As the mayor of Ankara steps down
The spokesman of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has declared on TV that his party is committed to democracy. He says that he firmly believes that those who enter public office with the vote of the nation should also leave with the vote of the nation. Can anyone object to that? Obviously not.
Turkey’s unpleasant times can be traced back to a coup in 1908, the putschist mentality of which started a tradition of political tutelage that has hindered the growth of a fully-fledged democratic governance system. Turkey has always had a peculiar democracy, which until recently generally fell under the shadow of the mighty Turkish military. Could there be democratic governance if the country’s military considered itself the “custodian of the regime” or the “superior” element entrusted by the nation to safeguard secular governance?
The country has been through the 1960 and 1980 military coups as well as the 1971 coup by memorandum. The 1997 “post-modern coup,” during which the military remained in their barracks while the military encouraged civil society establishments, forced the elected prime minister to step down. And then came the July 15, 2016, coup attempt. What do they have in common? Not all of them were directed by military commanders, but by a political agenda. The Turkish military wanted to shape civilian politics and replace the elected government with one of their choice.
Thus it is very unfortunate that despite the many months that have passed since the July 15 coup, the country’s intelligence network and its “independent” judiciary have failed to unveil the civilian cadres of the heinous attempt. Who was to take over the presidency if the president had actually been killed? Who was to become prime minister? What were the names listed as would-be ministers?
A janitor, a waiter, or an ordinary person can be sent to prison on charges of being a member of the putschist gang. Soldiers, journalists, professors, teachers, lawyers, judges, prosecutors, bureaucrats and workers were all dismissed. Many of them were sent to prison because of their membership to the gang. To claim that not a single AKP member were among the putschists, despite the fact that the party was in bed with the gang for so long, can only be a very bad joke.
Why has the president been purging certain democratically-elected mayors? Were they all affiliated to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ)? If so, why were they kept in office for more than one year after the coup? If they are not FETÖ members, why are they being forced to step down? Were they involved in corruption or cronyism? If so, why have the relevant authorities of the country not taken action against them, but instead the president is forcing them to resign?
Melih Gökçek succumbed to pressures and disclosed after a meeting with the president that he would be stepping down on Oct. 28. He might not deserve to be supported because of his 24-year performance as the mayor of Ankara. Nor do the Bursa or Istanbul mayors deserve praise either. But how can this country’s president force them to resign and forgive the crimes they might have committed? If they are clean, why are they being forced to resign?
The president might have some other things in mind. He might want to head to the polls with some “better individuals” occupying such important mayoral seats. But can such a move be compatible with democracy? The AKP spokesperson had claimed the party abided by democratic norms. But do the mayors have to succumb to the “tradition of consultation” with the AKP?
It is often claimed that Turkish democracy has been so deficient because Turks could not establish a real democracy but instead preferred to name their strange sui-generis tutelage regime a “democracy.” If the military, a party or worse, an individual is allowed to decide who should be in power and who should be out, perhaps it might become even more difficult to say this country has a functioning democracy.
Believe it or not, over the past 24 years, this writer has never voted for Gökçek. His quarrelsome and cunning political tactics and aggressive attitudes have disgusted him. But even Gökçek does not deserve to be kicked out of office because a certain person wanted him to. What about the almost 1.4 million people who voted for Gökçek? Can anyone claim that the will of those people can be negated by the will of one person just because that person is the party leader, president or chief executive?