The Turkish people are going to the polls to determine the future of both the legislative and executive organs on Sunday. The executive organ in the current parliamentary system was formed as a result of legislation, having led many coalition or minority governments so far that caused various structural deadlocks in the country. To prevent them and to balance the legislative and executive organs, the referendum for a presidential system was held on April 16, 2017.It had been predicted that such a system change would be inevitable in the future when the military's anti-democratic intervention, the e-memorandum, on civil politics on April 27, 2007 to back the Constitutional Court's efforts to prevent the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) from choosing the president.
A few years later, that's why the then policy makers enabled the people to elect the president by popular vote for the first time. In the first vote, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan became the country's first president elected directly by the people. However, although the president was chosen by the people, the governing system was parliamentary. This dual system led to the April 16 referendum and filled the gap between the theory and practice.
The atmosphere in 2002
In historical turning points in politics, we need to look at the actors. In Turkey's experience in system change, it is safe to say the AK Party and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) played the biggest role. In 2002, MHP leader and Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahçeli called for elections that led the AK Party to get the majority of seats in Parliament, while his party couldn't pass the threshold, and the AK Party's 16-year journey in governing Turkey started. The MHP and its actions need to be analyzed to comprehend the Turkish raison d'étre.
The formation of MHP
Formed in the Cold War period in 1969, the MHP was far beyond reaching the great masses in the country because of the effects of the May 27 military coup. Then founder-chairman of the MHP Alparslan Türkeş took part as a military officer in the anti-democratic May 27 coup. Türkeş was the one that read the military declaration of the coup that was believed by many to be perpetrated in the name of NATO. Türkeş's participation in the coup caused an irreparable discrepancy in traditional nationalist and conservative voters. In the following period, the MHP had paramilitary youth groups in the Cold War period.
During the Sept. 12, 1980 coup, MHP groups, which were exposed to violence in prisons but didn't criticize the Turkish state, didn't criticize the Turkish state for they believed that their ideology was in power, showing that the MHP was the representative of the Turkish raison d'étre rather than the junta political party running for elections. The policies followed by the MHP gave some significant clues about the road map of the Turkish state.
In the '90s, the Turkish raison d'étre was very authoritarian as it had been in May 27 and Sept. 12. The Welfare Party (RP), which can be defined as the pioneer of the AK Party, made a great breakthrough. In 1991, political alliances similar to today were formed. The RP was forced to ally with the MHP (its name was the Nationalist Labor Party) to pass the threshold.
Although the alliance was broken by the MHP 40 days later, the state supported it. The purpose was to take the RP under control via the MHP and was then transformed into the AK Party years later. It is worth seeing the MHP's role in this scenario.
Meanwhile, the conservatives in the MHP left the party and formed today's Great Union Party (BBP) that pushed the MHP closer to the state. The next step in the MHP's transformation was the MHP leader Türkeş's policy against the RP in the process of the Feb. 28 post-modern coup. Shortly after, the MHP consisted of nationalists and conservatives while at the same time representing the pro-Western, laicist and authoritarian state. Following the death of Türkeş, Devlet Bahçeli changed the MHP's road map, radically smoothing the party's policies.
In Turkey, the state and raison d'étre determine the role of politics. The state structure in the past years was against the common values of society and did its best to shape the related politics. The authoritarian structure of the Turkish state and its policies were to be transformed thanks to the AK Party and its leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2002.
The AK Party struggled in politics as successor to the RP by uniting center right and conservatives in the country. However, what makes the AK Party different than the other parties is its struggle with and then transforming the authoritarian structure and the oppressive policies of tutelage groups in the country.
First, it took great steps and risks to end Turkey's chronic problems such as the Kurdish and Alevi issues, democratic institutions, human rights, militarism, freedom of religion, et cetera. While ending such structural problems step by step, it also transformed the Turkish raison d'étre. Its most apparent indication is today's alliance between the AK Party and the MHP. Here, I need to say that the MHP's support for the AK Party will and should never be forgotten in Turkey.
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