The acts of voters focus on short-term individual benefits rather than political programs. This form of relationship is much more distinct between central parties and their voters
The election discourses reflected in rallies and visual and print media narrate the norms of elections in Turkey. Some norms are already known by each party that runs in the elections and strategies and tactics are planned according to that with the main motivation and target of these strategies and tactics is to win. Consequently, the calculations of gains and losses are completely fixed to the success that would be obtained in the elections and to the achievement of becoming the ruling party during a legislative term. Therefore, medium- and long-term works are not conducted. The election campaigns, discourses, advertisements, slogans and other such tactics might seem strange to a foreign observer, but they are regarded as normal in Turkey. The harsh political language that is employed, the manipulation of all value judgments for elections, and the domination of a polarizing and othering language are not independent from this image of normal.
The reason of this can only be found in the most fundamental norm. This fundamental norm, of which the political institution is not well aware, is the Constitution. Political culture and election culture are shaped depending on which political priorities and choices the Constitution employs. The motivation of a politician is limited to what the present Constitution allows. Unless a great vision or a project is presented, the motivation of voters is also quite limited and rather individualistic. The acts of voters do focus on short-term individual benefits rather than political programs. This form of relations is much more distinct between central parties and their voters. If politics cannot present a general and macro vision or cannot give priority to such a vision in its practical policies, practical policies are shaped according to voter behaviors, as mentioned above.
It is not possible to deny the degenerating influence of this on politics. Voters make a commitment to vote for a deputy candidate in return for small benefits. The deputy candidate has to answer to that. This obligation is even more distinct for a candidate who is nominated to be elected for a second time. The deputy candidate, who is required to be a part in the legislature, makes commitments regarding executive power. Or, he uses his relations on behalf of execution and tries to meet individual demands. The degeneration of politics is inevitable in such a picture.
An alternative political culture is not possible since the constitutional framework does not allow for another kind of politics. The strict centralist structure of Turkey's constitutional order causes all the decisions and interest distributions to be determined at the center, which causes political institutions to act in a motivation to possess or retain the center. This is compulsory both for liberation and prosperity. Its pro-tutelage structure creates a ruling power that does not leave a need for societal participation. The political movements that acquire state authority in the center have the opportunity to impose one-sided truths on society in terms of national education, jurisdiction, the military and many others turn into opportunities of this.
The struggle for power is ontologically conducted both through Parliament and bureaucratic institutions. The winner comes to dominate the fate of the country without sharing its authority with any other entity. To implement rational policies that guard the general interests is becoming much harder in such a context.
When the political parties that are originally situated in the center with revolutionist and reformist political targets cannot change the constitutional order or this fundamental norm, they start to act in accordance with its rules and therefore politics begins to be conducted according to old norms again. The constitutional order in question gained its final form with the military coup that was staged 55 years ago today. In such an order, the game of democracy can be played only to such an extent.The Western world has a considerable role in that, as it has a role in the Egyptian case, as well.
About the author
Osman Can is a Law Professor and Reporting Judge at the Turkish Constitutional Court. He holds a PhD from the University of Cologne, Germany.