The principled politics of Turkey’s Felicity Party
Under what conditions could Temel Karamollaoğlu, the head of the Islamist Felicity Party (SP), join the “People’s Alliance” formed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party?
Well, he could demand the vice president’s post for himself. Or he could engage in negotiations over the number of seats to be allocated for his party in parliament. Indeed, he certainly would have the leverage to get his demands accepted, as the “People’s Alliance” may well need the SP.
The AKP and the MHP have presented their alliance as “national and native.” Considering the resonance of the word “native” in wider conservative circles in Turkey, could the AKP genuinely say that the SP - which was once the cradle of the “National Vision” of former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan - is not “national and native”?
Years ago, the integration of the People’s Voice Party (HAS Parti) within the AKP aimed to bring all conservative sensitivities in Turkey under the roof of a single party. But the SP resisted and today it has a political clout that outweighs its apparent quantitative standing. The SP does not use this clout to secure positions in the state bureaucracy or to secure seats in parliament. It instead is happy to simply state: “We have principles.”
Karamollaoğlu describes those principles not in an abstract or exaggerated rhetorical manner, but through concrete and important concepts such as “the separation of powers and the rule of law.”
An alliance of principles
The SP supported a “no” vote in the April 2017 referendum on shifting to an executive presidential system. Ahead of the vote, Karamollaoğlu explained why it was campaigning for “no” through concrete principles.
“We are not against the presidential system per se. We are against the content of this particular document [that introduces the presidential system],” he said at the time. “This document fails to ensure the principle of the separation of powers. Parliament, which should have much more powers under the presidential system, will in fact be undermined. No checks and balances mechanism will be in place in this system.”
Today, Karamollaoğlu is following a similar line.
In response to a question about potentially forming an opposition “alliance of principles,” an idea first floated by main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, he again emphasized the importance of separation of powers.
“In any possible alliance we would stress our principles. Our prime principles are the rule of law and the separation of powers. If the separation of powers is not ensured then the end result would be a dictatorship,” he said on Feb. 28.
So is it possible for the opposition parties, or just the SP and the İYİ (Good) Party, to come together to forge an “alliance of principles”?
Under the d’Hondt election system, any alliance will definitely have certain advantages. The opposition parties seem to be leaning toward forming some kind of alliance but we are yet to see what will emerge.
“Concrete principles” should certainly have a greater importance in politics. In contrast, constantly hammering home certain social sensitivities (which a single party always benefits from), or alternatively repeating abstract ideological concepts, are not “principled politics.”
Over the years we have seen many examples of political parties repeating ideological concepts but getting nowhere. One of the reasons why our politics has long stood on unstable ground is the fact that there are few well-established fundamental concepts about principles.
That ultimately is why exaggerated rhetoric is powerful. By repeating this kind of rhetoric, it becomes possible to defend the presidential system one day and to defend the parliamentary system the next day.
Polarization is the inevitable result of this kind of politics. Rational politics based on concrete principles is sidelined in favor of bellicose rhetoric aiming to pull at the voters’ emotions.
It is impossible to become a fully developed nation unless the concrete principles of law are seen as being more valued than political interests.