even more. Turkey, which aptly converted crises into foreign policy opportunities, is now busy dealing with its internal problems. If Turkey wants to double or triple its power in the near future, it needs to overcome its chronic problems. No doubt the AK Party is doing the right thing when it sees the Kurdish issue as a state problem and develops its plans accordingly. Inclusion of the state's role in the resolution of the problem is based on the developments that only gained momentum through recent Turkish initiatives with the world.

Turkey was destined to stay a small state in the region where it is located, but it could have become a leading power in its region had it resolved its problems. To this end, it is possible to recall remarks and suggestions by National Intelligence Organization (MİT) President Emre Taner, who said Turkey should pursue a proactive foreign policy. What took Turkey to this stage is the US invasion of Iraq. Turkey took action considering that there was a possibility of the creation of a Kurdish state in the north. This possibility was so influential that it was not surprising to witness that Turkey de facto took on an active role in the power balances, firstly stopping the US in Iraq and then Israel in Lebanon in 2006. What stopped Israel's invincible Merkava tanks were Russian-made anti-tank weapons. Turkey played an active role in the developments that stood against the US, Israel and Britain. Developments required good crisis management, making Turkey an international actor. It is possible to understand why American policymakers see Turkey as a superpower if these facts are interpreted well.

Turkey is at the crossroads in resolving the Kurdish issue. In such an environment and at such a conjecture, the success in crisis management at the international level now requires that other political actors review their stances in order to remove other barriers and obstacles. Quite rightly, the Kurdish question, which the state has long tried to eliminate by assimilation and violence, needs a better state approach and the creation of rational policies. This is of course possible if constructive policies are developed to expand the boundaries of the change and envision the content of the resolution. In such fertile grounds, the MHP either fails to see that some big steps have been taken to deal with the issue and that the interests of the state and the nation have been maximized by democratic measures or it is pretty occupied by creating barriers to the country's further advancement by consolidating its position prior to a probable election.

MHP needs more constructive approach

I believe it is fair to argue that acting as the leading political representative of Turkish Islam, the MHP's approach requires adopting a more constructive and comprehensive policy and stance toward the resolution of the Kurdish issue. Such a policy is essential because the time being actually dictates it; it is our right to expect some sort of leniency and flexibility from the MHP in the resolution of this complex issue that is being shaped by the state will and determination. Is it possible to think of the MHP as a political actor that falls behind even the Turkish military on the issue, considering that the military made a gesture by allowing two generals to attend the funerals of two victims murdered in Şırnak? Of course, the MHP may provoke nationalist sentiments to increase its votes, but this will do no good to national interests. Such a policy may contribute to the party's short term interests, but in the long run, it will seriously hurt the country's future, with damage inflicted in such a case being irreparable.

Aside from the Kurdish issue, what is the MHP's view of Turkey's European Union membership? Is it possible to argue that this party has developed some concrete policies -- other than a few clichés about brotherhood -- to resolve the Kurdish problem? If adopting opposing policies is a political preference due to its defensive reflexes, isn't it possible to say the party is behind even the military in terms of its approach vis-à-vis this issue? If the MHP is not part of the solution in the Kurdish issue, it should at least not be opposed to constructive approaches. This is the common wish of all those eager to protect the country's interests.

How possible is it to expect a reasonable approach from the MHP despite all these criticisms? It is not easy to overcome the political sources by which the MHP base was influenced with regard to the Kurdish issue. The MHP has to overcome the classical nationalistic jargon that keeps the entire party and its supporters hostage. One of the biggest difficulties MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli has to deal with is the presence of hawkish actors inside the MHP who view the MHP leader as a dove.

The approaching party convention makes it very difficult for the party leadership to adopt a more constructive stance toward the Kurdish issue. Both Bahçeli and his confidants consider the fact that intra-party opposition will be most influential if they rely on a discourse criticizing their leniency toward the government's recent actions. It is therefore not surprising to see bitter and radical remarks by Bahçeli's opponent, Ahmet Reis Yılmaz, posted on his Web site. Yılmaz argues that Bahçeli's stance should not be misunderstood, adding that his stance actually encouraged the Democratic Society Party (DTP) and the AK Party. He further states that the DTP and the AK Party should note that Bahçeli's lenient opposition does not reflect the view and actual thoughts of the party and Turkish nationalists.

Despite the presence of strong walls that both the MHP and Bahçeli should tear down, it is not possible to ignore the probable contribution of this party to achieving a sound resolution by adopting a constructive approach in the days to come. After the party convention, I believe Bahçeli will announce a more flexible and reasonable line toward the Kurdish issue. By adopting a contributing role in the resolution of the Kurdish issue, the MHP will show its loyalty to Turkey's cause to become a superpower.

*Ahmet Turan Ayhan is a political analyst. [email protected]
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