Justice minister praises Turkey’s one-party rule era

Justice minister praises Turkey’s one-party rule era

Consistency in political arguments has not been a virtue of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) politics. 

The party’s officials and supporters have not found it difficult to change their views on various subject 180 degrees. U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen and his followers were once praised for their “contributions to humanity,” but they are now public enemy number one. 

The pro-government media wrote stories “proving” Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind terror attacks in Turkey when Ankara-Moscow relations were sour, but now the same media use U.S. President Barack Obama for target practice.

Even Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who is serving life sentence, was once praised by pro-AKP pundits as the “only name that can bring peace to Turkey.” Now the very same names call for the arrest of not only 11 but all lawmakers of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

With the AKP pursuing a shift to a presidential system that will consolidate much of the state power in the president’s hands, it looks like the party has also had a change of heart regarding the Republic of Turkey’s one-party rule era.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) ruled the republic from its establishment in 1923 until losing the power to the Democrat Party (DP) in 1950 elections, five year after the latter’s foundation. During the one-party era, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was the president until his death in 1938, and he was succeeded by İsmet İnönü, both of whom were also the leaders of the CHP.

That era, especially İnönü’s term, has been severely criticized by the AKP, and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

“The one-party CHP was trying to detach this nation from its belief, history, civilization, to build a new society in line with its ideological obsession,” Erdoğan said in March 2015.

According to many AKP officials, the one-party regime “banned the Arabic azan, turned mosques into stables, banned the reading of the Quran, put scholars on trial in mock courts and sentenced them to death.”

So many were surprised when Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ defended in parliament the AKP’s charter draft by giving the one-party era as an example.

“Can the president be a party member? It is not something Turkey sees now,” Bozdağ said on Jan. 9.

“The founder of the republic, Veteran Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was a party member, a lawmaker, a party leader, a president. İsmet İnönü [was] a party member, a lawmaker, a party leader, a president. What happened, were their impartialities harmed?” he added.

“What we are doing is to going back to the Atatürk constitutions, going back to the 1921, 1924 constitutions, to the party member presidents. You are opposing Atatürk’s constitution,” Bozdağ told CHP lawmakers.

However, the minister’s open statement that the new system could mean another one-party era for Turkey failed to impress even the CHP lawmakers. 

CHP’s Engin Altay said, “Building a party state will bring nothing but chaos.”

Bozdağ’s reference to the CHP one-party era also raised some eyebrows on the AKP front.

Ahmet Taşgetiren, a prominent pro-AKP pundit, wrote in his column on Jan. 11 that he was not happy with the minister’s remarks.

“The era Bozdağ refers to is one that had its own law and politics, when the ‘for the people despite the people’ approach ushered in Jacobin revolutions,” wrote Taşgetiren. “[It’s] an era that the nation took a breath of relief from when it ended and took refuge in the Democrat Party.”

The pundit added that he was not happy with the fact that references to the period’s presidential system were made earlier in a few other speeches, “even if they were made with the hope that they would be welcomed by the CHP constituency.”

The one-party rule in the 1930s and 1940s was nowhere near the democratic standards we value today. But it was at a time of a shift from an empire to a republic and between and during world wars with fascist dictators in power in many European states. 

Taking a system that gave very little, if none at all, room to the opposition as a reference in 2017 paints a grim picture of what the country will be under an AKP-led presidential system.