The people shall have the last word again

Published 18.07.2014 01:19

The bureaucratic oligarchy in Turkey terrorized and arbitrarily presided over civilian politics for a long time. Consider a country that holds elections every 17 months on average, add then four undisputed military coups into the mix. Since Western countries closed that chapter of their history decades ago, our readers might find such a situation odd and outlandish. But imagine a country where the military and a privileged few run everything. There is a parliamentary regime, of course, but the national government has roughly as much power as the local governments of major metropolitan areas, i.e. just enough to pay salaries, build sidewalks and perhaps even pave some roads. Rumor has it that, once upon a time, the country let its railroad infrastructure collapse to help business tycoons sell the automobiles they assembled to the nation. Up until the mid-1980s, high tariffs meant that people had a choice between a two-year wait or to pay a 20-percent markup on the black market if they wanted to buy a new car - a sad excuse for a coffin, really.

If a government ever wanted to take the people's side on such sensitive matters and expressed a desire to pass pro-market laws, the media would immediately launch a smear campaign to facilitate their demise. Former Prime Minister Turgut Özal, the mastermind behind Turkey's economic liberalization drive, frequently found himself torn apart by certain media outlets and their financiers. There was a time when spreading false news about Özal was the media's weapon of choice. Later on, when Özal entered and won the presidential election to take a break, the same groups seized control of his Motherland Party (ANAP) - Mesut Yılmaz burned the party's bridges with Özal to steer the nation into one of the darkest periods of its history.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) have been running the country for twelve years, during which the government overcame numerous obstacles and withstood multiple military coup attempts as well as outside interference. In 2007, the Constitutional Court led the charge against the government to prevent the AK Party, which held a majority in Parliament and therefore a constitutional mandate to elect the country's next president, from exercising its rights. A few months later, the party called for a referendum to amend the Constitution and allow the people, as opposed to Parliament, to elect the president, hence the upcoming presidential election by popular vote on August 10.

Ahead of each presidential race, though, certain extraordinary events take place in this country. And this time is no exception. The Dec. 17 operations represented a re-enactment of the events leading up to the 1960 military coup, as certain groups targeted the government during the lead-up to three critical elections. Three distinct cases that they built over the years through illegal wiretaps and under-the-radar supervisors emerged out of the darkness on the same day.

Before noon, the investigation's entire content, including sound recordings and images, were leaked to the press. In the local elections on March 30, almost all opposition parties united against the AK Party and endorsed the ruling party's main rival in each district. Enjoying vast support from the media, this coalition resembled a single political party. Meanwhile, the opposition's entire campaign strategy was built around illegal wiretaps and classified case materials. They went so far as to spread fake footage of the Prime Minister and his family members as well as pro-government journalists and sympathetic politicians.

Despite such lawlessness and unethical behavior, the AK Party proceeded to win six points more in the 2014 local elections than in the previous election cycle. Currently, pundits predict a first-round victory for Erdoğan on August 10. The people, to be sure, demand that the allegations be addressed, but they take democracy, stability and transparency over the claims. This, without a doubt, is the greatest thing that Turkey accomplished in the past 12 years. The country holds elections in due time and, at the end of the day, the people have the final say.

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