politics : culture : economics

The defeatism of Turkey’s opposition

In Turkey on July 26, 2010 at 1:18 pm

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the opposition is correct and the AKP’s constitutional amendments have been designed to enable the party to pack the higher judiciary with its people. (Let’s leave aside the question of whether a degree of court-packing isn’t already built into Turkey’s institutional framework.) The thing that puzzles me is why the opposition seems to equate an increased role for parliament in appointments to the higher judiciary with an increased role for the AKP in particular. Have they given up on getting back into power themselves? Are they still so dazed and confused by the AKP’s electoral successes over the past decade that they believe there is now no way to overturn its parliamentary majority?

If so, that’s a dangerously defeatist position for an opposition to adopt. It also displays an alarming degree of remoteness from (perhaps distrust of) the electorate. The rather patronising assumption seems to be that the electorate has been duped by the AKP and is sleep-walking its way into an Islamist regime that will trample on (perhaps remove permanently) its democratic rights. This doesn’t make for a great campaigning pitch: “Vote for us—we’re the ones who think you’ve been a bunch of credulous morons for voting for the other guys these last few years.”

We should be clear. Over the past decade it isn’t the Turkish electorate that has been asleep, it has been the opposition. Their performance has been abysmal, shameful. They have only themselves to blame for their exclusion from power. This is particularly true of the main opposition party, the CHP. It is a solid rule of thumb in electoral politics that a party that cannot organise its own affairs will not be allowed by voters to organise the affairs of state.

But another reliable rule of thumb is that the electoral pendulum will swing back. The task of a mature opposition party is to encourage that swing and to be ready for power when it comes. The CHP finally showed signs of having grasped this fact when it elected a new leader earlier this year. It is now only a matter of time before one or more opposition parties are back in power in Turkey. As I have noted before, I think the most likely result in next year’s general election is that the AKP’s hold on power will be weakened or broken by a return to coalition government.

If, or when, that happens, the AKP’s capacity to push through judicial changes using the proposed new parliamentary powers would be reduced accordingly, and the opposition’s capacity to do so would be increased. Unless someone can show me the mechanism that is going to allow the AKP to retain indefinitely its parliamentary majority, I fail to see how the constitutional changes that have been proposed can be dismissed as a ruse to copper-fasten or extend the party’s power in the country.

  1. to equate an increased role for parliament in appointments to the higher judiciary with an increased role for the AKP in particular
    Since the AKP party leader pick his own people for elections he can pick also therefore appoint people to his own taste. and at the moment there is only an AK in charge. Islamist, when in charge, will make it impossible to give back democratic rights to the people. Can you give me ONE example where that happened through 1400 years of Islamists?

  2. Hans,

    Even if the premise of your argument is correct and AKP were to appoint ‘Islamists’ to positions in the higher judiciary, your concerns re the ‘impossibility’ of sustaining democratic rights don’t seem that anchored in the realm of the probable.

    Which democratic rights wouldn’t be given back to the people? Which ones have been taken away? Are you suggesting that the AKP has done anything to prevent the electorate from being able to dump it at the next (or any) election? Or is the idea that the AKP will remove free elections once it has made its judicial appointments? Or is the idea that free elections will stay in place, but that with a few new Islamist judges in place, the electorate will be free to – and will want to – vote for a political order in Turkey that dispenses with democratic rights?

    I really don’t think that any of these propositions is sustainable simply as an assertion, without a lot more argument and substantiating evidence.

  3. Aengus, what most Westerners fail to understand is that there always will be a post-facist regime, a post-communist regime, a post-socialist regime but there will never be a post-Islamist regime. In fact take for example a warning of Hakan Hanli,a member of the Ankara and Brussels Bars, and international artitrator at the International Criminal Court in The Hague and Riza Turmen, former ambassador but more important former Judge at the European Court of Human Rights. I can repeat their arguments but leave it now by this and two articles of them: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=presidential-system-and-judiciary-2010-04-26 and

  4. Which democratic rights wouldn’t be given back to the people?
    Democratic rights will be transferred into the populist will!

  5. Nevertheless, how the CHP, MHP and AKP represent themselves is so backward…
    The LDP is the only party with a clean message…but who listen to them?

  6. […] the somewhat more plugged-in and rational side of things, Aengus Collins looks at the legal issues surrounding this (because, well, the constitution is a bit of a legal issue, something being ignored in other […]

  7. […] The defeatism of Turkey’s opposition by istanbulnotes […]

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