Now, are we still angry with the French?
The ruling by France’s highest court, Le Conseil Constitutionnel, to overturn a law that would have illegalized the denial of Armenian genocide has added to a colorful and rich list of modern Turkish hypocrisies.
“Was it not you,” Cem Toker, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party, asked the entire Justice and Development Party (AKP) machinery, “who turned the world upside down in recent years with the fancy argument that constitutional courts cannot examine laws in essence?”
Mr. Toker was referring to the popular AKP rhetoric of 2008 that the Constitutional Court had hijacked Parliament’s powers when it examined and annulled a constitutional amendment that removed the headscarf ban at universities. A quick archive search will produce these nice political memorabilia from the year 2008:
“This is juristocracy!”
“This is a judicial coup d’etat!”
“The court has taken the national will hostage.”
“The court’s ruling should be suspended.”
“The court has entered politics.”
“The court has breached its own legitimacy.”
“This ruling is null and void.”
“The court can in no way have authority over Parliament.”
“This is a forceful seizure of Parliament’s sovereignty.”
“The court is targeting Parliament.”
“Nowhere in Europe would this have happened.”
Now, the same men think that the Conseil Constitutionnel’s ruling is perfectly fine, that it in no way constitutes a violation of the French Senate’s powers, it does not take the French national will hostage, that the French court has not entered politics, that the ruling is not null and void, and that the council is certainly not acting like juristocracy or staging a judicial coup d’etat. And no one wishes to notice that the Turkish court’s decision could happen in Europe.
For instance, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç thinks that the “French supreme court gave a legal lesson to French politicians.” He was one of the loudest when the “Turkish supreme court gave a legal lesson to Turkish politicians.”
Lesson no 1: Constitutional courts cannot examine legislation if we ideologically like the legislation.
Lesson no 2: Constitutional courts can well examine legislation if we don’t like the legislation.
Lesson no 3: The will of the Turkish nation > the will of the French nation.
Lesson no 4: We defend principles, ideals and democracy.
(My own lesson: I tend to feel frightened by principles, ideals and democracy).
But are we still angry with the French?
“Will you keep on depriving me of a bottle of Bordeaux?” I asked the waiter at a restaurant which had returned its stocks of French wine after Jan. 23 when the French Senate passed the bill. “No, sir,” he replied. “You will be served one next time you visit us. In fact, it’s all because of ‘him.’” That “him” was President Nicolas Sarkozy, the top French enemy of the Turks, whom the waiter thought had passed the insulting bill all by himself. I did not remind him that Mr. Sarkozy’s presidential rival, the Socialist François Hollande, has pledged to revive the insulting bill if he is elected.
The manager of another Ankara venue, a cafe-restaurant that boasts the name of the French capital, seemed relieved. “I am hoping,” he said cheerfully, “that the telephone threats will end.” The poor man had been receiving a few threatening calls every day that unless he changed the name of his premises, he would suffer the consequences.
Always exceeding the limits of their own perfection in inventing multiple political standards, the Turks can soon start thinking that a new genocide denial bill should be fine if it is passed by President Hollande and not by President Sarkozy.
The denial bill was in no way Voltairesque. All the same, it made a Bretonesque impact in Ankara: President Abdullah Gül said that the conseil’s ruling “saved France’s honor by [proving that] in France it is possible to defend and express opinion other than the official state opinion.” What better “humour noir?”