Not long ago, in just 2003, when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was still considered a “conjectural, temporary condition” in the Turkish political power game, it was current President Abdullah Gül who was demanding the abrogation of special courts.
Who wanted the continuation of the special courts at the time? The then president and the main opposition party. Why? Because those courts were instrumental for the “defense of the regime” and once the Islamists were gone, yes, with a new name, those courts would still be needed. New name? Yes, in 2003 Turkey was under European pressure to abrogate the horrendous State Security Court system and the AKP government, demonstrating its hereditary deception skills, made those courts vanish with hocus pocus and created the current courts with special powers. The difference? Nothing but a name, but the name change helped the AKP to fool the Europeans…
Ten years on today the roles have changed. Kemalists and nationalists want the special courts nullified, the Islamist Fethullah Gülen brotherhood wants them maintained and the prime minister is complaining that (under the brotherhood’s strong influence) those courts have become “a state within the state.”
The AKP not only defied the last attempt of the military to shape politics with an electronic memorandum late the evening of April 28 but also launched an all out revanchist war consolidating its grip on the country. While it might be for now an exaggeration to assume that the Kemalist ideology was defeated or wiped away from the country, it is a fact that the current Islamists with all their internal bickering and coalitions will be here to stay for a considerable amount of time.
With changes made in the structures of the high courts not only the system of courts with special powers but also the higher courts have come under full control of this time not Kemalists, but the governing Islamist ideology. The 2011 elections, on the other hand, showed that one in every two Turks were supportive of the prime minister and his AKP. Was that the reason why the prime minister developed that over confidence and started feeling irritated sharing power with the Gülen brotherhood?
It was a secret known almost by everyone that more than the government, the brotherhood was effective in the courts and in the revanchist campaign against the Kemalists and nationalists. Thus, when the same courts attempted to hunt the intelligence chief, a confidant of the premier, a rift between the premier and the brotherhood surfaced. The premier needed to domesticate the special courts, but the brotherhood considered such a move as one detrimental to the fight with secularists and Kemalists.
AKP and the premier have learned from bitter experience that special courts are special and not always can be under the full control of the government. Now, will the government eradicate that anti-democratic and unjust special court system or succumb to pressure by the brotherhood and keep them? Or will the “state within the state” continue, this time haunting the AKP?
Will the government fight this war with the brotherhood? Likely not, but the premier has always been an unpredictable person.