[The New CHP by a liberal-social democrat - 3] CHP and the invisible power structures of the Turkish state tradition by Yahya Sezai Tezel


   [The New CHP by a liberal-social democrat - 3] CHP and the invisible power structures of the Turkish state tradition by Yahya Sezai Tezel

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (L), Deniz Baykal (T), Faik Öztrak Jr. (B)

February 17, 2011, Thursday/ 16:37:00

In democracies there are no technical rights or wrongs of economic policy issues independent of political values and choices arising from worldviews, class and other group interests. Let us assume that, despite my serious doubts, Faik Öztrak Jr., who has been parachuted to the post of deputy chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) responsible for economic policy issues, is a fine economic policy implementer.

In other words, let us assume for a second that he is a competent professional in implementing the fundamental decisions that politically responsible governments make. Do any of us have any idea about his worldview, political preferences or orientations which have been made known to us with publically accessible books, articles or conference papers where he elaborated on economic issues? There are dozens of fine current and retired bureaucrats in the fields of diplomacy and economic policy in Turkey. Why did Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu pick Osman Korutürk and Faik Öztrak Jr. and not another diplomat or economist bureaucrat as deputy chairman of his party? Is it because Korutürk’s grandfather is Salah Cimcoz and his father is Fahri Korutürk? And is it because Öztrak Jr. is the grandson of Öztrak Sr. and the son of Orhan Öztrak and nephew of Adnan Öztrak and İlhan Öztrak? Is this not similar to the sultan handing out the post of vizier to the sons of subservient viziers who served the Porte of his palace as slaves of the Porte? Which aspect of this event resembles democratic politics, which aspect of this “miracle” looks like social democracy, which has to embrace justice and fair competition? Are you really a social democrat, Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu?

Is the CHP a political party that is controlled by a cast of retired and active duty generals, retired and active duty ambassadors, retired and active duty professors and retired and active duty high judges who think that they have the right to play with the state behind the curtains? Does the CHP, the Republican People’s Party, secure the participation of ‘the people,’ the ordinary people, in politics?

Who recommended these people to Kılıçdaroğlu? It is impossible to understand what sort of party the CHP has become without tracing the leads related to this question. Can this problem be solved by emphasizing the fact that Kılıçdaroğlu himself became an MP from the CHP, not through political party work but through the behind-the-scenes mechanism of recruiting promising “techno-bureaucrats,” and his ascension to the throne as party chairman took place in the sinister atmosphere of an inner party coup? To a certain extent, yes. Who recommended these people to Kılıçdaroğlu? This question has to be asked concomitantly with the question of “Who, with what sort of yet unrevealed debilitating threats, moved Deniz Baykal totally out of politics overnight?” I am not hinting at all that Kılıçdaroğlu is an accomplice in the political assassination of Baykal. I am almost totally certain that Kılıçdaroğlu is innocent of the political death of Baykal. What I am saying is the following: The lightning-speed removal of Baykal from the equation of parliamentary politics is such an important event that if this removal was the result of behind-the-scenes design of window-dressing politics in Turkey, then a behind-the-scenes reshaping of a new administrative cadre for the CHP with which the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) can be defeated in the coming elections is a logical part of the same “design.” I believe that Baykal was removed from the election equation in Turkey by people who felt a desperate need to stop the AK Party from continuing to govern Turkey through a parliamentary majority.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s background

Kılıçdaroğlu is not a son of one of the “good families” living under the delusion that the republic has been entrusted to their custody by history. He comes from a modest social background. However, the modesty of his social roots, of course, does not rule out the possibility that he, in building his career, relied on the advantages of behind-the-scenes power networks influencing Turkish political cadres and bureaucracy. It appears that Kılıçdaroğlu established and maintained ties with elitist left-wing bureaucratic structures during his service in public office and made advances owing to these ties.

Yavuz Ege is one of those bureaucrats whose career is an extremely fruitful case study for proving the existence of the networks of power relations in the behind-the-scenes realms of politics and public administration in Turkey. My Internet search for Ege’s biography by chance produced interesting clues showing that Kılıçdaroğlu has been very familiar with politically motivated bureaucratic technocrat networks for quite a long time. But let us first take a look at Ege as a case study. I know this case well because I had the opportunity to be acquainted with him when he worked as a part-time lecturer at the department of economics at Ankara University’s faculty of political sciences. His wife, Aylin Hanım, was my student during the early years when I taught in the same department. I also had the pleasure of working with Dr. Aylin Ege at the State Planning Organization (DPT) during my service at the Ministry of Finance. For these contingent reasons I was able to note Yavuz Ege’s remarkable bureaucratic advancements. Governments came and governments went, but Ege remarkably moved from one striking promotion to another, as if he had a different ontological status lifting him above the volatilities of Turkish politics.

Ege is a graduate of the famous Mülkiye, the Faculty of Political Sciences at Ankara University. He did his Ph.D. in economics in the University of Kent. He married Aylin Hanım, who was the daughter of one of the most influential generals in Turkey. Following his earlier work at the DPT, Ege had an astonishing career as a bureaucrat. In the 1990s, four consecutive and different governments appointed him to the top positions in the ranks of the bureaucracy.

In 1993-1996 Ege was made the deputy undersecretary of the DPT by Prime Minister Tansu Çiller of the True Path Party (DYP) and President Süleyman Demirel, the founder and leader of the same party. In 1996, during the coalition government of Prime Minister Necmeddin Erbakan, leader of the Islamist Welfare Party (RP), and Deputy Prime Minister Çiller, he was appointed as a member of the governing board of the new Turkish Competition Authority (RK). In 1997-1999, during the government of Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz’s Motherland Party (ANAP), which was brought to power as a result of the so-called post-modern military coup against Erbakan and the RP, he was made the undersecretary for foreign trade and appointed to the Higher Education Board (YÖK). Demirel, who had a famous track record of being one of the most prominent Freemasons in Turkey and who in the 1990s had excellent relationships with the generals, was president during this period of Ege’s techno-bureaucratic stardom.

Living in a network

Now let us think: Can we explain the appointment of Ege by a succession of different prime ministers and governments of different political orientations to top-level positions requiring expertise in different fields by his almost miraculous competence, exceptional expertise and very rare administrative skills? Or was it the case that Ege was living in a network of very influential behind-the-scenes ties and that these exceptionally influential people saw in this “son-in-law of a good family” a safe custodian of the state, to be placed in crucial positions in the state apparatus? Will anyone step forward and testify that Ege had the exceptional qualifications to serve as DPT deputy undersecretary, as undersecretary of foreign trade, as a governing board member of the RK and as a member of YÖK? I do not think so. If he was not the son-in-law of an influential general, and if influential personalities from the behind-the-scenes power networks had not whispered Ege’s name in the ears of a succession of prime ministers, I do not think that Ege would have had the same shining career.

During my search on Ege’s biography, I came across the National Policy Research Foundation (UPAV), where Ege serves as president. Kılıçdaroğlu serves as one of the founders and board members. From one perspective, there is nothing strange with this. But this would only be the case if this and other similar foundations remain active in their relevant fields in accordance with their founding guidelines and principles. The whole situation changes when we are prompted to note the probability that numerous foundations and so-called civil society associations in countries like Turkey, where there are “in-front-of-the-curtain politics” and “behind-the-scenes politics”, might be functioning politically in ways which transcend their declared fields of operation.

I have reached the age of 69 by sensing and experiencing the presence of a “caste” in my country, the members of which, as individuals and as families, live with the delusion that the task of governing the “ordinary people” through politics and bureaucracy has been assigned to them by God. And I do not like this caste.

Behind the curtains

Is the CHP a political party that is controlled by a cast of retired and active duty generals, retired and active duty ambassadors, retired and active duty professors and retired and active duty high judges who think that they have the right to play with the state behind the curtains? Does the CHP, the Republican People’s Party, secure the participation of “the people,” the ordinary people, in politics? Or is it a party which gets a person like Kılıçdaroğlu to become the party chairman so that he can make sure that a person like Öztrak Jr. is fast tracked to the top as deputy chair of the party, so that the administration of the ordinary people remains in the hands of “the custodians of the state”?

Years ago, I wrote an article where I said that although belonging to the CHP was part of my identity, this is no longer the case. I felt this after a CHP party convention where delegates competing for the control of the party used mobs that attacked each other with broken chairs in the convention hall, creating a vulgar scene of violence. That article attracted a great deal of attention. Indeed, I have not felt like a CHP supporter for a long time. Yet I still want to vote for the CHP because it carries the banner of the tradition of a bid for enlightenment in this country and because it claims to defend my lifestyle and because it seems to be the lesser of two evils. However I am extremely disturbed by Kılıçdaroğlu’s attempt to resurrect the old tradition of politics of “saving the state” through the service of the custodians of the state.

The CHP since the summer of 2010 reminds me of the corridors of the Ottoman harem, where the art of intrigue was perfected. It does not at all look like a social democrat party. How could I cast my vote for the CHP now? My values and my class identity make this almost impossible. I am an ordinary person, the son of a family among ordinary people who has not enjoyed unfair protection given to me because of my family name. I do not like the fast tracking of these imitation techno-bureaucrats, some of whom mimic a non-existing aristocracy. I find it stupid when unfair competition is institutionalized, when a cadre of non-political “sons of good families” are elevated in parliamentary politics in Turkey in the name of social democracy. How can the public or the world swallow this as left-wing politics?

The electorate recognizes those injected from above from by their social smell and tend to reject them. If we are looking for a legitimate case of linkage between technical expertise and political service, it is not Faik Öztrak Jr. but Mehmet Şimşek who indicates the values of justice as fairness. Mehmet Şimşek -- whatever he has earned in his life he obtained as an earned achievement. As there is earned income and unearned income in the world, there is also earned career and unearned career. Mehmet Şimşek earned his success, his move from the bottom to the top. He now has top-level political responsibility as the minister of finance of Turkey, not because of his family name but because of his merits, qualities and efforts. In his journey -- starting as the son of a poor, illiterate peasant -- which brought him to the office of the minister of finance, his success was the result of his making good use of equality of opportunity by hard and honest work. There is not an iota of “unearned success” in the life record of Mehmet Şimşek. Could we say the same for Faik Öztrak Jr.? Turkey does not owe any un-repaid debt to grandfather Öztrak, so there is no need for us to worry about paying him back through granting his grandson unearned political positions.

A long period of uninterrupted power

One of the most important facts to be noted in the writing of the political history of Turkey is that the cadre of bureaucrats brought to top-level positions in government departments and state institutions by the military junta in the aftermath of the 1980 coup remained in power without interruption until the AK Party administration. Turgut Özal was able to become prime minister and president after agreeing to share power with the junta. Demirel, the main target of the 1980 coup, who was banned from politics after the coup, was able to return to power first as the leader of the DYP (1987), and then as prime minister (1991) and president (1993) after agreeing to be a docile power sharer with the military. Turkish political history since 1980 cannot be properly understood, interpreted and written without recognizing that a certain cadre of top-level bureaucrats were instruments of military influence on the state, of sharing of state power in between elected political cadres and the military, up until the AK Party administration. Research on the sources of the resilience of this certain cadre of “trusted” top-level bureaucrats will make a huge contribution to identifying clues leading us to mechanisms and informal institutions linking the political cadres operating in front of the curtain with the invisible networks of power operating behind the curtain.

How will the CHP be able to present itself as a left-wing party seeking liberty and social justice if it sinks into a tradition of control of the visible political processes by the invisible and nepotistic power networks?

[*] This article,originally published on www.yahyatezel.com, was translated into English by the author.

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