Founded on Oct. 29, 1923 in the aftermath of World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the founding principles of the Republic of Turkey were inspired by Europe. Ever since the day it was founded, the country has constantly struggled with systematic problems as the system was originally copied from the West instead of forming a Turkish-type state system peculiar to the country. The situation favored the West, and particularly Europe, which preferred a destabilized Turkey to serve its own interests.
Even Europeans, who constantly put emphasis on democracy, were not disturbed when the military seized control of civilian governments in Turkey. For years, the country could not play a considerable role in its region since it was ruled by military tutelage under the guise of a so-called parliamentary democratic system and governed by cowardly politicians who could not stand up to the military officials. It was doomed to remain an ineffectual and poor country dominated by the West.
Claiming to value democracy, Europeans were never bothered by the situation in Turkey while Turkey was governed by civilians controlled by military officials. For some reason, the violation of democracy by military regimes was a problem for them.
Back then, they were selling the most useless types of weapons and exporting their outdated commodities to the Turkish market. They were pleased with the one-party regime in Turkey.
When Turkey had to introduce the multi-party system out of pressure from the people, the electorate chose Adnan Menderes as prime minister, the West and Europe were disturbed. They did not respond when the Turkish military staged a coup, overthrew and executed the democratically elected prime minister. Calling the current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a dictator, even though he is the first president elected by popular vote in the country's history, Europeans did not do anything to prevent Menderes's execution, which took place on Sept. 17, 1961. However, if the West and Europe had wished, Menderes would not have been executed. Other similar instances followed this incident.
As a former member of the European Parliament between 1998 and 2004, I also bore witness to my father's detainment on March 12, 1971, when I was 10. He was detained only because he was a writer. When I was 20, he was detained again for the same reason, and this time I was also found guilty of opposing the junta and fascist regime exercised in the aftermath of the Sept. 12, 1980 coup. I lived in exile for 20 years due to the arrest warrants issued for me on charges that had nothing to do with me. I was 40 when I could finally vindicate myself and was acquitted.
EU countries did not provide the required response to Turkey on March 12, 1971 and Sept. 12, 1980. If they were really concerned about democracy then the democracy in Turkey would not have been violated by the junta so violently. Even Gen. Kenan Evren, the junta leader who may be the most anti-democratic figure in Turkey's history and the only one deserving to be called a dictator, did not confront one-tenth of the obnoxious reactions that have recently target Erdoğan. Is this the EU's grasp of democracy?
Having remained silent in the face of the junta leaders who executed dozens of young people, massacred hundreds and buried Turkey in darkness, the EU is currently resorting to all possible means to avoid reconciliation with Erdoğan, who achieved democratic progress in Turkey and turned it into a place way more democratic than many EU countries.
Turkey is one of the exceptional countries that has managed to take great steps in terms of democratization since 2002, when Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power as a result of democratic elections. EU countries were pleased with the absence of freedom of thought and belief in the old Turkey since it enabled them to control the backward and anti-democratic Turkey as they wanted using the promise to grant full EU membership to Turkey. But Turkey's democratic progress now constitutes a major problem to those rejecting Turkey's inclusion in the EU.
As a matter of fact, Turkey is far more democratized than many EU countries like Greece, to name one. Fascists have come into prominence in Greek parliament and they are becoming more visible and influential in Greek politics. Particularly the situation in Greek Cyprus, which is officially called the Republic of Cyprus, is worth noting as a travesty of democracy. Turkish Cypriots do not just live in Turkish Cyprus. The right of representation has never been granted to Turkish Cypriots living in Greek Cyprus, neither at the national parliament nor at the European Parliament. How can an EU country that does not grant democratic representation rights to its own minorities make judgments on Turkey? Unfortunately, we are experiencing these kinds of unpleasant situations.
The multi-headed state system of Turkey, which was copied from the West and caused the country to suffer for decades, was mostly advocated by the countries that do not want Turkey to progress.
However, the Turkish people now want to see a new type of state system peculiar to Turkey. What can be more natural than wanting Turkey to be governed in a better way? Its population has reached 78 million. In fact, a president elected by popular vote and with extended authorities and a prime minister elected in the same way is not preferred in many countries. But each country determines its democratic system according to its own position and needs.
This is what Turkey is doing right now. About 70 percent of the Turkish people want the country to be ruled by a presidential system, which would mean better governance and permanent stability in the country.
If the EU really respects democracy, it must respect the Turkish people's democratic choices and demands. Those who want to prevent Turkey's stability aspire to shape the public perception of Turkey by resorting to hopeless lies like "Erdoğan wants to become a dictator." However, all citizens of Turkey currently fully enjoy democratic liberties.
I tell our European friends not be afraid of a presidential system in Turkey, which would render democracy more powerful. Turkey's empowerment will favor the EU the most since Turkey is an EU candidate and partner. A strong and stable Turkey is an acquisition for the EU.
The Turkish electorate now wants to see Erdoğan as the state president. They will elect another person when the time comes. And the EU has to respect that.