Hakan Şükür’s resignation blamed on lack of intra-party democracy

Date posted: December 17, 2013

Observers have associated Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy Hakan Şükür’s decision to resign from the party on Monday with the ruling party’s lack of intra-party democracy, noting that Şükür’s resignation could be the start of wider instability within the party.

Şükür, a former international football player, left Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling party in protest against the government’s plan to shut down exam preparatory schools, revealing the intra-party divisions below the surface.

The resignation came after Şükür objected to the government proposal to close these schools, which help students prepare for university and high school admission exams.

Şükür, a deputy for İstanbul, said he was personally offended by the government’s “hostile moves,” as he put it, against the Hizmet movement led by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Journalist and writer Mehmet Altan said on Tuesday that the AK Party is becoming more and more repressive as it fails to follow the necessities of the moment, noting that Şükür’s resignation should not be seen as a random development but rather as the beginning of a political rupture in the AK Party.

Altan said the AK Party fails to understand the diversity of the urban population or reflect this in its decisions. He added that the party is trying to impose a rural, one-sided agenda on Turkey’s cities, leading to protests against it from society and the party itself.

Former AK Party deputy Dr. İdris Bal, who also parted ways with the ruling party out of opposition to the closure of the exam preparatory schools, commented on Şükür’s resignation, saying that he sees these resignations from the AK Party as the birth pains of a new political understanding in Turkey.

“Unfortunately, a leader who sees the party as his own property does not see the deputies as representatives of the nation either. He says, ‘I valued you and made you a deputy. You will obey me at all times.’ This attitude leads everyone in the party to leave their views and mind aside, and after a while it becomes a source of conflict,” Bal told Today’s Zaman.

According to Bal, the AK Party, which tolerated all social groups in its first and second terms in power, has returned to the National View agenda [of former politician Necmettin Erbakan, appealing to conservative circles] and adopted behavior which is far from transparency and normal bureaucratic procedure.

When Erdoğan established the AK Party in 2001 with a group of reformist politicians from the ranks of Erbakan’s Virtue Party (FP), he said they “took off the shirts of the National View” in a bid to introduce themselves as a center-right party and differentiate their party from Erbakan’s, which only appealed to conservative voters.

However, some political analysts, including Bal, suggest that the AK Party no longer behaves as a center-right party and claim that its policies have become more ideological, as Erdoğan has drawn increasing criticism from some segments of society for “meddling too much in people’s lives.”

While a deputy, Bal was referred to the AK Party’s disciplinary board for “giving speeches that conflict with party politics.” He resigned from the party without waiting for the disciplinary board’s decision last month.

AK Party İzmir deputy Ertuğrul Günay expressed his regret on Tuesday for the resignations from the party, including those of Şükür and Bal.

Writing on his Twitter account, Günay said: “Esteemed Professor Bal and esteemed Şükür, putting their political ideas aside, were two friends who were known for their courtesy in human relations. Their resignation is a loss.”

Meanwhile, Erdoğan also shared his view of Şükür’s resignation on Tuesday, saying he did not expect such a move and that he did not think Şükür’s statements on his resignation were appropriate.

However, Erdoğan claimed not be upset by Şükür’s rejection of the party and called on him to also resign from Parliament.

“If a person takes part in elections as a member of a party, they should continue with that party. If he [Şükür] is honest, he should also give up his position in Parliament, because he was not elected to this Parliament as an independent deputy,” said the prime minister.

Responding to Erdoğan’s call later that day, Şükür said he has no plans to leave Parliament at the present time.

“That is the Parliament of the nation, and the nation brought me there,” Şükür said in remarks to the Hürriyet daily.

Erdoğan’s call to Şükür has also been criticized by Ümmet Kandoğan, a former deputy who was known for his pro-democratic stance in the controversial 2007 presidential elections. Kandoğan attended a parliamentary session to elect the president in 2007 despite the fact that his party, the True Path Party (DYP), had decided to boycott the elections.

“Erdoğan says Şükür should also resign from his position in Parliament. Then we should ask him why he didn’t say the same thing to deputies who resigned from other parties to join the AK Party. It is not right for Erdoğan to open his arms to deputies who resigned from other parties to join his party but also tell a deputy who left his party to give up his position in Parliament,” he told Today’s Zaman.

According to Kandoğan, the outstanding issue is not Şükür’s resignation but Erdoğan’s silence about the unjust accusations made about Gülen and the Hizmet movement.

Full statement issued by Hakan Şükür:

I felt obliged to deliver the statement below after recent developments, which disturb anyone with a conscience.

First of all, I need to clarify that politics has never been a priority for me. But it would not have been proper to reject the sincere invitation of Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] because of the position he represents and because of my respect for him as a person. I accepted Mr. Prime Minister’s invitation [to take part in politics]. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has left its mark on significant achievements and reforms over the past 11 years. However, some negative and irrational approaches that came to the forefront with the issue of closing prep schools unsettled people’s conscience.

It is not correct to portray dershanes [prep schools] as the only source of woes in the education system despite the existence of dozens of other chronic problems that need to be solved. This kind of approach does not befit the line that the party has represented over the past 11 years. I’m unable to understand Mr. Prime Minister’s indifference to persistent explanations, complaints and demands despite the fact that he displayed wisdom in the past by backing down from some [of his] decisions upon opposition [shown to them].

I had retained my hope that the issue of dershanes could evolve into a positive step by taking the demands of sincere people into account. While expecting this, the comparison between dershanes and the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) [an umbrella organization that encompasses the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)] that was made in my presence and the fact that neither the prime minister nor the party headquarters showed any reaction to this, let alone issued an apology, disturbed my conscience. Moreover, it was not good to take the issue of dershanes to other areas.

I have known the Hizmet movement and Mr. Fethullah Gülen Hocaefendi for over 20 years. Mistreating the movement — which has strongly backed the government on any policy that benefits society, including the 2010 referendum, by persuading people by going door to door, by bringing thousands of people from abroad to vote in the referendum, and also by praying for the AK Party’s well-being during its closure case [in 2008] — is nothing but disloyalty.

Those people whose dershanes are being shut down, and who are being expelled from state institutions and who face pressure and profiling which were described as immoral by our senior party officials, are this nation’s sons. Despite this fact, some headlines and accusations trying to depict these people as engaged in criminal and dark activities will go down in history as examples of sheer carelessness. And labeling this volunteer movement [a terrorist] organization, which recently gained wide currency, raises concern that the issue is not confined to “dershanes.”

There were also comments suggesting that the expression “some people changed when they experienced comfort and prosperity” refers to members of the Hizmet movement. I do not wish to presume that Mr. Prime Minister intended to say such a thing. But if these claims are true, they ignore the sacrifice of millions of volunteers. Do these people who represent our nation and flag around the world, working for peanuts without any material expectation, enjoy prosperity? Or does Mr. Gülen Hocaefendi, who has lived in a small, 20-square-meter room for 15 years in exile and whose residence, designed as a social facility to host guests, was unjustly described as a “mansion” by a [Turkish] media outlet, enjoy such prosperity? It is impossible to approve of a smear campaign and false accusations that aim to hurt this person who has no ambition but to serve his religion, his nation and the entire humankind all his life.

I take personally all those hostile acts, slander and insults against Mr. Hocaefendi as one of millions of volunteer members of this movement, which has no objective but to serve this nation and humanity.

Everyone, including Mr. Prime Minister, who knows me well, knows that I have never had any expectation during my political career. I have never had a demand for myself, nor my family and relatives. My goal was only to make a small contribution to this political party, which I considered was doing the right thing. But after this point this is clearly no longer possible.

In the meantime, I have also observed that some people whom I viewed as friends have joined the chorus of “finishing the movement” either voluntarily or due to pressure. This has also deeply saddened me. It is quite interesting that people who have visited Mr. Gülen Hocaefendi several times, and who attended the Turkish Olympiads, have praised the movement in good days but then suddenly became silent. It is inexplicable that these friends, who know better than me that those who remain silent in the face of injustice are a tongueless devil, prefer silence to taking action against a defamation campaign and unjust acts. I expected some people, whether they are journalists, academics, religious figures, deputies or bureaucrats, to bravely take action to defuse tension and help undo the mistake being made. Unfortunately, no one has shown this courage except for a few scrupulous opinion leaders and journalists.

I do know that some type of defamation campaign will be launched against me after this decision. I was used to numerous such situations throughout my sports career. In 2002, after I said I love Hocaefendi (Fethullah Gülen) during the late Mehmet Ali Birand’s “32. Gün” program, I was called to testify at a State Security Court so that what I said would be perceived as a crime. Without denying what I said, I expressed my feelings in my testimony. Today, there is not a single change in my thoughts. While I conclude my statement with these feelings, I declare, sadly, that I hereby resign from the AK Party — which I joined with great hopes — and that I will continue my political life as a representative of my people and an independent member of Parliament.

I expect the prayers of our dear nation and I extend each and every one of you my deepest greetings and respect.

Source: Today's Zaman , December 17, 2013

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