The Second Republic and the Gülenists
Now, it is the turn of “Gülenists” to be eliminated from the bureaucracy and to be deprived of any social and economic power, on the way to “the second one-party period” in Turkey. This country has never had proper democratic mechanisms of checks and balances; nevertheless, the political power has never been so monopolistic, since one-party rule ended in 1950, with the exception of the military rule of 1980-1983.
It was the lack of cohesion among the political parties that paved the way for a kind of “de facto division of power” rather than the separation of the legislative, executive and judicial branches. Only after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in the 2002 elections, did it manage to monopolize the political power in an unprecedented way; now, the last struggle is being fought against “the enemy within” on the way to absolute power under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
For the first time, almost all conservative circles and the Islamists united their forces in 2002. Gülenists were the most powerful of all moderate circles since they were well-established, especially in the police force and in the judiciary, since they had been loyal allies of the state, especially during the military years of the 1980s, while also always displaying strong nationalist credentials.
“Why Gülenists parted their ways from the power structures of the previous status quo” is another complicated story, but finally, they were the major force behind the AKP government to fight against the secularist military and judicial hegemony. Once the struggle was over, Erdoğan decided to eliminate the last obstacle on his way. It is a power struggle first and foremost, but there are also differences of opinion concerning the meaning of conservatism, foreign policy and the Kurdish question. It is the issue of the Kurdish question and the Gülenists’ objection to the peace process that has provided Erdoğan with a lot of credit and he is using that credit in a very talented way.
The last move against the Gülenists seems not only to be an expression of Erdoğan’s infamous revengefulness, but also displayed as an act of decisiveness on the Kurdish peace process. Erdoğan calls the “Gülen movement” the “parallel state” and accuses them for all the wrongs of the past; finally, they have become the perfect scapegoats also for the notorious Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) trials against Kurdish politicians. It is true that such a move contributed to social tension, but after all, Erdoğan knows that it will not cost him any political price since he also knows that the Gülenists will vote against him and that the vote of conservative Kurds is more important. Besides, Erdoğan may even calculate to benefit from the nationalist reactions against this “operation,” saying that “some patriotic members of the police force are being treated as enemies while the government negotiates with the terrorists.” Such reactions will not only further prove the value of Erdoğan’s peace efforts in the eyes of the Kurds, but it will also remind them that they have to lower the limits of their expectations.
“The Second Republic” was the name of the liberals’ call for change for a more democratic political system in the early 1990s. Indeed, the Second Republic is in its full-fledged way, but it is also repeating the first experience. The first one was established by a one-man, one-party rule with a rigid official ideology, while the second is following in its steps: one man, one party, one ideology. The first one had many internal and external enemies, the second one has no less, the first one was claustrophobic, the second one is even more so since times have changed and it has become even more depressing to live under the iron fist.