ANKARA: What if the AKP is closed?

Zaman Online, Turkey
July 28 2008

What if the AKP is closed?

by Å?AHÄ°N ALPAY [email protected] Columnists

The Constitutional Court in Ankara will begin its deliberations on the
closure case against the Justice and Development Party (AKP)
today. There are basically two alternatives for the court: It will
either decide to ban the party or not. Whatever the verdict, it is
guaranteed to have a deep impact on the course of Turkish politics and
it will have repercussions beyond Turkey’s borders. How? Let’s begin
with the more likely decision. If the AKP is closed the vast majority
of the population will perceive the decision as most unfair and purely
political. Nearly half of the electorate voted for the AKP in the
elections last year, but they are not likely to take to the streets to
protest the judgment. The AKP leadership, on the other hand, will most
certainly appeal the decision before the court at Strasbourg, which
will sooner or later certainly judge it a clear violation of the
freedom of association secured in the European Convention on Human

By banning the AKP, the Constitutional Court would not only violate
the convention, but also its own principles regarding the freedom of
organization — elaborated as recently as July 1 in its decision to
refuse to ban the pro-Kurdish Rights and Freedoms Party
(HAK-PAR). That decision stated that political parties are
indispensable for a democracy. Their different solutions to the
country’s problems are a natural consequence of their political
functions. The discourse of political parties is protected by the
freedom of expression as long as it does not pose a clear and present
danger to the democratic regime. Political parties cannot be banned as
long as they do not seriously threaten democracy.

The AKP leadership has, since the initiation of the case to close down
the party, behaved responsibly and done its best to avoid — as much
as possible — damage to Turkey’s economy and foreign policy
interests. The AKP government has refrained from amending the rules
governing political parties to bring them in line with EU norms, which
would have rendered its closure impossible. It may be expected that
the AKP leadership will continue to behave responsibly, whatever the
verdict. Irrespective of the AKP leadership’s behavior, however, a
decision to ban the party risks the further polarization of the
country and the lessening of prospects for national reconciliation.

A closure decision also risks highly negative consequences for the
Turkish economy by increasing uncertainty about the future and
deterring investment, with the most unwanted consequences of falling
growth rates, increasing unemployment and poverty. Those who will
conclude that pursuing democratic and peaceful politics is not allowed
in Turkey will be more likely to assume radical positions. If, like
the AKP, the Democratic Society Party (DTP) is also closed down,
Turkey’s Kurds are likely to conclude that their political preferences
have no relevance and the ranks of those who adopt violent methods are
likely to swell.

Turkey’s hard-earned prestige as a force for peace, stability, and
democracy in its region will suffer, and it will be perceived not as a
democracy on the road to joining the European Union, but rather as
another authoritarian Middle Eastern regime. Those in the EU who
oppose Turkish membership will acquire further evidence for their
arguments. Ankara is most likely to miss the recently arisen
opportunities for solving the Cyprus problem and normalizing relations
with Armenia, and its hopes of being elected to the UN Security
Council will surely fade. The most severe consequence of a closure
verdict in this context concerns the message sent to the Muslim
world. Islamist movements are likely to conclude that they will be
excluded from the democratic process even if they adopt democracy and
secularism and to further radicalize.

A decision to close down the AKP is not even likely to serve the aims
and interests of those who support it. The party that replaces the AKP
will surely decide to go to the polls as soon as possible and will
most likely win an even stronger mandate, rendering the political
opposition even more marginal. It will not even be possible to
eliminate Recep Tayyip ErdoÄ?an and Abdullah Gül, since
there are no rules to stop ErdoÄ?an from being re-elected as an
independent or to stop Gül from serving the full length of his
term as president.

The prospects for the consolidation of democracy and secularism are
much stronger, on the other hand, if the court refuses to close down
the AKP. Why? That is the topic of another column.


From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS