History of Turkish Political Life
Bookmark and Share

(AINA) -- Once upon a time there were intellectuals in Turkey who were able to compare the approximation and divergences of European and Turkish democracy experience. But today, most of the intellectuals are assessing the issues as they have forgot the uniqueness of Turkish experience which can not be confused with the experiences of Middle Eastern countries. Turkish political life has a unique characteristic considering the Ottoman heritage and Turkish Revolution in 1923. Did they forget it?

Once upon a time there were intellectuals in Turkey who were able to distinguish republican democracy and liberal democracy and not name the Islamic ideology under the liberal democracy and never forgot the role of Turkish army to safeguard democracy and never hesitated to make clear the difference between military regimes in Turkey and Latin America states. Today's, it is very painful to see the permutation of Turkish intellectuals. They can easily distort the issues and events. For example some of them do not take notice of the reasons and consequences of military intervention in Turkey and in Latin America states. Most of the Turkish intellectuals interpret the issues in Turkish political life consciously in a wrong way, some to be seen on popular TV programs, some to write in newspapers, some to get much more money, some to gain fame either in Turkey or in the world etc.

Being aware of today's Turkish politics requires the knowledge of the past without re-writing the past events and being loyal to historical realities. Now I would like to make you aware of the realities of Turkish political life in consistent with this scientific approach.

In Turkey, three and a half military intervention plus a declaration (April 27,2007) were seen. Now, let's evaluate these military interventions within the events in Turkish political life up to today.

1. Reading Turkish Revolution in 1923 &The Period 1923-1950 in Turkish Political Life:

Turkish modernization can only be started with the establishment of Turkish Republic. It should be mentioned that Ottoman State had partly westernized through the Tanzimat reforms of the 1830s-1870s. Reform had been rolled back by the reactionary and autocratic rule of Sultan Abdülhamit II who tied to keep his multi-ethnic empire together by invoking his own spiritual authority as caliph. The Unionist officers' coup of 1908 reinstated the constitution which was first introduced by the Young Ottomans in 1876. The Unionists successfully suppressed an attempted counter-revolution in 1909, then the Ottoman Empire went into two disastrous wars, the Balkans War in 1912 and then the First World War in 1914-1918.

After the end of WWI, Anatolia was occupied by the Allied powers and the Greeks. During occupation, the Sultan collaborated with the Allied powers. Turkish people in Anatolia rejected this occupation, accepted the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and fought against occupiers and overcame them. Then the sultanate was abolished in 1922, the Republic proclaimed in 1923 and the titular Caliphate abolished in 1924. The overthrow of the last Caliph, which meant that Muhammad's first successor as leader of the Muslims, was followed by decrees to create a modern, unitary, democratic Turkish nation-state.

These decrees realized by Kemalist elite were radical departure from the Ottoman times because until the Republican era, the Ottoman reformist elite perceived Europe in pragmatic terms to get rid of decline, but they never perceived it as a source of civilization. However, the ideas of Enlightenment have shaped the cognitive maps of Kemalist elite. At this point, it is important to mention that there is serious difference between the terms 'reform' and 'revolution'. In a more clear explanation, 'reform' means changes done by Ottoman elite, 'revolution' means fundamental changes done by Kemalist elite.

Just as, people who advocated reform instead of revolution identified themselves as liberal democrat after the year 1923. It is possible to say that these people stood on the right wing in the sense of European experience. On the other hand people who were close to Mustafa Kemal and advocated radical changes identified themselves as republican democrat standing on the left wing. Because radical change entered in Turkish political life as Leftism taking European experiences as a guide. So the main separation in Turkish political life has always been on republican democracy (left wing in European sense) and liberal democracy (right wing in European sense). However Islamic circles have tried to enter in political scene since 1923, as if they were liberal democrats. Because they could not have place in political scene by advocating Islamism, they had to cover their ideology with democracy to be alive. In fact Islamism did not comply with democracy.

Today several intellectuals all over the world make a great mistake by seeing moderate Islamists less dangerous than mainstream Islamists for the consolidation of democracy in the context of Turkish experience. Moderate Islamism may be 'good of bad' for Arabic countries considering the radicalism of mainstream Islamists. But "moderate Islamism' does not fit in Turkish state which has experienced a revolution in 1923 like French Revolution. Mainstream Islamists and Moderate Islamists have in common with a specific political agenda based on Islam as the foundational source of the socio-political principles in Turkey. It is impossible to advocate individualism and to see Muslim is always part of an umma at the same time. It is impossible to reconcile the Western political values with Islamism. In this context, Moderate Islamism is Islamism, aiming to hide its threat by presenting it as a softer form of Islamism. Today the interests of American politics may require a moderate Islamist regime in Turkey to act comfortably in the Middle East region, but this requirement has to change. This faulty foresight of American foreign policy will result in a great wave of blood. Why?

Because when Turkish political life is elaborated under a scientific perspective, it is seen that republican democrats or Kemalists have always described liberal democrats as counter-revolutionist although they are truly not. In this respect, if there is a pressure from outside of borders on Turkey, Turkish democrats whether liberal or republican will unite and combat against moderate Islamists. This will bring new crises in the Middle East and this will affect the close regions to Middle East and the whole world in chain. In fact this may result in the change in balance of powers international system. For this reason American or European or Asian, Euro-Asian politicians should read the happenings in Turkey very carefully within a historical perspective. If Turkish political life is elaborated by excluding the fact that imported terms from European experience have harmonized with the characteristics of practices in Turkish political scene, all the calculations made on Turkey's future will abort.

In the following years of late 1940s Turkish political life, liberal democrats would identify themselves as Ataturkist and the republican democrats as Kemalist. After the adoption of Code on Surname in the year 1934; Mustafa Kemal took 'Ataturk' as surname. Liberal democrats and republican democrats would prefer different identification on the founder father's name to differ themselves from each other. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk offered six principles to create a modern, unitary, laic, democratic nation-state. These were republicanism, nationalism, populism, laicism, statism (meant the collaboration of state enterprises and private enterprises. However strategic enterprises such as in communication, transportation, energy sectors etc. must be always held by the state and never be sold to either local or foreign entrepreneurs), revolutionism. These principles has determined the main approach of Turkish Republic towards political, social and economic issues. It is necessary to underline that Mustafe Kemal has never defined the principles and he refrained from making definitions of them because he thought that the definitions would freeze these principles. He pointed out these principles as a guide to solve the problems. He left these principles as efficient instruments whose essence could not be transformed but practices would be changed according to changing world and nation conditions.

The republican democrats supported the firm application of all principles, because they thought that this was the only way to catch the contemporary level of civilization. Just as, the gains of French citizens in the year 1789 were given to Turkish citizens in the year 1923 by Turkish Revolution. So republican democrats believed in necessity to be quick and not giving any concessions to the masses. On the other hand, liberal democrats advocated the loose application of laicism. They supposed that the villagers were not ready to remove Islamism with all its symbols, instead of a radical change there should be a step by step change and instead of statism they were fond of liberal economy. According to liberal democrats no need to be quick and no need to firm application of Revolution decrees. It is also necessary to mention that liberal democrats in Turkey have never advocated a liberal social and political life, their 'liberal' feature has come from their demands for a liberal economy instead of statism and loose application of laicism.

Between the years 1923-1950, the republican democrats were in power. This period has always been characterized as an authoritarian rule by liberal democrats. But this was not true. However liberal democrats advocated that with widespread-firm-quick application of Revolution decrees would result in counterrevolution. Then liberal democrats would find common interests with counterrevolutionary groups in a few years. This has formed the turning point of polarization between liberal democrats and republican democrats. From now on republican democrats have always got suspicion about the liberal democrats of condoning counterrevolutionary groups. In fact in some sense, especially the multi-party regime experiments after 1923 formed the evidence of this suspicion. However, in some sense this suspicion may be found exaggerated in comparison with today's Islamism threat. But history orders us that every event must be elaborated considering its own time and its own conditions.

Kemalist elite wanted transition to multi-party regime in the early years of the Republic and they realized their wishes, but the consequences of these experiences were the emergence of Islamism in the name of liberal democracy. The experiences to develop a multi-party politics between the years 1923-1946, establishment of Terakkiperper Cumhuriyet Firkasi in 1924 and Serbest Cumhuriyet Firkasi in 1930 showed that Islamists have been waiting for a chance to pull down modern, democratic, laic, unitary Turkish Republic. So Kemalist elite has waited for the year 1946 for transition to multi-party politics. The overall result was that Islamists did not welcome Turkish modernization and had always found place under the umbrella of liberal democrats and liberal democrats preferred to collaborate with Islamic circles. The multi-party regime experiences in the early years of Republic did not resulted in success and waited for a proper time for the transition. It is possible to say that in the years following the year 1950, liberal democrats have always preferred to take the votes of Islamic circles.

Kemalism is not an authoritarian ideology. It always aims to safeguard the gains of Turkish Revolution in the years 1923-1950. It is not against an affirmative change, it is against change through any state formation other than laic, democratic, modern, unitary nation-state. This ideology advocates that modernization process has not finished, this process should be concluded and then the number of cultured citizens would increase, and then there should be a real democracy. According to this ideology, if the citizens are not well-educated, are not aware of the realities of the country and the world, these people could not choose the correct party to govern themselves. This may sound a little bit elitism. But Kemalism was not an elitist ideology, the liberal democrats have tried to present it as elitism in the eyes of the voters and foreigners because of ancient rivalry.

From the respect of most of the voters; any party which would not touch conservative way of life and not aim to transform them has always awarded by votes. These votes have gone mostly to liberal democrats. Because modernization process has not concluded and as a consequence of this deficiency, most of the voters were ignorant and they have been easily cheated. They believed in liberal democrats. On the other hand, from the respect of most of the foreigners; any party which would work for their interests has always been supported. Most of the politicians of Western states have never been so naive to believe in liberal democrats but realist world politics required to collaborate with liberal democrats in Turkey. So, the support of foreign circles to the liberal democrats was understandable if the past events in the world after the 1950s, especially the polarization on two axes in international system etc., were considered.

What is Kemalism or republican democracy? Kemalist ideology with Enlightenment ideals is a modernization theory. The fundamental principles of Kemalism form Turkish official identity. According to Kemalist ideology the Grand National Assembly must occupy a dominant position. This is essential to guarantee the sovereignty of Turkish people or in other words make Turkish people the real and the sole source of authority to determine national policies. Kemalism limits the role of Turkish Armed Forces in the frame of national defense. However, Kemalist ideology loads all citizens and institutions including Turkish Armed Forces with liability to protect Turkish democracy.

Kemalist ideology banned all the possible pressures for exerting influence on the parliament in the years 1923-1946, because it advocates that the primary institution of a democratic regime is the parliament. But after the transition to multi-party regime in 1946, the executive branch in Turkey gained more power against the legislative, and the dominant position of the legislative branch turned into a romantic dream in state governing. However, the Kemalist elite in power under the Republican People's Party was aimed to keep alive this romanticism. Kemalist elite thought that the following governments would keep alive this romanticism, because democracy in Turkish political life has improved. This was a very innocent hope. Because liberal democrats would choose to deteriorate the national sovereignty to seizure votes of the masses open to influence and provocation.

2. Reading 1950s in Turkish Political Life:

In 1950, Democrat Party (liberal democrats) won the general elections and RPP (republican democrats) found itself in the opposition. DP in power began to give concessions to Islamic groups such as permitting religious education in secondary schools and giving official recognition to the imam-hatip schools; Sufi orders and organizations such as Naqshibandi tarikat, the Nurcus, the Süleymancis began to play a political role in Turkish political life after 27 years (1923-1950). DP government damaged the laicism which is the essence of Turkish democracy, provoked the fascist circles using Cyprus Dispute in foreign affairs and damaged the nationalism, pursued the absolute ruling by deceiving large number of uneducated villagers and damaged to republicanism, made Turkish economy got into serious debt and transformed the independent Turkish economy to a loan dependent economy, interpreted the populism principle of Kemalism in an irrational way as the dictatorship of masses of ignorant people and excluding the cultured people from the economic and political sphere and presented the choices of the majority of ignorant villagers as democratic choice. DP politicians did not only harmful to liberal democracy itself but also to republican democracy, what follows Turkish democracy. Today's liberal democrats giving concessions to Islamic circles brought this heritage from DP government experience.

Turkish Armed Forces waited until the year 1960, in other words until the intellectuals called the army to safeguard Kemalist principles. In the years 1923-1960, Turkish Armed Forces did not intervene in political life. However in the year 1960, republican democrat Turkish people wanted the help of Turkish Army to remove authoritarian DP government who saw itself the only the speaker of the masses. The republican democrats most of whom had educated in Western countries knew that 'liberal democracy advocated by DP politicians was not the real liberal democracy, it was dilution of liberal democracy'. It should be emphasized that masses did not vote for DP to see a liberal democrat party in power, in fact they did not know what liberal democracy was. The only interests of the masses were to sustain their conservative lives. In the year 1961, the army left behind the most democratic constitution of Turkish political life which allowed the rise of new views in the left and right wings. But the republican democrats preparing the constitution dated 1961 could not count the possible misuse of large freedoms and rights. Turkish democracy was not so strong to combat with possible extremist movements whether from the left or right side.

In this context, the military intervene on 27 May 1960 can not be named as an army coup, it can only be named as an intervention by the Turkish Armed Forces which had received order from Turkish nation led by republican democrat Turkish intellectuals to safeguard Kemalism and to pull the regime straight to democracy. Because DP politicians collaborated with Islamic circles who were against democracy and saw the liberal democrats as means to enter in political scene. The army could not be silent to presentation of Islamism in the liberal democrat tray to the ignorant masses. The army fulfilled its liability to protect Turkish democracy. The only aim of Turkish army in the year 1960 was to secure the continuity of Turkish modernization which had interrupted by Democrat Party government in the years 1950-1960.

Turkish Armed Forces under the command of Turkish nation had always been sensitive not to intervene in political life. However, totalitarian movements such as reactionary and separationist circles have always been found as threats to Turkish democracy according to Kemalist ideology. Because Turkish democracy has never recognized rights and freedoms to the movements aiming to annihilate democracy by using democratic rights and freedoms. So Turkish army which has sided with republican democracy intervened in political life in the year 1960 to protect Turkish democracy.

Turkish army is the guarantee of the consolidation of Turkish democracy even today. This may sound strange to the Europeans. Because in the European experience; liberty, social justice and equality were achieved by the proliferation of the middle class and industrialization and as a result, these political and economic transformations led to the creation of modern national identities. However most of these prerequisites did not exist in Turkey in the foundational period of the Republic. There was no strong business class to establish modern economic system, no urban working class to advocate social justice. All the radical changes were executed by the initiative of Kemalist elite. Kemalist elite was from Turkish Army in the foundational period of Republic and for this reason Turkish Army has always believed in highness of modernization. For this reason, the intellectuals who saw the importance of removal of authoritarian DP government for the sake of Turkish democracy wanted the help of Turkish army in 1960.

3. Reading 1960s in Turkish Political Life:

The army left behind a democratic constitution that would allow the rise of extremist movements with the possible abuse of fundamental rights and freedoms. In 1965 general elections The Justice Party (JP), liberal democrats became successful. In the 1960s, by using freedoms and rights rooted from Constitution dated 1961, Turkish Marxist intellectuals led the poor crowds who had immigrated from the villages to the cities with the false actions of DP government and carried these people to the political sphere. These poor people who were living the shanty town of the big cities still have lived as if they were in villages or/and rural areas. Legal and illegal left-wing parties and organizations manipulated these large crowds and supported different kinds of Marxisms such as Maoism, Leninism, Stalinsm etc. and used these large crowds for their political aims of turning down democracy and setting up Marxist dictatorship. It is possible to say Turkish Marxist intellectuals were affected by the great wave of 1968 generations all over the world and they could not count the realities of Turkish political, economic and social formation. Some Marxist groups were taking financial support from Chine, some from Soviet Union.

However, Republican People's Party (RPP) stayed in the center-left advocating republican democracy while Marxist wave has been increasing in the country. The politicians in RPP warned the extremist leftist people to safeguard the democracy. However all kinds of Marxists would wait for a chance to remove democracy. No Marxist has listened what republican democrats said, they did not take serious the views of Kemalists; beside this the Marxists have accused the republican democrats or Kemalists of not being real leftist. Republican democrats faced with wiping away from the political scene with the powerful pressure of Marxists.

On the other hand, The Justice Party (JP) government in the center-right has begun to make concessions to Islam since the late of 1960s just as Democrat Party had done in the years 1950-1960. The Justice Party pointed out extreme-leftists groups as a threat to the democracy, but on the other hand they collaborated with the Islamism which was also a threat for the democracy. From the late 1960s, a perceived Communist threat became a motivation for state support to Sunni Islam. National Order Party emerged with the language of Islamism, because Islamists would like to get control over Islamist votes and planned to detach their way from the liberal democrats. National Order Party with an Islamic program was competing with The Justice Party to get the votes of Islamic circles. Islamism was increasingly seen as a counter-weight to left-wing parties by the conservatives who could not see the possible threat of Islamism.

4.Reading 1970s In Turkish Political Life:

In 1971, second military intervention was seen in Turkish political life. This second intervention was a coup, because in Turkish political life, 'if the consequences of a military intervention is positive in other words serve to consolidate democracy; it is called intervention; on the contrary it is called coup.' In this context, naming 1971 military intervention as a coup is a correct determination. Because the coup's aim was not to safeguard democracy just as in the first military intervention in 1960. The aim was to stop the extreme leftist movements who were taking financial support from the Communist bloc.

Although the army said that their aim was to constitute a balance between right and left wing parties by banning extremist bias, this result could not be achieved. Because the army was not pleased to see the rise of Anti-Americanism under the Marxist ideology. As it is known, Turkey was the strategic ally of USA and gave importance to its membership in NATO which was the guarantee of protection of its borders against Soviet Union. In this conjuncture, the coup in 1971 has made not for internal politics but for external politics. So, the army was in paradox whether to protect borders and as a result of this aim suppressing the whole left (both center-left and extreme left) and to contribute the consolidation of Turkish democracy. In fact army thought that the main enemy was Marxism and it would be possible to combat with extreme-right in the future.

National Order Party was closed in 1971, however Turkish Armed Forces thought that a little bit empowerment in the conservative wing (liberal democrats) would create a proper space to combat with communism. After the coup, another Islamic party, National Salvation Party was established. The army was sure that the republican democratic wing was so strong that it did not need army's support. Beside this, army thought that until the threat from the extremist left was solved, the solution of the extremist right could be suspended. The army's view was a short-term solution. This attitude would produce new problems in Turkish political life in the long term.

The republican democrats except the general elections in 1977, have never got the majority vote in Turkish political life. The economic decline of the 1970s fuelled violent extremism of both the left and the right. Just as, in 1970s Republican People's Party experienced a paradox whether to prepare a program implying a little bit Marxist views or to be wiped out from the political scene. In the late 1970s RPP presented a program which was a hybrid of Marxism and Kemalism to get the votes of the extreme left. So the comprehension of republican democracy has been diluted by Marxist ideology. But this program has got its so-called legitimacy from being loyal to essence of Kemalist principles; the change was interpreted as change in practices of Kemalist principles. Maxism has damaged to Kemalism. However the only election victory of republican democrats after 1950 was in 1977 by getting the votes of extreme leftists.

On the other hand, the Justice Party has tried the get the votes of the extreme-right, both from Islamic circles and extreme nationalists or fascists who were from Turkish-Islamic movement in the 1970s. In fact, fascists were represented by Republican Villager People's Party between the years 1965-1969; in 1969 Republican Villager People's Party changed its name and took the name 'National Action Party'.

The 1979 Iranian revolution raised the stakes of Islamism. Beside this, the restructuring of capitalism beginning in the late 1970s has required the transformation in the economic field of developing countries. Neo-liberalism has been presented as a cure for a high standard of living. This was not correct. Because lower classes would be affected disastrously with the collapse of comprehension of social welfare state. No any political party from the left or right wing could dare to advocate a neo-liberal economic policy, the consequences of this policy would be the loss of support of voters. Who would realize this transformation? Who would declare the death of social welfare state? There was just one way to apply such an economic policy: an authoritarian regime. Neo-liberal economic policy would be harmonized by liberal democrat parties, but what would the republican democrats do? In this climate the army seized power for the third time in 1980, all parties were closed.

5. Reading 1980s in Turkish Political Life:

Under the tight control of political, social and economic fields and under an environment in which all fundamental freedoms and rights were suspended by military government; neo-liberal transformation in economy could be achieved and Turkey was able to service to the capitalist economic system. For such a great transformation and to leave social-welfare state behind have required silence of citizens. The army thought that pumping conservatism by usage of Islam would work to make people silent. So the military government did not roll back the gains made for Islam before 1980. Rather, it reinforced them, by introducing mandatory religious education in schools, began to promote Turkish-Islamist synthesis in order to counter extreme leftism and Kurdish nationalism.

Neo-liberal economic policies were pumping the ethnic nationalism, beside this the hard measures taken by Turkish Armed Forces in the country have born a new problem: Kurdish separationism. Since 1980s Turkish political life had to face with two problems: reactionary and separationist movements. In the 1980s both Islamists and extreme Turkish nationalists were recruited into the bureaucracy to confront Kurdish separationism. But this could not be the solution. The only solution was to consolidate democracy. But both liberal democrats and republican democrats were in shock.

The coup 1980 which was realized for external demands in economy was against both the liberal democrats and republican democrats, in other words against both, the center- left and the center-right. It is possible to say that the consequences of both the coup 1971 and the coup 1980 had several similar common points: causing an increase in conservatism, increasing rate of usage of Islamic symbols in public sphere, giving damage to Turkish democracy, imprisonment etc. However the damage given in 1980 was very deep in comparison with the one in 1971. As it is remembered, the military intervention in the year 1960 has brought gains to Turkish democracy. But the the other two coups have given great damage to the democracy.

After the third military intervention, Motherland Party which was established in 1983 with an ambitious program of economic liberalization and so-called political liberalization took the votes of most of the citizens whether they were Marxist, liberal democrat, republican democrat, Islamist etc. Turkish people had to accept the liquidation of social welfare state. The separation in the political scene which was based on two wings, liberal democracy advocates and republican democracy advocates, has left in the past (1923-1980).

1983 general elections were not opaque, Islamists did not vote for Islamist Welfare Party which was established in the shadow of Motherland Party in 1983. Welfare Party did not become successful. Most of Islamists preferred to support Motherland Party to gain economic power and postponed their political aims. On the other hand extreme left was in shock of the coup 1980. Social Democrat Party was established in 1983 to get the votes of republican democrats but it could not be successful. In 1985 Social Democrat Party united with People's Party and took the name 'Social Democrat People's Party'. Kurdish separationism was working just like a terror machine in rural areas and the representatives of the terrorists were searching for a place in political scene. They found seats in Social Democrat People's Party by wearing a social democrat mask. Republican democrats were not pleased of these happenings.

In the years 1980s many things have changed. Ex-Marxists turned to advocate neo-liberal policies and identified themselves as liberal left. Liberal democracy has divided into several sub-groups, some identified themselves liberal conservative, some liberal right, some only liberal, some conservative, some liberal nationalist, some conservative nationalist etc. In fact these groups could not remove the shock of the coup 1980 and were trying to interpret the new ideology: neo-liberalism. The same shock could be observed in the republican democrat circles. They felt the shock much more deeply. Some republican democrats have tried to rename themselves as social-democrats. Some of the republican democrats have rejected it because republican democracy could not comply with Kurdish separationism and social democracy was affirming the demands of separationism. They divided into several sub-groups, some identified themselves as democratic left, some republican, some laic, some left, some national left, some Kemalist, some left Kemalist. The interpretation of neo-liberalism was very hard for the republican democrats.

All these divisions both in the center-right and center-left were irrational and were not matter of course. Turkish citizens were surprised with these divisions and have never been sure to vote for the right party after the year 1983. But they have gone to vote to impede the possible return of military administration. Most of Turkish people have experienced great pains under 1980 coup regime. Beside this, the internal politics have begun to work in a different way in the 1980s. The external politics have begun the main factor for the determination of the internal politics. Turkish citizens have felt themselves without protection. The definition of 1980s process was 'change'. But Turkish people could estimate that not all changes resulted in accordance with their interests. Neo-liberal scenario has been presented on a golden tray to the developing states by means of 'new /neo' promises.

According to this new scenario, the economic activity area of the state should be narrowed by the means such as privatization, auctioning, providing privilages..etc. The significant points for the new scenario were determined as effectiveness, efficiency, structural adjustment etc. In fact these would result in new kind of dependency of developing countries on the developed countries. In other words, the reflection of the neo-liberal policies showed itself by the name of globalization. Globalization was a new type of imperialism. It has advocated that there has been only one democracy: liberal democracy. Beside this, liberal democracy could only be achieved by this new kind of dependency, globalization.

In the late 1980s, free capital flow has been presented as the only solution for removing the economic problems of the developing countries. Developing countries were in the demand of capital, but the capacity of world trade started to decrease and as a result of this, the share of developing countries in the world decreased. Then these countries began to take loans. The debt of these countries was started to increase sharply so they became dependent on the imports. Then most of the developing countries turned into credit dependent countries. They were obliged to carry out the requirements of the neo-liberal policies in order to get more credits. Then IMF and World Bank prepared the receipts of stabilization programs for the developing countries. Then foreign entrepreneurship has been started to be presented as a solution for the debt crises by the IMF and World Bank. As a result of the application of this solution, the developing countries like Turkey, lost the control of the capital and the power to direct the investments. The developing countries were turned into consumption societies. By the end of 1980s, the cheap labor and the resources of raw materials could not rescue Turkey. Because flexible production model required qualitative labour, and this, post-Fordist production model, resulted in povertization of developing countries. Turkey has been dragged to the povertization by neo-liberal policies. Lower classes have become poorer and middle class has faced to disappear.

The political scene in the 1980s was so mixed that it could not be evaluated according to terms of traditional Turkish democracy. Neo-liberal economic policies have created proper condition in social and political life for the totalitarian movements. As a result of neo-liberal policies in Turkey, the only winners were the reactionary (Islamism) and separationist (ethnic Kurdish) movements. These two totalitarian movements have constituted serious threats against democracy, today Turkey still deals with these two problems.

By the 1987 general elections, Islamist voters began to move to Welfare Party. However the winner of these elections was Motherland Party with a decreasing vote rate in comparison with the elections held in 1983. By the mid 1990s, Welfare Party was running as a political machine. Welfare Party took a traditional mass-based grassroots approach with a door-to-door presence in every neighborhood. This traditional constituency was joined by a new class of Islamist professionals and by recently urbanized poor. Islamism began to take the place of Marxism in the late 1970s.

The rural population with the strong Muslim identity that migrated to the cities in the 1960s and the 1970s had grown-up and educated. Islamically oriented professionals in engineering or economics had benefited from the neo-liberal economy in the 1980s and ties with oil-rich Arab counties. Islamist so-called intellectuals emerged as a force in their own right, thanks to the governments after 1960s in granting imam-hatip graduates access to the universities. In 1995 general elections, Welfare Party managed to unite these people, in other words, the Islamist bourgeoisie, poor urban youth whom identified itself with Turkish-Islam identity and Islamist intelligentsia. This was the dissolution of the center of Turkish politics. In fact, all over the world the process was called as 'end of history, end of ideology, end of…' However less people have asked the question: 'Is neo-liberalism or neo-conservatism not an ideology?' In Turkey voices of people asking such questions were cut.

The right wing governments after 1950s are responsible for the rise of Islamism by giving concessions to the Islamists in order to get their votes. Given these concessions and external funding by Iran and Saudia Arabia, the number of Islamists have increased. Especially young poor people have been attracted by scholarship, accommodation and other forms of rewards by Islamist circles. The Green Belt strategy of the USA to counter the spread of socialism has also fed the Islamist formations. All these happenings were the signs of coming threat towards democracy but liberal democrats could not read the situtation correctly and they themselves caused the dissolution of the center of Turkish politics.

6. Reading 1990s in Turkish Political Life

By the 1991 general elections, the majority votes have gone to True Path Party. Until next general elections the governing party was True Path Party with a neo-liberal program. True Path Part was representing Democrat Party tradition in 1950s and Justice Party tradition in 1960s and 1970s.

By 1995 general elections, Turkey faced with coalition governments. Welfare Party entered a coalition with True Path Party in 1996 and for the first time Islamists got in power. Welfare Party had extreme Islamist vision such as planning to increase mosque-building, removing nude sculptures from public places, banning modern plays or concerts, attempt to establish Islamic common market etc. On 28 February 1997, army applied pressure on Islamist government to make the Welfare Party step back from Islamist dreams.

On February 28, army's interference was a semi-intervention. This intervention brought positive results especially considering educational reform. Compulsory education in primary school has been increased from five years to eight years. The reason and consequences of this intervention was to consolidate democracy. In this context, parallelism can be determined in both the military intervention in 1960 and 1997. Most of the universities and public institutions were rescued from the dominance of Islamists. The effect of Islamist media has reduced. The properties of several Islamist holding companies were investigated and unlawful actions were punished. Koran courses in rural areas were closed. Welfare Party had to leave the government (June 1997), because laic worries were highly increased.

Turkey has faced serious political crises, however, both liberal democrat party, The True Path Party and Motherland Party refused to unite. On the other hand, the republican democrats have re-established Republican People's Party in 1992, nine years after the closure in 1981. In 1995, Social Democrat People's Party united with Republican People's Party under the name 'RPP'. The RPP could not formulate Kemalism according to new conjuncture. In new conjuncture, they preferred to import foreign programs of European social democrat parties instead of re-structuring Kemalism.

In the year 1998, Welfare Party was closed by the order of Constitutional Court. Islamists then established Virtue Party, this party had also extreme Islamist vision especially considering the demand for the usage of Islamic symbols such as turban in public spheres. Turkish women in rural areas cover their heads with headscarves traditionally, headscarf is not an Islamic symbol; on the other hand "turban" is an Islamic symbol. In 1999 general elections, for the first time republican democrats found themselves outside the parliament. However Democratic Left Party which was established in 1985and was from the center-left advocating Kemalism and National Action Party which was re-established in 1992 and was from the center-right and leaving its fascist heritage behind coup 1980 got the majority of votes. Turkey faced a coalition government once again.

7. Reading 2000s in Turkish Political Life:

Virtue Party was dissolved in June 2001 by the Constitutional Court because of advocating Islamism and misuse democratic rights and freedoms. After Virtue Party was closed, Virtue Party bore two new Islamist party, one is Felicity Party which was established in July 2001 and the other one is Justice and Development Party which was established in August 2001. In 2002 general elections, Justice and Development Party became the governing party with its hidden Islamist program. However Justice and Development Party presented itself as 'conservative democrat'. "Conservative democrat" was an fictitious term to hide Islamist views. After 2002 general elections, the opposition party in the parliament was Republican People's Party which accomplished to push out the Kurdish separationists under the mask of social democrat from the party and take Kemalism as a unique guide considering the new conjunture in political, social and economic spheres. RPP was successful to make synthesis program including loyalty to the principles of Kemalism and the developments in the world in the early 2000s. It could prepare a genuine program.

After the general elections 2002, Turkish parliament faced an unjust rivalry between Islamist fighters and democracy fighters. In fact Republican People's Party has been giving struggle non only on behalf of republican democrats, but also on belalf of liberal democrats. The last general elections was a turning point for liberal democracy in Turkey. Beacuse for the first time liberal democracy, 'True Path Party+Motherland Party+National Action Party' did not have any representative in the parliament immediately afterwards the elections.

Justice and Development Party has made no program commitments pointing to theocratic vision beacuse of constitutional restrictions, but if the speeches of the party's leader and the members are listened carefully, it is seen that this party forms a threat for Turkish democracy. After 2002 general elections in Turkey, liberal intellectuals thought that being in power would moderate the Islamist politicians in this party into democrats, so democratization would continue and Islamist politicians who are in holding office with the intention to transform Turkey would be transformed and would break off from their Islamist roots. However republican democrats in different parties warned liberals and whole Turkish citizens not to be deceived. Government's performances have proved the justness of republican democrats.

Islamic terms are useful in political rhetoric precisely because of their fluid meaning in Turkish political life, allowing politicians to seem to promise all things to all people and thus unite otherwise contradictory social interests in particular class interests. This has given Justice and Development Party a special potential realised most fully in the 1979 revolution in Iran. In addition to this, 99% of Turkish population is Muslim, so citizens were used to treat Islamic terms as political slogan and ignorant masses were not aware of the danger coming. Most of the people who have always been the voters of liberal democracy voted for Justice and Development Party which was successful to hide its true intentions. Justice and Development Party was able to steal the votes of liberal democrat parties.

The success of Justice and Development Party should be evaluated considering the international happenings. The rejection of previous coalition government to ally with USA to invade Iraq was an important reason of the success of Islamist party. Economic crisis have planned and realized to drop the coalition government by international financial circles in the early 2000s. Just as, the reality that before 2002 general elections the politicians of Justice and Development Party had promised to cooperate with USA in invasion of Iraq and give concessions for the establishment of Kurdish state in the Middle East and damage the unitary structure of Iraq, became clear. Collaboration with foreign financial groups has brought success to Islamist part in the last general elections. The money flowing from the tarikats, Islamist holding companies and international finance institutions to Justice and Development Party made it governing party.

In the evaluation of 2002 general elections, it is very important to give some information about Youth Party led by Uzan. YP has reached a considerable percentage of votes in an extraordinarily short time period (established on 12.07.2002 and entered into general elections on 3.11.2002) getting the 7.25 % of the votes. It has become the fifth party coming after Justice and Development Party, Republican People's Party, True Path Party and National Action Party respectively. The rapid rise of this party in three month period was very interesting and deserved to be evaluated considering the changes of Turkish political life in the late 1990s.

The party was established on the date July 12, 2002 which was just three months before the 2002 general elections. The founder of the party was Cem Uzan the most powerful and rich businessman. He was the boss of Uzan Group under which eight company groups were operating. These company groups were comprised of Telecommunicatin Group (Telsim, Unitel, Kartel and Artel etc.), Internet and Interactive Group (Rumeli Yazilim and Star Dijital etc.), Media Group (Star Televizyon Hizmetleri, Kral TV and Ulusal Basin Gazetecilik etc.), Energy Group (ÇEAS, Kepez etc.), Cement Group (ten cement factories that were dispersed into different regions), Finance Group (Imar Bankasi, Adabank, Rumeli Sigorta etc.), Construction Group, Iron and Steel Group (METAS, DEMAS etc.), Sports Group (two middle-ranking Super League clubs Adanaspor and Istanbulspor) and an aviation company named Rumeli Havacilik. Today all the companies of Uzan Group are under the state control. After the 2002 general elections, the government (governing party is Justice and Development Party led by prime minister Mr. Recep Tayip Erdoğan) took over all the properties of this group one by one.

YP in Turkish political life appears to be very carefully planned and professionally held enterprise of businessman Cem Uzan. The party has baked by the considerable media power. According to party program, YP has been built upon the idea that 'the most important thing is the happiness of individuals and society'. When considered from a broad perspective, it is possible to name program as a declaration of absolute opportunism. Rather surprisingly, in the party program, one can find almost no trace of the ideas that Uzan states in his speeches in the meetings with respect to the aggressiveness and radicalism.

The party attributes itself a kind of 'supra-ideological' position but it is a right wing party of the neo-liberal center. It is a person-party that goes far beyond the usual leader party. YT equals to Cem Uzan. The effective use of media power in a professional and pragmatic way, carefully designed speeches, resemblance more to a product of advertisement or marketing strategy than of a political perspective are methods of this party to reach large number of people. Uzan gives a good example of extreme right populism in Turkish political life. YP's propaganda ranging from the pop-concerts before the meetings to the broadcasting of advertisements are the products of the new way of making politics that can be called as 'performance politics'. YP acts like a company not a political party, it always calculates the costs and benefits and reaches the conclusion on what to defend. The success of this party in the last elections shows how painful days have passed during the transformation of Turkish political life in the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s.The general elections that will be held on July 22, 2007 will not bring success to Youth Party.

8. Reading Coming General Elections on July 22, 2007

Totalitarian movements such as reactionary and separationist circles have always been found as threats to Turkish democracy. Because Turkish democracy in Turkey has never recognized rights and freedoms to the movements aiming to annihilate democracy by using democratic rights and freedoms. So Turkish army which sides with republican democracy has intervened in political life in the year 1997 with Memorandum February 28 to protect Turkish democracy just as in the year 1960. It is very important to evaluate all the coups in Turkey in a rational way. 'Naming all the coups as threat to democracy' is a dogmatic claim for Turkish democracy. To name whether the military intervention is for or against democracy, the consequences of the military intervention should be evaluated.

According to state tradition which was institutionalized with Turkey's most democratic constitution, Constitution dated 1961 and kept alive by new generations up to 2000s although there have been several changes for the last 50 years. Before explaining this tradition, it should be emphasized that; this tradition has always been damaged by Marxists, liberal democrats and Islamists. However republican democrats have always given struggle to protect this tradition to consolidate democracy.

According to this state tradition; if an authoritarian government gets in power, there are three ways to remove this government. These ways are social, legal and political ways. These three ways can be worked simultaneously, however tradition has formed in a context of step by step application. First of all, the intellectuals, the universities and members of judiciary, the newspapers, columnists and the ordinary citizens warn the government. If this social way does not work, it is passed to second way: the legal one. The constitutional court is responsible to secure the state's tradition and takes legal decisions against authoritarian government. If this second way does not work and the government insists on authoritarian regime, the opposition or the citizens offer to make general elections. If the authoritarian government is not willing to go general elections, then the citizens use their right to revolt against authoritarian government. This revolt can be realized by the support of Turkish Armed Forces because the ordinary citizens are unweaponed and need weapons to pull down the government.

In May 2007 during the presidency election manipulated by Islamist government has awakened Turkish people. Turkish people, universities, newspapers, independent columnists high judiciary operated the social way; Islamist government declared that it would not take these demands into consideration, however pumped dominant media groups to regain legitimacy. Then Turkish Armed Forces warned the government, Islamist government did not care the warnings. Turkish people were in meetings protesting government. Then constitutional court mechanism was operated. Islamist government critized high court's decision. People on the streets have been calling Islamist government to go general elections. Islamist government resisted all these demand and warnings as it could. In the end Turkish people warned government to revolt if the election date would not decided. Islamist government accapted to go elections. However it decided on a date which would be as late as possible: 22 July. Islamist government once again violated constitution. But Turkish people and politicians from center-left and center-right were content to any definite election date.

With the effect of the Islamist government's attitudes during the presidency election, Turkish politicians and most of the citizens woke up from a long sleep of the coup 1980. The citizens have worked for the unification of the liberal democrats (in the sense of right-wing) and republican democrats (in the sense of left-wing). So the main two rivalry would be constituted in the political scene. Justice and Development Party politicians knew that deposit votes had come to them will go to their real owners: Liberal democrats.

Turkish citizens today have gained awareness to exclude all totalitarian movements which are not comply with democracy from the political scene although dominant media under the control of Islamist government. There is still large number of ignorant people, but there is a common sense of Turkish citizens because of the bad experience of the last few years.

To sum up, what will be the attitudes of the voters in coming elections?

Possible results of the elections on the date July 22, 2007;

  • If citizens would like to see a liberal democrat government, they will give their votes to National Action Party (left extreme nationalism in the past) or to Democrat Party (forms with the unification of True Path Party and Motherland Party).
  • If citizens would like to see a republican democrat government, they will give their votes to Republican People's Party (Democratic Left Party supports RPP which has Kemalist program).
  • If citizens would not like to see a democratic regime, they will give their votes to Justice and Development Party (has Islamist program, but with a pragmatic approach the party is planning to be give a liberal democrat image by so-called laic sample candidates for the parliament.) However here a serious question is born: Is it acceptable to remove democracy in Turkey by using democracy? The other questions can be produced for the strategy of this Islamist movement: How Islamist politicians will explain the close messages given by Greek Cypriots & Armenian Diaspora & Kurdish leaders in Iraq for the re-election of them to Turkish citizens either stand on center-right or center-left? How Islamist politicians will explain high unemployment rate, concessions given in Northern Iraq, Northern Cyprus, natural gas pipelines, debts, decrease in investments, privatizations, etc? Will be the money coming abroad sufficient to win general elections once again?
  • If citizens especially in the south eastern region of the country would like to see the division of Turkey instead of unitary Turkey, they will give their votes to parties or so-called independent candidates who advocate Kurdish separationism. However here again a serious question is born: Is it acceptable to divide Turkey by using democracy?

The democrats whether they are republican or liberal will not permit the removal of democracy and the division of Turkey. The meetings in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Çanakkale, Manisa, Samsun and all over the country have showed that democrats are very strong. Beside this in all meetings messages were given not only corresponding political sphere, but also economic ansd social sphere. Barely, both international media groups broadcasting all over the world and dominant media groups under control of Islamist government have announced meetings as 'meetings to protect laicism'. In meetings, economic messages centrally independence of Turkish economy, justice in income distribution, necessary to combat with unemployment have given. In meetings, privatization of education and health sector has been criticized. The sale of strategic enterprises to foreigners were rejected.

Some so-called liberals from the right and left wing say that the meetings are belong to Republican People's Party. This is not correct! The organizing committee can be identified itself as republican democrat (some are from RPP, some are from Workers Party, some are form Independent Republican Party, Democratic Left Party etc), however the participants in the meetings are both republican democrats and liberal democrats. Because even liberal democrats have serious suspicion on neo-liberal economic policies, Turkey-EU relations and Turkey-USA relations.

As a result, common aim of republican democrats and liberal democrats is the removal of Islamism and Kurdish separationism from Turkish political scene. Turkish citizens will defend their gains of Turkish Revolution. It is possible to expect a new military intervention in the near future? If the military intervention will bring positive consequences to combat with Islamism and Kurdish separationism and secure democracy, Turkish people will support this intervention. However if the military intervention will be realized in the sense of 'coup', Turkish people will not support this coup. On the other side, Turkish people know the fact that the army has never occupied civilian power for a long time. Although Turkish citizens say that 'Neither coup nor Islamism', it is clear that most of them prefer to go back TEN YEARS under 'coup' but reject to go back ONE CENTURY under an Islamic coup by Justice and Development Party government.

There will be some external interferences from different circles to carry moderate Islamists in power either by using media, ordered public surveys which will range Islamist party at the top or free of charge delivery of Islamist newspapers to houses or other means which can be easily estimated, but this will not affect Turkish citizens. Turkish voters from the center-right wing will vote for either Democrat Party or National Action Party. The voters from the center-left wing will vote for Republican People's Party. The winners will be either liberal democrats or republican democrats, not the totalitarian movements. In other words, the winner of the coming elections will be either Kemalism or Ataturkism. So the coming general elections will contribute the consolidation of Turkish democracy.

9. Conclusion:

To sum up, in Turkey, three (1960, 1971, 1980) and a half military intervention (February 28,1997) plus a declaration (April 27,2007) were seen. The military intervention in 1960, 1997 Memorandum and 2007 Declaration were realized for internal reason mainly to secure democracy. On the other hand, 1971 Memorandum and 1980 coup were realized for external reasons. In fact Turkish Armed Forces can not be accused for problems in Turkish political life in 1970s and 1980s. If the civilian governments and politicians behaved logically after abandonment of Turkish army from power, the crises would not be seen.

There has always been four characteristics of Turkish political life:

  • First one is the political polarization. There are the progressives, the dynamic forces at one pole (Kemalists) and the conservatives, the static forces (Ataturkists) at the other. Republican democrats represent the progressive front and the liberal democrats represent the conservative stand. Marxists have never found a permanent position on republican democracy axis. Islamists or followers of Turk-Islam synthesis have never found a permanent position on liberal democracy axis. Because all totalitarian movements have been evaluated as threats to Turkish democracy since 1923 Turkish Revolution.

    So the sharing of political ground which is chained to economic and social area on two axis has always been the guarantee of Turkish democracy and provided Turkish political scene stability. This stability has not always resulted in equilibrium. This equilibrium has created advantages to liberal democrats because of unfinished modernization process on values considering %99 Muslim population in Turkey. But the view claimed by liberal democrats, 'modernization in services will bring modernization in value system in long-run' has been a worthy supposition.

  • The second characteristic of Turkish political life is the gap existed between political affairs and legal and administrative measures. No government can solve social, economic and political problems if the formulas of the regime are not institutionalized and legal input-output mechanisms are not designed in the governing system. The nonexistence of the gap between political affairs and legal and administrative measure depends on requirement of absence of totalitarian movements in political scene such as Islamism, Marxism, racist nationalism, Kurdish separationism etc.
  • The third characteristic of Turkish political life is the opportunity cost to make a choice between rapid development on the one hand and maintaining the fundamental rights and freedoms on the other. Both can be achieved at the same time. But republican democrats have always emphasized the fundamental rights and freedoms mainly, on the other hand liberal democrats have always emphasized rapid development mainly. Anyway, these different stresses of two traditional axis explain us why republican democracy has always been called as 'axis of values' and liberal democracy as 'axis of performances'. This kind of classification may be reductionism, but is a functional instrument so analyze Turkish political life.
  • Fourth characteristic of Turkish political life is the qualifications of politicians. It is possible to classify the politicians into two groups: those who lack of creative mindedness and originality of thought, act on self-interest and the basis of personal belief on one side and those who act on legality, act on positivism, give importance to scientific knowledge and pursue the national interest instead of his/her own interest. The first group of politicians consider the university circles and the press as unfriendly groups and usually stand in the liberal democrat front, the second group of politicians believe in that citizens need an intellectual-political leadership, give importance of the press freedom and stand in the republican democrat front of Turkish political life. This kind of classification does not explain Islamists or Marxists or fascists or Kurdish separtionist. Because if the liberal democrats and their supporters stand in the periphery of political or social or economic spheres and if the republican democrats and their supporters stand in the center of political or social or economic spheres; where do the politicians of totalitarian movements and their supporters stand? Unaccountable situation of these totalitarian politics and politicians and supporters proves that they stand on nowhere. No any interference supported by interior and exterior forces will be successful to transform 'nowhere' into 'definite space'.

As a result, Turkish people is going to advocate the gains of Turkish Revolution. After general elections, democracy will be in power neither Mainstream Islamism/ Moderate Islamism nor Kurdish separationism. Either republican or liberal democracy will win.

By Diren Çakmak

Diren Çakmak is a PhD Candidate-Research Assistant at Çankaya University in Ankara, Turkey.

Type your comment and click
or register to post a comment.
* required field
User ID*
enter user ID or e-mail to recover login credentials