Every election in Turkey has a centre of gravity. In this sense, what is the “centre of gravity” in these elections? What will Turkey actually be voting on?
Turkey will choose a system on May 14. Either it will continue with the current system or it will decide on a return to the “strengthened parliamentary system,” which has been on the opposition’s agenda for a long time.
If we set aside individuals, their weight in politics, and analyze Turkey from the perspective of the permanent political mainstream, I see this: Turkey may leave behind a system based on rules and institutions and become a society completely dependent of individuals.
In other words, this time, Turkey will be putting the system it voted for in 2017, the “presidential government system,” to a vote once more. This will be, yes, a kind of referendum.
Like individuals, governments are mortal. Political identities, ideologies and political preferences are not necessarily very important. For example all three parties coming from the AK Party’s tradition are now on the other side, on the side of the opposition bloc. This shows that ideological preferences and conservative preferences will not be the main issues for the ballot box. There is a very different political polarisation in the country, and this polarisation is about the system itself.
This system, adopted in 2017 and in force still, should be seen as a kind of “bureaucratic autocracy” in its peculiar form. In 2017, Turkey had fully transitioned into a full-fledged autocracy. This autocracy created an order in which the parliament, which includes the voters and elected officials in the political system, was disabled and replaced entirely by the bureaucracy.
Prof Ersin Kalaycıoğlu describes this as “Sultanism”…
In an autocracy you never know what you may be confronted with. The term “dictatorship” doesn’t quite fit, because a dictatorship has its own “internal consistency”. Autocracy is not like that. Mind you: in Turkey, the power was transferred directly from parliament and political parties to the bureaucracy. To a bureaucracy under one person, loyal to him…
In the past, in the parliamentary system, ministers used to smile when they appeared before the public. Now there is no minister smiling… This is a type of bureaucrat who seems to lack emotion, sympathy and empathy. None of the current ministers are politicians. They are appointed officials. They are secretaries.
Their faces are sullen, like the ministers of the Soviet period; there is also some sort of uneasiness…
Their raison d’être stems directly from the person whose approval they seek constantly from up above. This means, they are not open to any demands or ready for any questions coming from “down below”. A bureaucracy which is completely arbitrary and focused on its own interests.
Until 2017, we had never heard of a bureaucrat receiving more than one salary. Now we do. This is an indicator of the power of the bureaucracy. All state organisations are turning into a “system of stipends”. These privileges are shared by the bureaucracy.
You cannot put any country and nation solely in the service and mercy of a bureaucrat. Because the bureaucrat’s priority is to focus 70-80 % of his work on protecting his or her own post and personal interests. On the other hand, when you take the whole bureaucracy and subordinate it to a single person, it is impossible for that person to supervise this bureaucracy. Then there is a vacuum of supervision. From that moment on, this bureaucracy starts to work against the power which employs it.
How do you mean?
There was an earthquake in Turkey, but the current government was left under the rubble of the bureaucracy it created before the earthquake. This will have very important and lasting effects.
Why did an organization like the Red Crescent become incapacitated? Instead, it has become known for selling tents… The reason for this is very simple. Their intention is not to fulfill their primary mission, but to turn it into a stall. When you set up a company to produce tents there, it becomes more productive as a stall.
But, if the opposition comes to power, how will it repair or restore these emptied institutions? Will it be able to fulfill its promises?
In the current system, there is a power that leads to the concentration and monopolization of authority. The question is: when the opposition comes to power, how will it immediately give up this power? This is a problem.
Is Political Islam, which constitutes the main body of the current government, on life support? Is it on its way out, never to return to power ever again? Is this part of the main body finished?
Political Islam ended in 2012. It is already dead. We placed it in a coffin, we nailed it, and we buried it. Mind you, Islamism has been an oppositional ideology in Turkey. It evaporated when it came to power. The claim of “I am the state” represented a notion that ended political Islamism. “One nation, one state, one flag”… these nationalist mottos have replaced the Islamist discourses.
The ideology produced in the ruling media now is a nationalist ideology, not an Islamist ideology. The wheels of a nationalist ideology aiming to integrate the state and its citizens are now in motion.
I’d say Islamism has gradually evolved into a “statism without ideology”, an autocracy without ideology. And, while Islamism has declined, nationalism has been on the rise. But the Turkish Left has also started to develop itself, in my view. I observe that the Left is experiencing an ideological rebirth.
But, most importantly, I think that after this election, nationalism may turn into a larger mass ideology and completely occupy the conservative right segments of the political spectrum.
The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author(s) and do not reflect those of the Free Turkish Press.