Dialogue, tolerance should prevail, not grievance, in Turkish politics

Dialogue, tolerance should prevail, not grievance, in Turkish politics

The Turkish Parliament stands out from the rest of the countries’ assemblies. It played a central role in liberating the country from the occupying powers and, thus, preparing the necessary conditions for the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.

It also became the source of Turkish modernization through revolutionary legislation that transformed a poor, backward and underdeveloped Middle Eastern country into a nation bound for enlightenment in science, education and culture.

Among key laws that were legislated in the first years of the Turkish Parliament were the civil code, penal code, introduction of the Latin alphabet, voting rights for women, and many more. In 1937, secularism was explicitly stated in the second article of the Turkish Constitution thanks to a vote by Turkish lawmakers.

One hundred years of the Turkish Parliament does, at the same time, summarize the history of Turkish democratization. The first coup d’état happened only 40 years after the foundation of the Turkish Parliament and was followed by other military interventions. The latest attempt took place in mid-2016 in which the parliament was among the targets of the coup plotters.

No need to recall that all these interventions caused serious damages to the Turkish democratization process. It was in the immediate aftermath of the latest intervention that the parliament and later the Turkish people voted in favor of a substantial constitutional amendment that replaced the parliamentary system with an executive-presidential one.

Despite all these, the Turkish Parliament remains to be the hope for the continued efforts to make Turkey a first-class democracy where each and every citizen can live by fully enjoying his or her rights. The Turkish people celebrated the centennial of the Turkish Parliament with this understanding and enthusiastically despite restrictions due to the coronavirus.

Messages given by Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop and the representatives of the political parties at the special session were in this direction, too. Şentop emphasized how diverse the parliament was when it was founded in 1920 and underlined that the military victory and foundation of the republic could be possible by smartly preserving all these differences.

“The politics and democracy have two façades: On the one side is conflict and on the other is reconciliation. Therefore, turning these differences into incorrigible grievance and disagreements into revenge will only lead to sow discord among the society,” Şentop stated.

In the absence of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is at the same time the chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), deputy parliamentary group leader of the ruling party, Ali Naci Bostancı addressed the parliament at the special session. A political competition that does not bring about reconciliation for the good sake of the country is not desired, he said, underlining the need for dialogue.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu issued a general call on all the leaders to launch a reform campaign for the democratic, economic and political stability of Turkey. His 16-article call includes the need to re-introduce the parliamentary system as the current executive-presidential system has already failed.

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-leader Mithat Sancar also underlined democratic deficiencies and disrespect to the identity of citizens. Like Şentop, he recalled that the first parliament was so diverse and the lawmakers represented their constituencies by preserving their identity.

The messages were in line with the spirit of the 100th year anniversary of the parliament but one may argue that they were not very much in line with reality. A big divide between the political parties enflamed by non-curable polarization undermines the role of the parliament and negates the will of the people.

Grievance and enmity should have no place in politics, but dialogue and tolerance should, as suggested by the representatives of the parties at the special session on April 23.