History Of Turkish Political Life

By Diren Cakmak

Assyrian International News Agency
May 24 2007

(AINA) — Once upon a time there were intellectuals in Turkey who
were able to compare the approximation and divergences of European and
Turkish democracy experience. But today, most of the intellectuals are
assessing the issues as they have forgot the uniqueness of Turkish
experience which can not be confused with the experiences of Middle
Eastern countries. Turkish political life has a unique characteristic
considering the Ottoman heritage and Turkish Revolution in 1923. Did
they forget it?

Once upon a time there were intellectuals in Turkey who were able
to distinguish republican democracy and liberal democracy and not
name the Islamic ideology under the liberal democracy and never
forgot the role of Turkish army to safeguard democracy and never
hesitated to make clear the difference between military regimes in
Turkey and Latin America states. Today’s, it is very painful to see
the permutation of Turkish intellectuals. They can easily distort the
issues and events. For example some of them do not take notice of the
reasons and consequences of military intervention in Turkey and in
Latin America states. Most of the Turkish intellectuals interpret
the issues in Turkish political life consciously in a wrong way,
some to be seen on popular TV programs, some to write in newspapers,
some to get much more money, some to gain fame either in Turkey or
in the world etc.

Being aware of today’s Turkish politics requires the knowledge of the
past without re-writing the past events and being loyal to historical
realities. Now I would like to make you aware of the realities of
Turkish political life in consistent with this scientific approach.

In Turkey, three and a half military intervention plus a declaration
(April 27,2007) were seen. Now, let’s evaluate these military
interventions within the events in Turkish political life up to today.

1. Reading Turkish Revolution in 1923 &The Period 1923-1950 in Turkish
Political Life:

Turkish modernization can only be started with the establishment
of Turkish Republic. It should be mentioned that Ottoman State had
partly westernized through the Tanzimat reforms of the 1830s-1870s.

Reform had been rolled back by the reactionary and autocratic rule
of Sultan Abdulhamit II who tied to keep his multi-ethnic empire
together by invoking his own spiritual authority as caliph. The
Unionist officers’ coup of 1908 reinstated the constitution which
was first introduced by the Young Ottomans in 1876. The Unionists
successfully suppressed an attempted counter-revolution in 1909,
then the Ottoman Empire went into two disastrous wars, the Balkans
War in 1912 and then the First World War in 1914-1918.

After the end of WWI, Anatolia was occupied by the Allied powers
and the Greeks. During occupation, the Sultan collaborated with the
Allied powers. Turkish people in Anatolia rejected this occupation,
accepted the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and fought against
occupiers and overcame them. Then the sultanate was abolished in 1922,
the Republic proclaimed in 1923 and the titular Caliphate abolished in
1924. The overthrow of the last Caliph, which meant that Muhammad’s
first successor as leader of the Muslims, was followed by decrees to
create a modern, unitary, democratic Turkish nation-state.

These decrees realized by Kemalist elite were radical departure from
the Ottoman times because until the Republican era, the Ottoman
reformist elite perceived Europe in pragmatic terms to get rid of
decline, but they never perceived it as a source of civilization.

However, the ideas of Enlightenment have shaped the cognitive maps of
Kemalist elite. At this point, it is important to mention that there
is serious difference between the terms ‘reform’ and ‘revolution’. In
a more clear explanation, ‘reform’ means changes done by Ottoman elite,
‘revolution’ means fundamental changes done by Kemalist elite.

Just as, people who advocated reform instead of revolution identified
themselves as liberal democrat after the year 1923. It is possible to
say that these people stood on the right wing in the sense of European
experience. On the other hand people who were close to Mustafa Kemal
and advocated radical changes identified themselves as republican
democrat standing on the left wing. Because radical change entered
in Turkish political life as Leftism taking European experiences
as a guide. So the main separation in Turkish political life has
always been on republican democracy (left wing in European sense)
and liberal democracy (right wing in European sense). However Islamic
circles have tried to enter in political scene since 1923, as if they
were liberal democrats. Because they could not have place in political
scene by advocating Islamism, they had to cover their ideology with
democracy to be alive. In fact Islamism did not comply with democracy.

Today several intellectuals all over the world make a great
mistake by seeing moderate Islamists less dangerous than mainstream
Islamists for the consolidation of democracy in the context of Turkish
experience. Moderate Islamism may be ‘good of bad’ for Arabic countries
considering the radicalism of mainstream Islamists. But "moderate
Islamism’ does not fit in Turkish state which has experienced a
revolution in 1923 like French Revolution. Mainstream Islamists and
Moderate Islamists have in common with a specific political agenda
based on Islam as the foundational source of the socio-political
principles in Turkey. It is impossible to advocate individualism
and to see Muslim is always part of an umma at the same time. It is
impossible to reconcile the Western political values with Islamism. In
this context, Moderate Islamism is Islamism, aiming to hide its threat
by presenting it as a softer form of Islamism. Today the interests of
American politics may require a moderate Islamist regime in Turkey
to act comfortably in the Middle East region, but this requirement
has to change. This faulty foresight of American foreign policy will
result in a great wave of blood. Why?

Because when Turkish political life is elaborated under a scientific
perspective, it is seen that republican democrats or Kemalists have
always described liberal democrats as counter-revolutionist although
they are truly not. In this respect, if there is a pressure from
outside of borders on Turkey, Turkish democrats whether liberal or
republican will unite and combat against moderate Islamists. This
will bring new crises in the Middle East and this will affect the
close regions to Middle East and the whole world in chain. In fact
this may result in the change in balance of powers international
system. For this reason American or European or Asian, Euro-Asian
politicians should read the happenings in Turkey very carefully within
a historical perspective. If Turkish political life is elaborated by
excluding the fact that imported terms from European experience have
harmonized with the characteristics of practices in Turkish political
scene, all the calculations made on Turkey’s future will abort.

In the following years of late 1940s Turkish political life, liberal
democrats would identify themselves as Ataturkist and the republican
democrats as Kemalist. After the adoption of Code on Surname in the
year 1934; Mustafa Kemal took ‘Ataturk’ as surname. Liberal democrats
and republican democrats would prefer different identification on the
founder father’s name to differ themselves from each other. Mustafa
Kemal Ataturk offered six principles to create a modern, unitary,
laic, democratic nation-state. These were republicanism, nationalism,
populism, laicism, statism (meant the collaboration of state
enterprises and private enterprises. However strategic enterprises
such as in communication, transportation, energy sectors etc. must
be always held by the state and never be sold to either local or
foreign entrepreneurs), revolutionism. These principles has determined
the main approach of Turkish Republic towards political, social and
economic issues. It is necessary to underline that Mustafe Kemal has
never defined the principles and he refrained from making definitions
of them because he thought that the definitions would freeze these
principles. He pointed out these principles as a guide to solve the
problems. He left these principles as efficient instruments whose
essence could not be transformed but practices would be changed
according to changing world and nation conditions.

The republican democrats supported the firm application of all
principles, because they thought that this was the only way to catch
the contemporary level of civilization. Just as, the gains of French
citizens in the year 1789 were given to Turkish citizens in the
year 1923 by Turkish Revolution. So republican democrats believed in
necessity to be quick and not giving any concessions to the masses.

On the other hand, liberal democrats advocated the loose application
of laicism. They supposed that the villagers were not ready to remove
Islamism with all its symbols, instead of a radical change there
should be a step by step change and instead of statism they were
fond of liberal economy. According to liberal democrats no need to
be quick and no need to firm application of Revolution decrees. It
is also necessary to mention that liberal democrats in Turkey have
never advocated a liberal social and political life, their ‘liberal’
feature has come from their demands for a liberal economy instead of
statism and loose application of laicism.

Between the years 1923-1950, the republican democrats were in power.

This period has always been characterized as an authoritarian rule by
liberal democrats. But this was not true. However liberal democrats
advocated that with widespread-firm-quick application of Revolution
decrees would result in counterrevolution. Then liberal democrats
would find common interests with counterrevolutionary groups in a
few years. This has formed the turning point of polarization between
liberal democrats and republican democrats. From now on republican
democrats have always got suspicion about the liberal democrats
of condoning counterrevolutionary groups. In fact in some sense,
especially the multi-party regime experiments after 1923 formed the
evidence of this suspicion. However, in some sense this suspicion may
be found exaggerated in comparison with today’s Islamism threat. But
history orders us that every event must be elaborated considering
its own time and its own conditions.

Kemalist elite wanted transition to multi-party regime in the
early years of the Republic and they realized their wishes, but the
consequences of these experiences were the emergence of Islamism in the
name of liberal democracy. The experiences to develop a multi-party
politics between the years 1923-1946, establishment of Terakkiperper
Cumhuriyet Firkasi in 1924 and Serbest Cumhuriyet Firkasi in 1930
showed that Islamists have been waiting for a chance to pull down
modern, democratic, laic, unitary Turkish Republic. So Kemalist
elite has waited for the year 1946 for transition to multi-party
politics. The overall result was that Islamists did not welcome
Turkish modernization and had always found place under the umbrella
of liberal democrats and liberal democrats preferred to collaborate
with Islamic circles. The multi-party regime experiences in the early
years of Republic did not resulted in success and waited for a proper
time for the transition. It is possible to say that in the years
following the year 1950, liberal democrats have always preferred to
take the votes of Islamic circles.

Kemalism is not an authoritarian ideology. It always aims to
safeguard the gains of Turkish Revolution in the years 1923-1950. It
is not against an affirmative change, it is against change through
any state formation other than laic, democratic, modern, unitary
nation-state. This ideology advocates that modernization process
has not finished, this process should be concluded and then the
number of cultured citizens would increase, and then there should
be a real democracy. According to this ideology, if the citizens are
not well-educated, are not aware of the realities of the country and
the world, these people could not choose the correct party to govern
themselves. This may sound a little bit elitism. But Kemalism was
not an elitist ideology, the liberal democrats have tried to present
it as elitism in the eyes of the voters and foreigners because of
ancient rivalry.

>>From the respect of most of the voters; any party which would not
touch conservative way of life and not aim to transform them has
always awarded by votes. These votes have gone mostly to liberal
democrats. Because modernization process has not concluded and as a
consequence of this deficiency, most of the voters were ignorant and
they have been easily cheated. They believed in liberal democrats. On
the other hand, from the respect of most of the foreigners; any party
which would work for their interests has always been supported. Most
of the politicians of Western states have never been so naive to
believe in liberal democrats but realist world politics required
to collaborate with liberal democrats in Turkey. So, the support of
foreign circles to the liberal democrats was understandable if the
past events in the world after the 1950s, especially the polarization
on two axes in international system etc., were considered.

What is Kemalism or republican democracy? Kemalist ideology with
Enlightenment ideals is a modernization theory. The fundamental
principles of Kemalism form Turkish official identity. According to
Kemalist ideology the Grand National Assembly must occupy a dominant
position. This is essential to guarantee the sovereignty of Turkish
people or in other words make Turkish people the real and the sole
source of authority to determine national policies. Kemalism limits
the role of Turkish Armed Forces in the frame of national defense.

However, Kemalist ideology loads all citizens and institutions
including Turkish Armed Forces with liability to protect Turkish

Kemalist ideology banned all the possible pressures for exerting
influence on the parliament in the years 1923-1946, because it
advocates that the primary institution of a democratic regime is the
parliament. But after the transition to multi-party regime in 1946, the
executive branch in Turkey gained more power against the legislative,
and the dominant position of the legislative branch turned into a
romantic dream in state governing. However, the Kemalist elite in
power under the Republican People’s Party was aimed to keep alive this
romanticism. Kemalist elite thought that the following governments
would keep alive this romanticism, because democracy in Turkish
political life has improved. This was a very innocent hope. Because
liberal democrats would choose to deteriorate the national sovereignty
to seizure votes of the masses open to influence and provocation.

2. Reading 1950s in Turkish Political Life:

In 1950, Democrat Party (liberal democrats) won the general elections
and RPP (republican democrats) found itself in the opposition. DP
in power began to give concessions to Islamic groups such as
permitting religious education in secondary schools and giving
official recognition to the imam-hatip schools; Sufi orders and
organizations such as Naqshibandi tarikat, the Nurcus, the Suleymancis
began to play a political role in Turkish political life after 27
years (1923-1950). DP government damaged the laicism which is the
essence of Turkish democracy, provoked the fascist circles using
Cyprus Dispute in foreign affairs and damaged the nationalism,
pursued the absolute ruling by deceiving large number of uneducated
villagers and damaged to republicanism, made Turkish economy got into
serious debt and transformed the independent Turkish economy to a loan
dependent economy, interpreted the populism principle of Kemalism in
an irrational way as the dictatorship of masses of ignorant people and
excluding the cultured people from the economic and political sphere
and presented the choices of the majority of ignorant villagers as
democratic choice. DP politicians did not only harmful to liberal
democracy itself but also to republican democracy, what follows
Turkish democracy. Today’s liberal democrats giving concessions to
Islamic circles brought this heritage from DP government experience.

Turkish Armed Forces waited until the year 1960, in other words until
the intellectuals called the army to safeguard Kemalist principles.

In the years 1923-1960, Turkish Armed Forces did not intervene in
political life. However in the year 1960, republican democrat Turkish
people wanted the help of Turkish Army to remove authoritarian DP
government who saw itself the only the speaker of the masses. The
republican democrats most of whom had educated in Western countries
knew that ‘liberal democracy advocated by DP politicians was not the
real liberal democracy, it was dilution of liberal democracy’. It
should be emphasized that masses did not vote for DP to see a liberal
democrat party in power, in fact they did not know what liberal
democracy was. The only interests of the masses were to sustain their
conservative lives. In the year 1961, the army left behind the most
democratic constitution of Turkish political life which allowed the
rise of new views in the left and right wings. But the republican
democrats preparing the constitution dated 1961 could not count the
possible misuse of large freedoms and rights. Turkish democracy was
not so strong to combat with possible extremist movements whether
from the left or right side.

In this context, the military intervene on 27 May 1960 can not be
named as an army coup, it can only be named as an intervention by the
Turkish Armed Forces which had received order from Turkish nation led
by republican democrat Turkish intellectuals to safeguard Kemalism
and to pull the regime straight to democracy. Because DP politicians
collaborated with Islamic circles who were against democracy and
saw the liberal democrats as means to enter in political scene. The
army could not be silent to presentation of Islamism in the liberal
democrat tray to the ignorant masses. The army fulfilled its liability
to protect Turkish democracy. The only aim of Turkish army in the year
1960 was to secure the continuity of Turkish modernization which had
interrupted by Democrat Party government in the years 1950-1960.

Turkish Armed Forces under the command of Turkish nation had
always been sensitive not to intervene in political life. However,
totalitarian movements such as reactionary and separationist circles
have always been found as threats to Turkish democracy according to
Kemalist ideology. Because Turkish democracy has never recognized
rights and freedoms to the movements aiming to annihilate democracy
by using democratic rights and freedoms. So Turkish army which has
sided with republican democracy intervened in political life in the
year 1960 to protect Turkish democracy.

Turkish army is the guarantee of the consolidation of Turkish democracy
even today. This may sound strange to the Europeans.

Because in the European experience; liberty, social justice and
equality were achieved by the proliferation of the middle class
and industrialization and as a result, these political and economic
transformations led to the creation of modern national identities.

However most of these prerequisites did not exist in Turkey in the
foundational period of the Republic. There was no strong business
class to establish modern economic system, no urban working class to
advocate social justice. All the radical changes were executed by the
initiative of Kemalist elite. Kemalist elite was from Turkish Army in
the foundational period of Republic and for this reason Turkish Army
has always believed in highness of modernization. For this reason,
the intellectuals who saw the importance of removal of authoritarian
DP government for the sake of Turkish democracy wanted the help of
Turkish army in 1960.

3. Reading 1960s in Turkish Political Life:

The army left behind a democratic constitution that would allow the
rise of extremist movements with the possible abuse of fundamental
rights and freedoms. In 1965 general elections The Justice Party
(JP), liberal democrats became successful. In the 1960s, by using
freedoms and rights rooted from Constitution dated 1961, Turkish
Marxist intellectuals led the poor crowds who had immigrated from
the villages to the cities with the false actions of DP government
and carried these people to the political sphere. These poor people
who were living the shanty town of the big cities still have lived
as if they were in villages or/and rural areas. Legal and illegal
left-wing parties and organizations manipulated these large crowds
and supported different kinds of Marxisms such as Maoism, Leninism,
Stalinsm etc. and used these large crowds for their political aims
of turning down democracy and setting up Marxist dictatorship. It is
possible to say Turkish Marxist intellectuals were affected by the
great wave of 1968 generations all over the world and they could
not count the realities of Turkish political, economic and social
formation. Some Marxist groups were taking financial support from
Chine, some from Soviet Union.

However, Republican People’s Party (RPP) stayed in the center-left
advocating republican democracy while Marxist wave has been increasing
in the country. The politicians in RPP warned the extremist leftist
people to safeguard the democracy. However all kinds of Marxists
would wait for a chance to remove democracy. No Marxist has listened
what republican democrats said, they did not take serious the views
of Kemalists; beside this the Marxists have accused the republican
democrats or Kemalists of not being real leftist. Republican democrats
faced with wiping away from the political scene with the powerful
pressure of Marxists.

On the other hand, The Justice Party (JP) government in the
center-right has begun to make concessions to Islam since the late
of 1960s just as Democrat Party had done in the years 1950-1960. The
Justice Party pointed out extreme-leftists groups as a threat to the
democracy, but on the other hand they collaborated with the Islamism
which was also a threat for the democracy. From the late 1960s,
a perceived Communist threat became a motivation for state support
to Sunni Islam. National Order Party emerged with the language of
Islamism, because Islamists would like to get control over Islamist
votes and planned to detach their way from the liberal democrats.

National Order Party with an Islamic program was competing with
The Justice Party to get the votes of Islamic circles. Islamism was
increasingly seen as a counter-weight to left-wing parties by the
conservatives who could not see the possible threat of Islamism.

4.Reading 1970s In Turkish Political Life:

In 1971, second military intervention was seen in Turkish political
life. This second intervention was a coup, because in Turkish political
life, ‘if the consequences of a military intervention is positive in
other words serve to consolidate democracy; it is called intervention;
on the contrary it is called coup.’ In this context, naming 1971
military intervention as a coup is a correct determination. Because
the coup’s aim was not to safeguard democracy just as in the first
military intervention in 1960. The aim was to stop the extreme leftist
movements who were taking financial support from the Communist bloc.

Although the army said that their aim was to constitute a balance
between right and left wing parties by banning extremist bias, this
result could not be achieved. Because the army was not pleased to see
the rise of Anti-Americanism under the Marxist ideology. As it is
known, Turkey was the strategic ally of USA and gave importance to
its membership in NATO which was the guarantee of protection of its
borders against Soviet Union. In this conjuncture, the coup in 1971
has made not for internal politics but for external politics. So,
the army was in paradox whether to protect borders and as a result
of this aim suppressing the whole left (both center-left and extreme
left) and to contribute the consolidation of Turkish democracy. In
fact army thought that the main enemy was Marxism and it would be
possible to combat with extreme-right in the future.

National Order Party was closed in 1971, however Turkish Armed
Forces thought that a little bit empowerment in the conservative
wing (liberal democrats) would create a proper space to combat with
communism. After the coup, another Islamic party, National Salvation
Party was established. The army was sure that the republican democratic
wing was so strong that it did not need army’s support.

Beside this, army thought that until the threat from the extremist left
was solved, the solution of the extremist right could be suspended. The
army’s view was a short-term solution. This attitude would produce
new problems in Turkish political life in the long term.

The republican democrats except the general elections in 1977, have
never got the majority vote in Turkish political life. The economic
decline of the 1970s fuelled violent extremism of both the left and
the right. Just as, in 1970s Republican People’s Party experienced
a paradox whether to prepare a program implying a little bit Marxist
views or to be wiped out from the political scene. In the late 1970s
RPP presented a program which was a hybrid of Marxism and Kemalism to
get the votes of the extreme left. So the comprehension of republican
democracy has been diluted by Marxist ideology. But this program has
got its so-called legitimacy from being loyal to essence of Kemalist
principles; the change was interpreted as change in practices of
Kemalist principles. Maxism has damaged to Kemalism. However the only
election victory of republican democrats after 1950 was in 1977 by
getting the votes of extreme leftists.

On the other hand, the Justice Party has tried the get the votes of
the extreme-right, both from Islamic circles and extreme nationalists
or fascists who were from Turkish-Islamic movement in the 1970s. In
fact, fascists were represented by Republican Villager People’s Party
between the years 1965-1969; in 1969 Republican Villager People’s
Party changed its name and took the name ‘National Action Party’.

The 1979 Iranian revolution raised the stakes of Islamism. Beside
this, the restructuring of capitalism beginning in the late 1970s
has required the transformation in the economic field of developing
countries. Neo-liberalism has been presented as a cure for a high
standard of living. This was not correct. Because lower classes
would be affected disastrously with the collapse of comprehension
of social welfare state. No any political party from the left or
right wing could dare to advocate a neo-liberal economic policy,
the consequences of this policy would be the loss of support of voters.

Who would realize this transformation? Who would declare the death
of social welfare state? There was just one way to apply such an
economic policy: an authoritarian regime. Neo-liberal economic policy
would be harmonized by liberal democrat parties, but what would the
republican democrats do? In this climate the army seized power for
the third time in 1980, all parties were closed.

5. Reading 1980s in Turkish Political Life:

Under the tight control of political, social and economic fields and
under an environment in which all fundamental freedoms and rights
were suspended by military government; neo-liberal transformation
in economy could be achieved and Turkey was able to service to the
capitalist economic system. For such a great transformation and to
leave social-welfare state behind have required silence of citizens.

The army thought that pumping conservatism by usage of Islam would
work to make people silent. So the military government did not roll
back the gains made for Islam before 1980. Rather, it reinforced
them, by introducing mandatory religious education in schools, began
to promote Turkish-Islamist synthesis in order to counter extreme
leftism and Kurdish nationalism.

Neo-liberal economic policies were pumping the ethnic nationalism,
beside this the hard measures taken by Turkish Armed Forces in the
country have born a new problem: Kurdish separationism. Since 1980s
Turkish political life had to face with two problems: reactionary
and separationist movements. In the 1980s both Islamists and extreme
Turkish nationalists were recruited into the bureaucracy to confront
Kurdish separationism. But this could not be the solution. The only
solution was to consolidate democracy. But both liberal democrats
and republican democrats were in shock.

The coup 1980 which was realized for external demands in economy
was against both the liberal democrats and republican democrats, in
other words against both, the center- left and the center-right. It is
possible to say that the consequences of both the coup 1971 and the
coup 1980 had several similar common points: causing an increase in
conservatism, increasing rate of usage of Islamic symbols in public
sphere, giving damage to Turkish democracy, imprisonment etc. However
the damage given in 1980 was very deep in comparison with the one
in 1971. As it is remembered, the military intervention in the year
1960 has brought gains to Turkish democracy. But the the other two
coups have given great damage to the democracy.

After the third military intervention, Motherland Party which
was established in 1983 with an ambitious program of economic
liberalization and so-called political liberalization took the votes
of most of the citizens whether they were Marxist, liberal democrat,
republican democrat, Islamist etc. Turkish people had to accept the
liquidation of social welfare state. The separation in the political
scene which was based on two wings, liberal democracy advocates and
republican democracy advocates, has left in the past (1923-1980).

1983 general elections were not opaque, Islamists did not vote
for Islamist Welfare Party which was established in the shadow of
Motherland Party in 1983. Welfare Party did not become successful.

Most of Islamists preferred to support Motherland Party to gain
economic power and postponed their political aims. On the other hand
extreme left was in shock of the coup 1980. Social Democrat Party was
established in 1983 to get the votes of republican democrats but it
could not be successful. In 1985 Social Democrat Party united with
People’s Party and took the name ‘Social Democrat People’s Party’.

Kurdish separationism was working just like a terror machine in rural
areas and the representatives of the terrorists were searching for a
place in political scene. They found seats in Social Democrat People’s
Party by wearing a social democrat mask. Republican democrats were
not pleased of these happenings.

In the years 1980s many things have changed. Ex-Marxists turned to
advocate neo-liberal policies and identified themselves as liberal
left. Liberal democracy has divided into several sub-groups, some
identified themselves liberal conservative, some liberal right,
some only liberal, some conservative, some liberal nationalist,
some conservative nationalist etc. In fact these groups could not
remove the shock of the coup 1980 and were trying to interpret the
new ideology: neo-liberalism. The same shock could be observed in
the republican democrat circles. They felt the shock much more deeply.

Some republican democrats have tried to rename themselves as
social-democrats. Some of the republican democrats have rejected
it because republican democracy could not comply with Kurdish
separationism and social democracy was affirming the demands of
separationism. They divided into several sub-groups, some identified
themselves as democratic left, some republican, some laic, some
left, some national left, some Kemalist, some left Kemalist. The
interpretation of neo-liberalism was very hard for the republican

All these divisions both in the center-right and center-left were
irrational and were not matter of course. Turkish citizens were
surprised with these divisions and have never been sure to vote for
the right party after the year 1983. But they have gone to vote to
impede the possible return of military administration. Most of Turkish
people have experienced great pains under 1980 coup regime.

Beside this, the internal politics have begun to work in a different
way in the 1980s. The external politics have begun the main factor
for the determination of the internal politics. Turkish citizens have
felt themselves without protection. The definition of 1980s process
was ‘change’. But Turkish people could estimate that not all changes
resulted in accordance with their interests. Neo-liberal scenario has
been presented on a golden tray to the developing states by means of
‘new /neo’ promises.

According to this new scenario, the economic activity area of
the state should be narrowed by the means such as privatization,
auctioning, providing privilages..etc. The significant points for the
new scenario were determined as effectiveness, efficiency, structural
adjustment etc. In fact these would result in new kind of dependency
of developing countries on the developed countries. In other words,
the reflection of the neo-liberal policies showed itself by the name
of globalization. Globalization was a new type of imperialism. It has
advocated that there has been only one democracy: liberal democracy.

Beside this, liberal democracy could only be achieved by this new
kind of dependency, globalization.

In the late 1980s, free capital flow has been presented as the
only solution for removing the economic problems of the developing
countries. Developing countries were in the demand of capital, but
the capacity of world trade started to decrease and as a result of
this, the share of developing countries in the world decreased. Then
these countries began to take loans. The debt of these countries was
started to increase sharply so they became dependent on the imports.

Then most of the developing countries turned into credit dependent
countries. They were obliged to carry out the requirements of the
neo-liberal policies in order to get more credits. Then IMF and
World Bank prepared the receipts of stabilization programs for the
developing countries. Then foreign entrepreneurship has been started
to be presented as a solution for the debt crises by the IMF and World
Bank. As a result of the application of this solution, the developing
countries like Turkey, lost the control of the capital and the power
to direct the investments. The developing countries were turned into
consumption societies. By the end of 1980s, the cheap labor and the
resources of raw materials could not rescue Turkey.

Because flexible production model required qualitative labour, and
this, post-Fordist production model, resulted in povertization of
developing countries. Turkey has been dragged to the povertization
by neo-liberal policies. Lower classes have become poorer and middle
class has faced to disappear.

The political scene in the 1980s was so mixed that it could not be
evaluated according to terms of traditional Turkish democracy.

Neo-liberal economic policies have created proper condition in social
and political life for the totalitarian movements. As a result of
neo-liberal policies in Turkey, the only winners were the reactionary
(Islamism) and separationist (ethnic Kurdish) movements. These two
totalitarian movements have constituted serious threats against
democracy, today Turkey still deals with these two problems.

By the 1987 general elections, Islamist voters began to move to Welfare
Party. However the winner of these elections was Motherland Party
with a decreasing vote rate in comparison with the elections held
in 1983. By the mid 1990s, Welfare Party was running as a political
machine. Welfare Party took a traditional mass-based grassroots
approach with a door-to-door presence in every neighborhood. This
traditional constituency was joined by a new class of Islamist
professionals and by recently urbanized poor. Islamism began to take
the place of Marxism in the late 1970s.

The rural population with the strong Muslim identity that migrated
to the cities in the 1960s and the 1970s had grown-up and educated.

Islamically oriented professionals in engineering or economics had
benefited from the neo-liberal economy in the 1980s and ties with
oil-rich Arab counties. Islamist so-called intellectuals emerged as
a force in their own right, thanks to the governments after 1960s in
granting imam-hatip graduates access to the universities. In 1995
general elections, Welfare Party managed to unite these people, in
other words, the Islamist bourgeoisie, poor urban youth whom identified
itself with Turkish-Islam identity and Islamist intelligentsia. This
was the dissolution of the center of Turkish politics. In fact, all
over the world the process was called as ‘end of history, end of
ideology, end of…’ However less people have asked the question:
‘Is neo-liberalism or neo-conservatism not an ideology?’ In Turkey
voices of people asking such questions were cut.

The right wing governments after 1950s are responsible for the rise
of Islamism by giving concessions to the Islamists in order to get
their votes. Given these concessions and external funding by Iran
and Saudia Arabia, the number of Islamists have increased. Especially
young poor people have been attracted by scholarship, accommodation
and other forms of rewards by Islamist circles. The Green Belt
strategy of the USA to counter the spread of socialism has also
fed the Islamist formations. All these happenings were the signs of
coming threat towards democracy but liberal democrats could not read
the situtation correctly and they themselves caused the dissolution
of the center of Turkish politics.

6. Reading 1990s in Turkish Political Life

By the 1991 general elections, the majority votes have gone to True
Path Party. Until next general elections the governing party was True
Path Party with a neo-liberal program. True Path Part was representing
Democrat Party tradition in 1950s and Justice Party tradition in
1960s and 1970s.

By 1995 general elections, Turkey faced with coalition governments.

Welfare Party entered a coalition with True Path Party in 1996 and
for the first time Islamists got in power. Welfare Party had extreme
Islamist vision such as planning to increase mosque-building, removing
nude sculptures from public places, banning modern plays or concerts,
attempt to establish Islamic common market etc. On 28 February 1997,
army applied pressure on Islamist government to make the Welfare
Party step back from Islamist dreams.

On February 28, army’s interference was a semi-intervention. This
intervention brought positive results especially considering
educational reform. Compulsory education in primary school has been
increased from five years to eight years. The reason and consequences
of this intervention was to consolidate democracy. In this context,
parallelism can be determined in both the military intervention in
1960 and 1997. Most of the universities and public institutions were
rescued from the dominance of Islamists. The effect of Islamist media
has reduced. The properties of several Islamist holding companies
were investigated and unlawful actions were punished. Koran courses
in rural areas were closed. Welfare Party had to leave the government
(June 1997), because laic worries were highly increased.

Turkey has faced serious political crises, however, both liberal
democrat party, The True Path Party and Motherland Party refused to
unite. On the other hand, the republican democrats have re-established
Republican People’s Party in 1992, nine years after the closure in
1981. In 1995, Social Democrat People’s Party united with Republican
People’s Party under the name ‘RPP’. The RPP could not formulate
Kemalism according to new conjuncture. In new conjuncture, they
preferred to import foreign programs of European social democrat
parties instead of re-structuring Kemalism.

In the year 1998, Welfare Party was closed by the order of
Constitutional Court. Islamists then established Virtue Party,
this party had also extreme Islamist vision especially considering
the demand for the usage of Islamic symbols such as turban in
public spheres. Turkish women in rural areas cover their heads with
headscarves traditionally, headscarf is not an Islamic symbol; on the
other hand "turban" is an Islamic symbol. In 1999 general elections,
for the first time republican democrats found themselves outside the
parliament. However Democratic Left Party which was established in
1985and was from the center-left advocating Kemalism and National
Action Party which was re-established in 1992 and was from the
center-right and leaving its fascist heritage behind coup 1980 got
the majority of votes. Turkey faced a coalition government once again.

7. Reading 2000s in Turkish Political Life:

Virtue Party was dissolved in June 2001 by the Constitutional Court
because of advocating Islamism and misuse democratic rights and
freedoms. After Virtue Party was closed, Virtue Party bore two new
Islamist party, one is Felicity Party which was established in July
2001 and the other one is Justice and Development Party which was
established in August 2001. In 2002 general elections, Justice and
Development Party became the governing party with its hidden Islamist
program. However Justice and Development Party presented itself as
‘conservative democrat’. "Conservative democrat" was an fictitious
term to hide Islamist views. After 2002 general elections, the
opposition party in the parliament was Republican People’s Party
which accomplished to push out the Kurdish separationists under
the mask of social democrat from the party and take Kemalism as a
unique guide considering the new conjunture in political, social
and economic spheres. RPP was successful to make synthesis program
including loyalty to the principles of Kemalism and the developments
in the world in the early 2000s. It could prepare a genuine program.

After the general elections 2002, Turkish parliament faced an unjust
rivalry between Islamist fighters and democracy fighters. In fact
Republican People’s Party has been giving struggle non only on behalf
of republican democrats, but also on belalf of liberal democrats. The
last general elections was a turning point for liberal democracy in
Turkey. Beacuse for the first time liberal democracy, ‘True Path
Party+Motherland Party+National Action Party’ did not have any
representative in the parliament immediately afterwards the elections.

Justice and Development Party has made no program commitments pointing
to theocratic vision beacuse of constitutional restrictions, but if the
speeches of the party’s leader and the members are listened carefully,
it is seen that this party forms a threat for Turkish democracy. After
2002 general elections in Turkey, liberal intellectuals thought
that being in power would moderate the Islamist politicians in this
party into democrats, so democratization would continue and Islamist
politicians who are in holding office with the intention to transform
Turkey would be transformed and would break off from their Islamist
roots. However republican democrats in different parties warned
liberals and whole Turkish citizens not to be deceived. Government’s
performances have proved the justness of republican democrats.

Islamic terms are useful in political rhetoric precisely because of
their fluid meaning in Turkish political life, allowing politicians
to seem to promise all things to all people and thus unite otherwise
contradictory social interests in particular class interests. This
has given Justice and Development Party a special potential realised
most fully in the 1979 revolution in Iran. In addition to this, 99% of
Turkish population is Muslim, so citizens were used to treat Islamic
terms as political slogan and ignorant masses were not aware of the
danger coming. Most of the people who have always been the voters
of liberal democracy voted for Justice and Development Party which
was successful to hide its true intentions. Justice and Development
Party was able to steal the votes of liberal democrat parties.

The success of Justice and Development Party should be evaluated
considering the international happenings. The rejection of previous
coalition government to ally with USA to invade Iraq was an important
reason of the success of Islamist party. Economic crisis have
planned and realized to drop the coalition government by international
financial circles in the early 2000s. Just as, the reality that before
2002 general elections the politicians of Justice and Development
Party had promised to cooperate with USA in invasion of Iraq and give
concessions for the establishment of Kurdish state in the Middle East
and damage the unitary structure of Iraq, became clear. Collaboration
with foreign financial groups has brought success to Islamist part
in the last general elections. The money flowing from the tarikats,
Islamist holding companies and international finance institutions to
Justice and Development Party made it governing party.

In the evaluation of 2002 general elections, it is very important to
give some information about Youth Party led by Uzan. YP has reached
a considerable percentage of votes in an extraordinarily short
time period (established on 12.07.2002 and entered into general
elections on 3.11.2002) getting the 7.25 % of the votes. It has
become the fifth party coming after Justice and Development Party,
Republican People’s Party, True Path Party and National Action Party
respectively. The rapid rise of this party in three month period was
very interesting and deserved to be evaluated considering the changes
of Turkish political life in the late 1990s.

The party was established on the date July 12, 2002 which was just
three months before the 2002 general elections. The founder of the
party was Cem Uzan the most powerful and rich businessman. He was
the boss of Uzan Group under which eight company groups were operating.

These company groups were comprised of Telecommunicatin Group (Telsim,
Unitel, Kartel and Artel etc.), Internet and Interactive Group
(Rumeli Yazilim and Star Dijital etc.), Media Group (Star Televizyon
Hizmetleri, Kral TV and Ulusal Basin Gazetecilik etc.), Energy
Group (CEAS, Kepez etc.), Cement Group (ten cement factories that
were dispersed into different regions), Finance Group (Imar Bankasi,
Adabank, Rumeli Sigorta etc.), Construction Group, Iron and Steel Group
(METAS, DEMAS etc.), Sports Group (two middle-ranking Super League
clubs Adanaspor and Istanbulspor) and an aviation company named Rumeli
Havacilik. Today all the companies of Uzan Group are under the state
control. After the 2002 general elections, the government (governing
party is Justice and Development Party led by prime minister Mr. Recep
Tayip Erdoðan) took over all the properties of this group one by one.

YP in Turkish political life appears to be very carefully planned and
professionally held enterprise of businessman Cem Uzan. The party has
baked by the considerable media power. According to party program,
YP has been built upon the idea that ‘the most important thing is
the happiness of individuals and society’. When considered from a
broad perspective, it is possible to name program as a declaration of
absolute opportunism. Rather surprisingly, in the party program, one
can find almost no trace of the ideas that Uzan states in his speeches
in the meetings with respect to the aggressiveness and radicalism.

The party attributes itself a kind of ‘supra-ideological’ position
but it is a right wing party of the neo-liberal center. It is a
person-party that goes far beyond the usual leader party. YT equals
to Cem Uzan. The effective use of media power in a professional and
pragmatic way, carefully designed speeches, resemblance more to a
product of advertisement or marketing strategy than of a political
perspective are methods of this party to reach large number of
people. Uzan gives a good example of extreme right populism in Turkish
political life. YP’s propaganda ranging from the pop-concerts before
the meetings to the broadcasting of advertisements are the products
of the new way of making politics that can be called as ‘performance
politics’. YP acts like a company not a political party, it always
calculates the costs and benefits and reaches the conclusion on what
to defend. The success of this party in the last elections shows how
painful days have passed during the transformation of Turkish political
life in the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s.The general elections that will
be held on July 22, 2007 will not bring success to Youth Party.

8. Reading Coming General Elections on July 22, 2007

Totalitarian movements such as reactionary and separationist circles
have always been found as threats to Turkish democracy. Because
Turkish democracy in Turkey has never recognized rights and freedoms
to the movements aiming to annihilate democracy by using democratic
rights and freedoms. So Turkish army which sides with republican
democracy has intervened in political life in the year 1997 with
Memorandum February 28 to protect Turkish democracy just as in the
year 1960. It is very important to evaluate all the coups in Turkey
in a rational way. ‘Naming all the coups as threat to democracy’ is
a dogmatic claim for Turkish democracy. To name whether the military
intervention is for or against democracy, the consequences of the
military intervention should be evaluated.

According to state tradition which was institutionalized with Turkey’s
most democratic constitution, Constitution dated 1961 and kept alive
by new generations up to 2000s although there have been several
changes for the last 50 years. Before explaining this tradition, it
should be emphasized that; this tradition has always been damaged
by Marxists, liberal democrats and Islamists. However republican
democrats have always given struggle to protect this tradition to
consolidate democracy.

According to this state tradition; if an authoritarian government gets
in power, there are three ways to remove this government. These ways
are social, legal and political ways. These three ways can be worked
simultaneously, however tradition has formed in a context of step by
step application. First of all, the intellectuals, the universities
and members of judiciary, the newspapers, columnists and the ordinary
citizens warn the government. If this social way does not work, it
is passed to second way: the legal one. The constitutional court
is responsible to secure the state’s tradition and takes legal
decisions against authoritarian government. If this second way
does not work and the government insists on authoritarian regime,
the opposition or the citizens offer to make general elections. If
the authoritarian government is not willing to go general elections,
then the citizens use their right to revolt against authoritarian
government. This revolt can be realized by the support of Turkish
Armed Forces because the ordinary citizens are unweaponed and need
weapons to pull down the government.

In May 2007 during the presidency election manipulated by Islamist
government has awakened Turkish people. Turkish people, universities,
newspapers, independent columnists high judiciary operated the
social way; Islamist government declared that it would not take these
demands into consideration, however pumped dominant media groups to
regain legitimacy. Then Turkish Armed Forces warned the government,
Islamist government did not care the warnings. Turkish people were in
meetings protesting government. Then constitutional court mechanism
was operated. Islamist government critized high court’s decision.

People on the streets have been calling Islamist government to go
general elections. Islamist government resisted all these demand and
warnings as it could. In the end Turkish people warned government to
revolt if the election date would not decided. Islamist government
accapted to go elections. However it decided on a date which would be
as late as possible: 22 July. Islamist government once again violated
constitution. But Turkish people and politicians from center-left
and center-right were content to any definite election date.

With the effect of the Islamist government’s attitudes during the
presidency election, Turkish politicians and most of the citizens woke
up from a long sleep of the coup 1980. The citizens have worked for
the unification of the liberal democrats (in the sense of right-wing)
and republican democrats (in the sense of left-wing). So the main
two rivalry would be constituted in the political scene.

Justice and Development Party politicians knew that deposit votes
had come to them will go to their real owners: Liberal democrats.

Turkish citizens today have gained awareness to exclude all
totalitarian movements which are not comply with democracy from the
political scene although dominant media under the control of Islamist
government. There is still large number of ignorant people, but there
is a common sense of Turkish citizens because of the bad experience
of the last few years.

To sum up, what will be the attitudes of the voters in coming

Possible results of the elections on the date July 22, 2007;

If citizens would like to see a liberal democrat government, they will
give their votes to National Action Party (left extreme nationalism
in the past) or to Democrat Party (forms with the unification of True
Path Party and Motherland Party).

If citizens would like to see a republican democrat government, they
will give their votes to Republican People’s Party (Democratic Left
Party supports RPP which has Kemalist program).

If citizens would not like to see a democratic regime, they will
give their votes to Justice and Development Party (has Islamist
program, but with a pragmatic approach the party is planning to be
give a liberal democrat image by so-called laic sample candidates
for the parliament.) However here a serious question is born: Is it
acceptable to remove democracy in Turkey by using democracy? The other
questions can be produced for the strategy of this Islamist movement:
How Islamist politicians will explain the close messages given by
Greek Cypriots & Armenian Diaspora & Kurdish leaders in Iraq for the
re-election of them to Turkish citizens either stand on center-right
or center-left? How Islamist politicians will explain high unemployment
rate, concessions given in Northern Iraq, Northern Cyprus, natural gas
pipelines, debts, decrease in investments, privatizations, etc? Will be
the money coming abroad sufficient to win general elections once again?

If citizens especially in the south eastern region of the country would
like to see the division of Turkey instead of unitary Turkey, they
will give their votes to parties or so-called independent candidates
who advocate Kurdish separationism. However here again a serious
question is born: Is it acceptable to divide Turkey by using democracy?

The democrats whether they are republican or liberal will not permit
the removal of democracy and the division of Turkey. The meetings in
Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Canakkale, Manisa, Samsun and all over the
country have showed that democrats are very strong. Beside this in all
meetings messages were given not only corresponding political sphere,
but also economic ansd social sphere. Barely, both international media
groups broadcasting all over the world and dominant media groups under
control of Islamist government have announced meetings as ‘meetings to
protect laicism’. In meetings, economic messages centrally independence
of Turkish economy, justice in income distribution, necessary to
combat with unemployment have given. In meetings, privatization of
education and health sector has been criticized. The sale of strategic
enterprises to foreigners were rejected.

Some so-called liberals from the right and left wing say that
the meetings are belong to Republican People’s Party. This is
not correct! The organizing committee can be identified itself as
republican democrat (some are from RPP, some are from Workers Party,
some are form Independent Republican Party, Democratic Left Party etc),
however the participants in the meetings are both republican democrats
and liberal democrats. Because even liberal democrats have serious
suspicion on neo-liberal economic policies, Turkey-EU relations and
Turkey-USA relations.

As a result, common aim of republican democrats and liberal democrats
is the removal of Islamism and Kurdish separationism from Turkish
political scene. Turkish citizens will defend their gains of Turkish
Revolution. It is possible to expect a new military intervention in
the near future? If the military intervention will bring positive
consequences to combat with Islamism and Kurdish separationism and
secure democracy, Turkish people will support this intervention.

However if the military intervention will be realized in the sense
of ‘coup’, Turkish people will not support this coup. On the other
side, Turkish people know the fact that the army has never occupied
civilian power for a long time. Although Turkish citizens say that
‘Neither coup nor Islamism’, it is clear that most of them prefer
to go back TEN YEARS under ‘coup’ but reject to go back ONE CENTURY
under an Islamic coup by Justice and Development Party government.

There will be some external interferences from different circles
to carry moderate Islamists in power either by using media, ordered
public surveys which will range Islamist party at the top or free of
charge delivery of Islamist newspapers to houses or other means which
can be easily estimated, but this will not affect Turkish citizens.

Turkish voters from the center-right wing will vote for either Democrat
Party or National Action Party. The voters from the center-left wing
will vote for Republican People’s Party. The winners will be either
liberal democrats or republican democrats, not the totalitarian
movements. In other words, the winner of the coming elections will
be either Kemalism or Ataturkism. So the coming general elections
will contribute the consolidation of Turkish democracy.

9. Conclusion:

To sum up, in Turkey, three (1960, 1971, 1980) and a half military
intervention (February 28,1997) plus a declaration (April 27,2007)
were seen. The military intervention in 1960, 1997 Memorandum and
2007 Declaration were realized for internal reason mainly to secure
democracy. On the other hand, 1971 Memorandum and 1980 coup were
realized for external reasons. In fact Turkish Armed Forces can not
be accused for problems in Turkish political life in 1970s and 1980s.

If the civilian governments and politicians behaved logically after
abandonment of Turkish army from power, the crises would not be seen.

There has always been four characteristics of Turkish political life:

First one is the political polarization. There are the progressives,
the dynamic forces at one pole (Kemalists) and the conservatives,
the static forces (Ataturkists) at the other. Republican democrats
represent the progressive front and the liberal democrats represent
the conservative stand. Marxists have never found a permanent position
on republican democracy axis. Islamists or followers of Turk-Islam
synthesis have never found a permanent position on liberal democracy
axis. Because all totalitarian movements have been evaluated as
threats to Turkish democracy since 1923 Turkish Revolution.

So the sharing of political ground which is chained to economic and
social area on two axis has always been the guarantee of Turkish
democracy and provided Turkish political scene stability. This
stability has not always resulted in equilibrium. This equilibrium
has created advantages to liberal democrats because of unfinished
modernization process on values considering %99 Muslim population in
Turkey. But the view claimed by liberal democrats, ‘modernization
in services will bring modernization in value system in long-run’
has been a worthy supposition.

The second characteristic of Turkish political life is the gap existed
between political affairs and legal and administrative measures. No
government can solve social, economic and political problems if the
formulas of the regime are not institutionalized and legal input-output
mechanisms are not designed in the governing system. The nonexistence
of the gap between political affairs and legal and administrative
measure depends on requirement of absence of totalitarian movements
in political scene such as Islamism, Marxism, racist nationalism,
Kurdish separationism etc.

The third characteristic of Turkish political life is the opportunity
cost to make a choice between rapid development on the one hand and
maintaining the fundamental rights and freedoms on the other. Both can
be achieved at the same time. But republican democrats have always
emphasized the fundamental rights and freedoms mainly, on the other
hand liberal democrats have always emphasized rapid development
mainly. Anyway, these different stresses of two traditional axis
explain us why republican democracy has always been called as ‘axis
of values’ and liberal democracy as ‘axis of performances’. This kind
of classification may be reductionism, but is a functional instrument
so analyze Turkish political life.

Fourth characteristic of Turkish political life is the qualifications
of politicians. It is possible to classify the politicians into
two groups: those who lack of creative mindedness and originality
of thought, act on self-interest and the basis of personal belief
on one side and those who act on legality, act on positivism, give
importance to scientific knowledge and pursue the national interest
instead of his/her own interest. The first group of politicians
consider the university circles and the press as unfriendly groups
and usually stand in the liberal democrat front, the second group of
politicians believe in that citizens need an intellectual-political
leadership, give importance of the press freedom and stand in the
republican democrat front of Turkish political life. This kind of
classification does not explain Islamists or Marxists or fascists
or Kurdish separtionist. Because if the liberal democrats and their
supporters stand in the periphery of political or social or economic
spheres and if the republican democrats and their supporters stand
in the center of political or social or economic spheres; where do
the politicians of totalitarian movements and their supporters stand?

Unaccountable situation of these totalitarian politics and politicians
and supporters proves that they stand on nowhere. No any interference
supported by interior and exterior forces will be successful to
transform ‘nowhere’ into ‘definite space’.

As a result, Turkish people is going to advocate the gains of
Turkish Revolution. After general elections, democracy will be in
power neither Mainstream Islamism/ Moderate Islamism nor Kurdish
separationism. Either republican or liberal democracy will win.

Diren Cakmak is a PhD Candidate-Research Assistant at Cankaya
University in Ankara, Turkey.