Deciphering what’s next
It’s not because they are devoid of the intellectual capability or sufficient skill to hide from the public their next possible move; it’s more because of their over-confidence and inflated egocentric thinking that they just don’t bother to hide anything.
Could anyone with an intention of one day occupying very important seats in government publicly say, for example, that “democracy is like a train car a person might get on until he reaches his destination and gets off?” It would be an incredibly suicidal gaffe to make such a statement unless it was said intentionally to serve a certain purpose. Obviously the person who said it was so confident that he was so strong that uttering such remarks would not even hurt his outer shell that he did not see any harm pursuing such a dangerous course of action.
Indeed, all through the past 13 years of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, nothing was done in secret. Like the janissary band that proceeds one step back and then advances two, whenever the AKP encountered a problem without saying or admitting so, it pragmatically took a step back, let the people with fish memories forget the issue and then took two steps forward, running over the problematic area while people were discussing something else.
The almighty sole powerful president of the country waited for the seven-year presidential tenure of Abdullah Gül to get himself elevated to that prestigious position, did he not? It was thinkable but unachievable for Erdoğan in 2007 to become the president. He waited, consolidated his power, got rid of many of his opponents, domesticated as much as possible the military, academia, legislature and media, built himself an extravagant palace and got himself elected in 2014 to the post. Was it not clear in 2007 that the next president would be Erdoğan?
Parliamentary Speaker İsmail Kahraman let the cat out of the bag. He said the new constitution of the country must be a religious one and that the secularism principle must be left out of the national charter.
Now everybody will attack the speaker. Even the president might grill him a bit. At the end of the day, however, not only will the AKP find a way of deleting the secularism principle from the constitution – of course if it can manage a constitutional amendment or write a new constitution with Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) support or whatever might be left out of it after the court-ordered convention process.
There is panic on the AKP flank. It is as if Kahraman revealed the hand of Erdoğan too early. Indeed it might be so because MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli joined a chorus of opposition politicians demanding the parliamentary speaker rescind his contentious remark. Would it make much difference if Kahraman apologizes and takes a step back? Would it make much difference to his mindset or position on the issue, or would such a step back would mean anything at all for Erdoğan?
The penslingers of the AKP rushed to help, with most stressing that when Erdoğan visited Egypt during the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule and Mohamed Morsi’s presidency, he told Egyptians that they must embrace the principle of secularism. Naturally, the defense was strong. If Erdoğan wanted to get rid of secularism in Turkey why would he demand in Cairo that the Muslm Brotherhood introduce it in Egypt?
There is of course a difference between asking Egyptians to embrace secularism while at the same time deleting secularism from the Turkish constitution. Didn’t Erdoğan boldly declare a while ago that secularism was not atheism? Didn’t Erdoğan declare at every opportunity that his aim has always been to raise a new, religious generation? Erdoğan wants and supports a secularist understanding that calls the state to be “close enough to all religions, but a little bit closer to Sunni Islam.” What he has been trying to enforce was the understanding that considered secularism as a principle that required the state to be distant to all religions. Getting rid of the mention of secularism in the constitution, therefore, cannot be a demand of Erdoğan, at least for now. Then, why would Kahraman make such an absurd statement and place himself in the hot seat?
Indeed, it’s rather simple. In which section of the constitution is secularism mentioned? It is in the beginning section, in Article 2. Only then does it become clear why the speaker wanted to get rid of secularism. Under Article 4 of the current constitution, the first three articles that define the republic, the Turkish flag, Ankara as the capital and Turkish as the language cannot be amended while an amendment cannot even be suggested.
After a hell of a lot of noise about Kahraman’s sentence, the nation will be once again polarized into two camps: Those who support the amendment idea, and those against. At that point, Erdoğan will enter the scene and suggest maintaining secularism but rewriting all the constitution, including the untouchable first four articles.
What will happen at that point? I believe Erdoğan has started pondering an answer to that question. When he finds the answer, Turkey will start moving fast to a new process.