Advice for the second round of presidential debates

Advice for the second round of presidential debates

While the second round of debates in parliament is starting on constitutional changes, I refreshed my mind on certain speeches during the first round. Those arguments which include our founding president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and second president, İsmet İnönü, were used by both Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ and Education Minister İsmet Yılmaz. 

Both of them used past examples. While one of them was right on the spot, the other led a backlash. Bozdağ made a mistake; Yılmaz did the right thing. 

They formed a sharp contrast where lessons could be drawn for the coming speakers of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). 

Bozdağ was responding to criticism that “a one-man regime is being formed; we are transforming into a party-state” when he resorted to this: “We are doing what Atatürk did, what İsmet İnönü did. We are going back to the practices of that time.”   

However, even the staunchest of Atatürk supporters do not defend today the “party-state” practices of the time when party provincial heads were governors. At most, they would say the circumstances of the time were like that and that conditions forced them to do such things. 

Even the fiercest defenders of the “National Chief” times are not proud of the one-man regime. On the contrary, they boast that it was İsmet İnönü and his Republican People’s Party (CHP) that opened the door to the multi-party era.  

Even the former chair of the CHP Deniz Baykal did not protect and defend the one-man era and the party-state past of the CHP in his speech in parliament. 

That heritage was never remembered positively by the conservative segment either. None of the conditions of war, circumstances of a liberation struggle or authoritarian trends of the times legitimized the one-man regime in the eyes of conservatives; none of them approved of the party-state. 

Even the polarization issue was handed down to us from those times, no?  

Bozdağ could have been right if there were existing grassroots that tolerated the one-man regime and the party-state of the time due to the circumstances of the day. It might have been useful if he had said: “Today, we are also engaged in a war of liberation. Today we are experiencing the conditions of those days. We still have a survival and continuation issue.” However, Bozdağ ignored this simple truth. 

On the other hand, Yılmaz did not make the same mistake. He followed the principle, “A bad example is not an example.” 

If there is a similarity with the times of Atatürk and İnönü, he tried to set it up from the correct aspect. The most correct analogy could have been the disputes, the disharmony and the clash of powers between Atatürk and İnönü. He chose that. He said, “Even though they were comrade in arms, wasn’t there a duality that emerged between President Atatürk and Prime Minister İsmet İnönü? Didn’t the discord constitute a problem?”

Then he made his point: “This is the reason that we are changing the constitution: to eliminate this duality and discord.”

Old people used to call it “fallacy;” there is a wholesale demagogy method. In order to disprove your opponent’s idea, you try to demonize that person. This logic is an example: “In the past, we had one-man regime, a system of a party-state; the CHP is bad. Thus, everything the CHP opposes is correct. Whatever justifications they are submitting are altogether wrong.” 

They assume that what is wrong about the CHP is adequate to demonstrate that the AK Party is right. 

In short, the AK Party members who will speak in the second round should explain why their model is correct. This will prove to be more effective, more credible and more convincing instead of trying to prove how wrong the CHP is, wouldn’t it?