The Constitutional Court conspiracy
Turkey’s Constitutional Court took a very important decision last week, which gave relief to millions, but also enraged others. This was the verdict to re-open Twitter, after the blocking of the immensely popular website by the government for more than two weeks. In a detailed decision, the court explained that Twitter, which is used by millions of Turks, had become an important medium for freedom of expression and that it could not be blocked in a democratic society.
Those who were opposed to the blocking of Twitter (and YouTube as well, which is still blocked) welcomed this decision. One of them was President Abdullah Gül, who had opposed the ban from the very beginning. In a conversation with journalists he even said that he was “proud” of the Constitutional Court, and the members who he himself had appointed to it, because the court had become a beacon of democratic rights and freedoms.
On the government’s side, however, there was less sympathy for the top court. Yasin Aktay, an academic-turned-AKP-politician, criticized the court for “protecting the rights of a multinational, imperialist company,” which is Twitter, rather than “the people.” Soon, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan voiced a similar line, saying that he found the Constitutional Court’s decision “unpatriotic.” (The exact word is “gayrı-milli,” which literally means “non-national.”) His government will implement the decision, Erdoğan added, but he does not “respect” it.
Then, this Monday, the head of the Constitutional Court, Haşim Kılıç, spoke and defended the decision to re-open Twitter. When journalists asked him about the prime minister’s criticism of the court, the top judge smiled and politely said that he “understands” such “emotional” reactions.
The response came a day after. Erdoğan, at his weekly Parliament address, emphasized that the does not “respect” the court decision. It is “legal,” he argued, but not “legitimate.” Moreover, according to a news story in daily Radikal, Erdoğan also told some journalists, in a closed meeting, that he suspects that there are “parallel members” within the Constitutional Court. This was a clear reference to the “parallel state” that Erdoğan claims has been created by the religious followers of Fethullah Gülen. But what was the evidence of this “parallel” reality within the Constitutional Court? Well, apparently, nothing but the fact that the institution had given a decision that the government did not like.
This particular incidence shows how dangerous the current paranoid political mood in Turkey has become. I, in fact, do not think that the “parallel state” is a totally imaginary problem: there apparently is a faction within the police that excelled in wiretapping politicians and other prominent figures, the products of which we have seen on the Internet in the past three months. Legal prosecutions against such illegal activities are legitimate and necessary.
However, if the government begins to see every unpleasant fact in politics as a conspiracy of an invisible “parallel state,” then it will lose its ability to make rational assessments. The hunt for these unpleasant facts will never end, pushing the government towards more and more authoritarianism. Political paranoia, after all, is the universally guaranteed trigger for political oppression.
NOTE: I strongly condemn the punch attack on Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition, which took at Parliament yesterday. As we say in Turkish, “geçmiş olsun.”