Toward a party state

Ekrem Dumanli
Ekrem Dumanli

Date posted: February 10, 2014


A few years ago, we journalists asked Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan some questions at a TV interview aired on a news channel.

Eventually, the conversation settled on the issue of the presidential election. Erdoğan’s response was quite surprising. For the first time, he used the phrase “president with party affiliations.” He intended to introduce a system in which the president is allowed to retain his/her party affiliation. At that time, we didn’t delve much into that topic, which was later frozen.

As I was leaving the TV program, I ran into one of Turkey’s most prestigious legal experts. “I received the answer to a question I had been trying to find an answer to for a long time,” he said to me, half smiling. I was surprised. “Sorry?” I asked. “He [the prime minister] wants to introduce the system of the 1930s and the 1940s, i.e., the single-party regime,” he explained.

Of course, I didn’t believe what I heard because the way the state was conceived 70 or 80 years ago had long been discarded and abandoned. It was impossible to jettison the democratic governance model that extends rights and freedoms to individuals and goes back 70 years: Turkey can no longer accept the “national chief” mythology or the “single party” ideology.

It was true that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and İsmet İnönü were both president and leader of their parties (the Republican People’s Party [formerly CHF, now CHP]), but that historic reality overlapped with widely accepted political thinking on the role of the state. Since then, it is not only the state, but also individuals who have gone through a serious change. People paid dearly for the overglorification of leaders and their parties. In the wake of World War II, everyone sought participatory, pluralistic and democratic systems that prioritized the rights of individuals. Today, the state is supposed to account for its actions. It has well-defined limits. For this reason, ideologies that inherit fascist reasoning are no longer valued.

Anyway! Let me return to the case of Turkey. Today, we are facing a situation that years ago I wouldn’t have believed could happen: the party state. Turkey is being dragged toward an extremity where the legislature, the executive, the judiciary and the media are governed from a single center. Unfortunately, we learn about dozens of developments that confirm this process every day.

Since prosecutors launched a graft investigation that implicated some ministers, their sons and relatives of the prime minister, Erdoğan has been referring to the Hizmet movement as a “parallel structure” and a gang within the state. At this point, the only thing Erdoğan can do is manufacture false charges and evidence against the Hizmet movement, which wouldn’t be persuasive. In a normal democratic state where the rule of law is cherished, there must be concrete evidence to press charges against anyone, and those so charged are presumed innocent until they are proven guilty. In a party state, however, imaginary charges are first voiced and then meddlesome public authorities manufacture crimes and criminals to fit those charges.

This is the process currently ongoing in Turkey. These officious public authorities are now searching through all public institutions to find “confessors.” They are told that if they “confess” about the “parallel structure,” they will benefit from “effective repentance” and witness protection laws. Moreover, they are consulting former defendants in the lawsuit against Ergenekon — a clandestine organization nested within the state trying to overthrow or manipulate the democratically elected government — as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other foreign security agencies in an effort to launch lawsuits against the Hizmet movement in line with similar, previous plots.

Although they accused these international intelligence organizations of conspiracies against the Turkish government, they are now asking them for their help and this indicates that their confidence level has fallen considerably. If the prime minister continuously targets a specific social group, then informers and denouncers will certainly step in to join the slander campaign. Now they are manufacturing offenses and trying to find confessors to confirm those baseless accusations. They make up unbelievable accusations such as espionage. They claim to be Islamists but don’t care about the rights of the Islamic ummah. You may find crimes and criminals with an insidious plan but you cannot escape trial by the collective conscience or the trial in the Hereafter.

The pluralistic democracy process that started in the 1950s cannot be reversed and this country cannot be turned into a party state. It is a grave error to resort to the “parallel state” lie in order to establish a party state. And this lie will not last much longer. Indeed, this public has internalized democracy and will not allow a parallel state or a party state. And the world will not accept a party state. Those who kicked off this unsustainable process with guidance from yes-men of low caliber must open their eyes to look around carefully and realize the mistakes they are making. If they do this, they will realize that there is no choice for Turkey other than to become more democratic.

Party media outlets outshine Pravda

The past week was so full of interesting developments that journalists were undecided on what to report first. For instance, a voice recording was posted on the Internet featuring the prime minister calling the manager of a TV channel and meddling with the news ticker on a TV program. The TV channel had run a statement from Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli calling on President Abdullah Gül to take action regarding the Gezi Park protests.

Another development was about the same media group. Another voice recording showed that the government had meddled with the results of a public opinion survey, urging the TV channel’s managers to take some points from the MHP and add them to the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). Let me put it bluntly: We don’t have any right to be angry with the managers of that TV channel. Indeed, the party state has established the party media and opted to dominate not only that media, but also every other media outlet.

Recently, a media group was confiscated and turned into a party mouthpiece. It was hair-raising for the public learn how pro-government businessmen established a pool of funds to acquire the Sabah newspaper and the ATV TV channel. These businessmen put millions of liras into this pool with the hope that they would be awarded billion-dollar public contracts. This is clearly a crime. This media group, whose boss hasn’t been identified, publishes lies, slander and defamation every day.

There were always newspapers and TV channels that would act as mouthpieces and even hit men for specific political parties. But today is rife with examples of the partisanship of the media, which has gone out of control. The “pool media” cannot touch on the villas in Urla, how public contracts are awarded or how false fatwas for bribery were obtained from certain so-called Islamic scholars. What ends do they serve? They defame people and disseminate black propaganda. They don’t care about friendship or brotherhood. They don’t care about fairness or balance.

But they parrot fake stories about a parallel state. If they want to see the parallel state, they should look at themselves in the mirror, because the true parallel state is made up of those who run headlines as ordered by the party state. A little boy who is being toyed with by the intelligence organization disgracefully posts a “list of those who will be arrested” and he predicts the deportation of Mahir Zeynalov, who was recently deported over his critical remarks about the prime minister.

In the face of a tough question on intelligence reports, the prime minister assumes that the journalist who asked that question is working for Zaman and sticks to the same parallel state talk. But it turns out that the documents in question were first published by the party media. He confesses that a journalist who works as a party official read the testimony of businessman Reza Zarrab, despite the fact that that this testimony is inaccessible to everyone. Dozens of examples clearly indicate that the real parallel structure sits at the very heart of the ruling party.

Sadly, I must note that those who idolize the party state as a “structure that does not accept any partner” has established an unprecedented mechanism within the media sector. And Turkey is now teeming with “Pravdas.” You can be assured that the communist Pravda was more honest than our conservative Pravdas. It is really such a pity.
Interior minister fails to answer

Interior Minister Efkan Ala is destroying his hard-earned positive image day by day. What was that image? He had served as the governor of Diyarbakır and then as undersecretary of the Prime Ministry and was known as an intellectual official. This was an image he had earned just by keeping his silence. But when he became a minister and started making public appearances, his image started to be undermined.

Unfortunately, his every remark was scandalous. He was ridiculed for his implied accusations against Bank Asya. He attempted to backtrack from those accusations but failed. Then, he went to Erzurum and made those unbelievable remarks, voicing insults against Fethullah Gülen. In the face of public backlash, he backpedaled once again.

Now, there is another scandal: Zeynalov’s deportation over a critical tweet. Whose idea was this unbelievable act? The official letter sent to Zeynalov was undersigned by the chief civil service inspector from the Interior Ministry. Although there was no court decision and Zeynalov’s work permit is valid until mid-March — Zeynalov applied for an extension — he was hurriedly deported and this scandal discredited Turkey.

The new Internet law has effectively destroyed freedom of communication, putting Turkey in the same league as antidemocratic countries. Does this hurried deportation of a journalist signify the new criteria of the Interior Ministry? Or was it another “error”? I believe the interior minister must explain this and make an apology. I wish he had remained an “intellectual.”

Source: Todays Zaman , February 10, 2014

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