A humorist as prime minister

A humorist as prime minister

The country has been passing through such horrible days that perhaps it would be great to have humorists occupying governmental seats. Even if there might be a president acting as if he has become a sultan or emperor, no one of course can claim that the prime minister and other ministers have started acting like imperial jokesters. No way; members of the cabinet have always been respectable and serious personalities.

Still, I just could not understand why Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu decided to make a joke to European parliamentarians when he spoke at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly the other day. Naturally, as Turkish became one of the “working languages” of the assembly that day, it was great to hear a Turkish prime minister addressing it in Turkish. Similarly, was it not odd or perhaps politically suicidal for a politician who is presumably leftist and demonstratively supportive of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) gang to ask a question to Davutoğlu in English, and worse define PKK terrorists as “guerillas?” Some people might have developed an instinct to play jokester when they found such an opportunity. The Turkish language becoming one of the working languages of the Parliamentary Assembly was of course a historic opportunity for this country and people aspiring to become part of the European family of nations for ages. Why spoil it at that important moment? 

Davutoğlu was in his best spirits that day. He was no longer speaking with his elaborated President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan-style as if he had a baseball in his mouth. He was clear and very confident. He spoke of Turkey’s European-ness, why it belonged to Europe, the refugees and many other topics, and of course touched heavily on the “need” to write a new Turkish constitution, which he said would include the fundamental principles of the Council of Europe, built on the values and norms enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. He underlined that there would not be even one element in the new Turkish constitution incompatible with global democratic norms and values.

No one could say a word against such a new social charter in Turkey. Who would not dream of having such a constitution in this country? A libertarian fundamental law that might guide reforms in the rest of the legislations of the country, headed of course by those on special courts, anti-terrorism law and criminal law, could of course help Turkey elevate itself from the current “not free” or “partially free” status in many international reports on rights and liberties.

But, does Turkey need a new constitution to take itself out of the bottom of democracy, rights and freedom lists? Shall we be realistic? In his fight for absolute power Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) political Islam clan consider no red lines. The Ergenekon (Sledgehammer) thrillers of the post-2007 period and the “parallel” thriller the country has been compelled to live nowadays demonstrate how greedily the fight for power has been conducted in this country. The domestication of all sectors, inclusive of the military, business community, academia, police, judiciary and of course journalism, has been continuing full force in this country for a long time.

The stories of people serving many years in prison and later being released without even an official apology did not happen elsewhere but Turkey. Was it not this country which declared a former chief of general staff a “terrorist chieftain” and sent him to prison, where he stayed until one day some people in some important places decided he was not indeed a terrorist and ought to be released? Does anyone remember Mustafa Balbay, the present-day parliamentarian and a former journalist who served six years in prison for writing a story about young officers unhappy with developments in the country?

Those were issues of yesterday. What about what’s happening today? Only this week the March report of the Press for Freedom project of the Journalists’ Association was released. The report underlined in all clarity that as part of the government’s systematic domestication of critical media outlets, two newspapers and a news agency were placed under the administration of court-appointed trustees, an electronic version of an English-language newspaper had been clamped down, a large number of journalists were laid down by trustees. Does it ring anything anywhere if I say in the first three months of 2016, a total of 728 journalists – the figure obtained from open sources, the real figure might be even higher – were fired? Again, in the Press for Freedom report, it was stressed that the cumulative number of websites to which access was restricted reached a record of 104,701.

Worse, the Prime Ministry invited some journalists to accompany the prime minister on his day-trip to Strasbourg, like they do for other foreign trips at the presidential, prime ministerial or ministerial levels. Were there any journalists on that plane or any such plane over the past few years, who were not writing to any of the large armada of allegiant media outlets?

And the prime minister was talking about democracy… Sorry to say, but democracy cannot come with a constitution, it is rather a matter of culture. Still, having a fantasy of something might help to demand it one day.