Different voices from inside Turkey’s ruling party
Deputy Prime Minister Tuğrul Türkeş is known to be against the death penalty. In the cabinet meeting presided by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Oct. 31, he expressed his views outright.
“Even if the capital punishment is reintroduced, you cannot hang Öcalan and Gülen,” Türkeş said, referring to the Abdullah Öcalan, the head of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and Fethullah Gülen, who is blamed for the July 15 coup. When Erdoğan looked at him with questioning eyes, Türkeş went on, “This is because, since Magna Carta, penalties are not retroactive.” While the entire cabinet and the president were listening with heightened interest, he said, “In this case, we would bring back the death penalty but we would not be able to practice it. Reinstalling death penalty would disrupt our image. They would immediately expel us from the Council of Europe and NATO.”
Upon these words of Türkeş, Erdoğan said, “How can they remove us from NATO? There is capital punishment in the U.S.” Türkeş elaborated, “This has been like this from the beginning in the U.S. There was capital punishment before NATO was formed; they did not change it afterward. They have a separate law. But we have been subject to the continental Europe law from the beginning.”
On the other hand, a cabinet minister known for his notable proclamations on the EU, in his meeting with the deputy chair of the AK Party, bluntly said, “If capital punishment is brought in, I will vote negatively.”
We have seen during the sexual abuse criminalization debates that the public in Turkey, since opposition remains inadequate, expects the members of the ruling AK Party to warn the government.
In this process, there are certain people the president and the prime minister have consulted in the struggle against FETÖ, capital punishment and the presidential system. For this reason, I would like to reflect the shared thoughts of President Erdoğan and PM Binali Yıldırım. These names which are only a handful but have huge respectability, I think, and represent certain sensitivity within the AK Party.
At the top of the matters is the capital punishment. “Death sentence cannot be retroactive. For this reason, it is not possible to execute Fethullah Gülen and Öcalan. It can only be practiced as of the date it is processed. It is also questionable what deterrence this would have for future acts.”
There are wrongs and rights in the fight against the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ). Here is a broader analysis:
“Our president categorized the FETÖ structuring to three levels as the top being betrayal, the middle commerce and the bottom worship. The betrayal attempted a coup in July 15. This has military and civilian connections. They have connections in military, police, the national intelligence organization. They have brothers, sisters and imams in civilian life. We should fight these.
“The commercial middle class, though, is a structure financially supporting them. In fighting these, we should determine a commercial capacity. We should target those that have a certain commercial capacity; however, we should not spread it to the street grocery store level.
“There is also the believer, the worshipper dimension. We should make them see the truth.
“Out of those who have been caught in July 15, 90 percent are in the betrayal group. The judgement should start from there. Each institute should not have its own measures. There should be penalty criteria of four or five clauses. The process should function accordingly. But this is not being done. The fight is conducted irregularly. Social wounds are opened. The civilian leg has reached hundreds of thousands but the military leg has not yet reached 10,000. The fight against FETÖ business should not be considered as a score.”
On the subject of conducting the presidential system together with the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), there is a “be careful” warning. “As a result of the presidential system, there will be a bi-party system. The MHP will erode. Why should MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli want a system where the MHP will lose? Where does this appetite for the presidential system come from for Bahçeli? Will the MHP crash us to the wall?”
We are walking step by step to the “President of the Republic” system. It looks as if the constitutional amendment will pass in the parliament and it will be acknowledged with a significant vote rate in the referendum. Nevertheless, I still wanted to reflect different evaluations within the AK Party.