Seven-month opportunity window ahead of Turkey
İSMET BERKANWe do not exactly know who started the “resolution process.” Was it the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) undersecretary who first went to İmralı (island) or did Abdullah Öcalan write a letter to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan; we do not know that. But, I guess, it does not matter very much either.
What is important is this: Both the government and Abdullah Öcalan are experienced and knowledgeable enough to predict the consequences of what they have started.
The government has divided the entire process into three stages. The first stage was the silencing of weapons and the armed units of the PKK leaving Turkey. Very difficult days went by; tough direct and indirect negotiations were made and finally yesterday Murat Karayılan announced the PKK’s withdrawal calendar.
Those things that had been talked about for weeks turned out to be hot air; the PKK members will leave as they came, secretly. The most difficult stage of the withdrawal that will start on May 5 was the announcement of the withdrawal decision. Now, we have entered what the government calls “the second phase.” The name of this period is “managing the process.”
In this context, domestic politics are already very active; the second phase will be a period when domestic politics will really get moving.
We have roughly seven months ahead of us. After the month of November, Parliament will become passive to a great extent; there are local elections in March 2014 and focus will be also on the presidential elections in July 2014. In the case that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan becomes a presidential candidate and wins the election, then Turkey could have a general election before 2014 ends.
In other words, the seven months before we enter the double (probably triple) election period in 2014 will be critically important for “managing the process.”
The meaning of “managing the process” is more than one. The Wise Persons’ group is included in this process, so is the investigation commission formed in Parliament. However, more important than those is that a democratization perspective is put ahead of Turkey that would also end the Kurdish issue; and according to this perspective for the legal arrangements to be processed in Parliament in packages.
We may compare these seven months from several aspects to the year 2004, when Turkey was striving to obtain a negotiation date from the European Union. Parliament, at that time, worked as if it was in a race and passed more than 10 “EU packages.”
If this is to be done, then we can regard the democratization laws to be made in the seven months ahead of us as the completion of the work of that time to meet the Copenhagen criteria, which were left unfinished under the excuse of “Turkey’s unique conditions.”
Especially the Justice Ministry looks as if it will be working overtime in this period because it is predominantly their job to harmonize Turkish legislation with the European Convention on Human Rights.
It is not known whether many things will be done or not done during these seven months, but the most unknown one of these is the Constitution. It is difficult to estimate whether a Parliamentary conciliation will be found to clean those articles present in the Constitution that allow discrimination and even racist practices. But, before that, we do not know in advance today whether such an intention exists.
If the government and indeed the Parliament make the best of the seven-month opportunity window ahead of us and if a momentum is created toward democratization and the solving of the Kurdish issue, then a hesitation following this because of upcoming elections can be tolerated.
Otherwise, if these seven months are not spent properly, then disappointments will begin and the fragile cease-fire process will be under pressure. Please, let’s arrive at the third and last phase of “normalization.”
İsmet Berkan is a columnist for daily Hürriyet, in which this piece was published April 26. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.