New Turkey needs new policies

Published 09.08.2016 01:03

We have had more than three weeks to really understand what happened the night of July 15, 2016. The more we get new information, the more we can perceive the extent and magnitude of the terrible danger we avoided. The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), divided to an unsuspected degree, almost started a civil war whose consequences could have been devastating.

The coup was aborted, and since there has been a very important social mobilization in support of the democratic regime and its democratically elected representatives. It is heartwarming to see so many people on the streets proclaiming their loyalty to democracy, especially when they are also supported by the government, the administration and the opposition.

In parallel with this popular mobilization, the government has toned down its criticism of opposition parties and their leaders, and the latter have reciprocated this stance with wisdom. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has retracted his lawsuits concerning insulting the presidency cases, the opposition parties have done so simultaneously. To sum up, the meeting held in Yenikapı, probably the biggest popular gathering in the history of the Republic, has shown the huge popular demand for harmony within society, rather than conflict and division.

This is very good news, underlining a very strong dynamic in society. However, just like any other social dynamic, it requires a political superstructure to become implementable at the level of national governance. In a nutshell, political parties and the government should take the utmost care concerning this immense, popular demand.

The good news is limited to this, unfortunately, as there is a plethora of bad news. The way to handle these bad developments will depend chiefly on the president, the government and the opposition parties' dexterity and wisdom. Their margin of maneuvering is very narrow.

Our external relations have never been so bad in decades. Turkey's NATO and EU allies have all only feebly condemned the coup attempt, underlining the necessity for the preservation of the democratic regime. No high representative, except the U.S. armed forces chief of staff and the secretary-general of the Council of Europe have payed courtesy visits to Turkish authorities. Worse, escalating debate and arguments between government officials and EU and U.S. leaders are taking place through the mass media. It has largely gone beyond the acceptable limits of international diplomacy. The only two countries who condemned the coup very early on were Russia and Iran.

There is a basic fact that Turkey has to rapidly overcome its isolation and establish sustainable relations with its allies. Reluctantly supporting the Turkish government is a very serious mistake on the part of European countries. But a bigger mistake was to minimize the danger of Fetullah Gülen's organization within the state apparatus, the judiciary and the military. We all make mistakes and the wise stance is to correct these mistakes before it is too late. With the Gülenist coup attempt, we were just able to stop a terrible development at the very last moment. We should thank all the institutions, decision makers and the brave population that opposed the coup attempt.

This wisdom and rationality must guide all our steps from now on, and we should immediately stop to look for culprits in allied countries. We can just not afford to turn into a rival for our allies in NATO and the EU. The reorganization of the TSK will take at least a decade. During this time, the example we should draw on is definitely not on the former Red Army or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Leaders from neither the U.S. nor the EU genuinely believe in this change of policy on the part of the Turkish government. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has shown unexpected talents of leadership and political vista. Both the Republican People's Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) responded very favorably to his openings. The president has been adamant to assert his constitutional position and thanked the political leaders. The European media has seen and perceived this as a "maneuver by President Erdoğan to tame and instrumentalize the opposition." Two recent articles, one by Markus Bernath in Der Standart and the other by Franco Venturini in Corriere della Sera, are very visible examples of this attitude.

Supporting the democratic regime is fine, but how do we implement policies to reinforce our democracy? Up until now, besides political openings, the only visible perspective has been the restoration of the death penalty. This has not been initiated officially, but everybody talks about it. Well, if we want to emasculate Turkish democracy once and for all, we should let the death penalty be reinstated. If we want to alienate Turkey for good from European organizations like the Council of Europe, of which Turkey is a founding member, we should reinstate the death penalty. Last but not least, if we want to see Fethullah Gülen's extradition to Turkey reported sine die, we should reinstate the death penalty.

Supporting a democratic regime is fine if you take the correct steps to reinforce its democratic nature. Obviously, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has suffered a lot to be heard and understood in Europe and the U.S. by letting the Gülen Movement be at the helm of our external relations. We now badly need to have a national front encompassing all the political parties - and the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) has to play a crucial role in this - to convince our partners that we now have a new common denominator in Turkish politics. This national front should encompass all civil society representatives in order to be credible. And to include all segments of society, such a front should first of all convince the immense majority of Turkish society that the new policies needed in Turkey are effectively democratic reforms for better governance, better transparency and more decentralization.

Otherwise, we will have to endure shameful events like the cancellation of the Jean Monnet scholarship, which can ignite more deep-running and dangerous developments with the EU. Turkey cannot afford this, and the EU cannot afford this either.

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