People’s democratic governance

Published 10.07.2014 00:54

Governance of an elected government has always been an issue in Turkey. The Constitution of 1961 defined as the head of the executive power the Prime minister, leaving the President of the Republic in a mostly ceremonial role. This constitution was heavily revised in 1982, in the aftermath of the coup d'état, reassessing the role of the President in a very obscure way, however the premier remained in charge of the executive. Or did he really? Because of the constant interference of armed forces in daily politics and because a very conservative and assertive bureaucracy had been in office since the early 19th century, elected governments margin to maneuver has always been limited.

Examples are numerous. Mostly, relations with the European Union have been very adversely affected by these interferences. The Nice Summit in the year 2000 remains a very good example of how Turkey's elected government has been neutralized against its will. Bülent Ecevit, in charge of the government at the time, had been invited to Nice mainly thanks to the efforts of President Jacques Chirac. That was a period when the Kurdish question in Turkey attained a very acute importance, so everyone at the summit expected the Turkish government to take bold steps in order to enlarge the area of democratic rights and freedoms. The summit gathered the fifteen member states of the EU at that time together with 13 other candidate countries including Turkey.

Everyone interested in EU-Turkey relations, myself included, was holding their breath waiting to see the outcome of the summit and what would be the role of Turkey in the EU. The day Premier Ecevit took the plane to Nice, the Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces, Army General Kıvrıkoğlu made a public declaration, relayed by all the mass media as first news, underlining the fact that allowing education in one's mother tongue would lead to the partitioning of Turkey.

Ecevit, while leaving his plane in France, knew how far he could go regarding his talks with his counterparts. We all thought that an elected prime minister could never swallow such an offense or challenge from Kıvrıkoğlu, and upon his return, he would ask for his resignation immediately. Ecevit left Nice after two days, having barely held tangible conversations with his counterparts. Upon his return to Ankara, he remained totally silent. Kıvrıkoğlu, thinking that his message perhaps was not thoroughly understood, went to see the premier, who declared after their meeting that he "understood effectively the rightful critics" of his chief of staff. Such a scandalous patronage happened only fourteen years ago, showing the limitations of civilian and democratic governance in Turkey. The price paid has been remaining out of the EU whereas all the Central and Eastern European countries were accepted.

Prime Minister Erdoğan has opposed, since his first day in office, such a governance based on interferences and that is basically how Turkey could enter a new period of democratic governance. The times when "elected governments" could not effectively rule in Turkey are over. The premier did not only dismantle the hegemony of the armed forces and other state institutions over the government but has also been successfully fighting against "parallel" organizations which aim at establishing "a state within the state."

The upcoming presidential elections will "institutionalize" good and democratic governance in Turkey, insofar as they will be the first step of a much larger reformation movement promised by Prime Minister Erdoğan. This is why he will seek to be elected in the first round of the election on Aug. 10, and this is why he stands as a candidate not for the supreme post only, but for a major overhaul of the governance system in Turkey, to allow people's democratic governance at last.

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