Democracy à la AKP

Democracy à la AKP

Turkey is a very interesting country. While throughout the democratic world the current currency is to restrict the power of the central governments in favor of local administrations, the Turkish government, ministers and central bureaucracy are all collecting power among themselves. It started with “my minister,” continued with “my governors” and included shoveling election-bribe, low-quality coal at the suburbs of cities which had turned into big villages. “My general director,” “my director” and “my civil servant” or “my public employee” were all converted into subjects of the almighty absolute ruler, the powers of whom surpassed even that of Süleyman the Magnificent.

After the famous Feb. 7, 2012, attempt to prosecute National Intelligence Agency (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan with a hastily legislated law, the prime minister was given the power to singlehandedly decide whether there was a need to prosecute the MİT, including current or former MİT personnel, or any public employee who took part in a MİT operation. Thus, Fidan was saved from accusations of violating the laws of the country by secretly meeting, bargaining and allegedly agreeing to some protocols with the representatives of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist gang.

Already with a rather protectionist mentality, the trial of most top civil servants is subject to the approval of their immediate superiors, in most cases the relevant minister or the prime minister. There is an already-high wall of protection and de facto immunity from prosecution for most public office holders and top civil servants, but this was further widened to include even serious treason charges.

Obviously in every country there are secret services across the globe that enjoy some degree of immunity from prosecution. Yet, nobody can be above the law and when secret service personnel commit crimes, they are accountable as well. The only difference might be that their identities might not be revealed in courts or that their trial might only be possible after an inquiry by a relevant, higher interrogation body. No one can enjoy blanket immunity as has become the case in Turkey with the post Feb. 7 changes in the law on intelligence services.

The Feb. 7 incident was the first major battle between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Fethullah Gülen Islamist fraternity that played a pivotal role in the AKP coming to power in 2002. Perhaps Turkish society and the media that has not yet been pulled into the AKP vortex might not be aware of the true dimensions or even why there is such a battle. What is for sure is that the government does not want to share its power with the Gülen fraternity and the Gülenists are trying to fight for power using democracy as a tool or appearing to be defending democratic rights. Was it not Erdoğan who, while as mayor of Istanbul, said democracy was a train to ride on until reaching one’s stop (of coming to and consolidating power)? “Man dakka dukka,” as Erdoğan loved to say.

Now the premier wants to change the law on the Judges and Prosecutors High Board (HSYK) and make the justice minister the absolute decision-maker on all issues there. If the prime minister has absolute control of the minister and if the minister is going to have absolute power over the HSYK, then who will be the absolute boss of the justice system? After all, HSYK is not just a high court; it is the only body that decides postings as well as promotions for judges and prosecutors. Can a politician be the absolute boss of the HSYK and can the justice system remain independent (of the political administration)? No way.

There are also moves to empower the prime minister to singlehandedly decide whether there is a need to try the chief of General Staff and the force commanders of the country. That is, the top commanders of the country would serve knowing that their fate might be in between the hands of the prime minister. Well, for the sake of putting a final full stop to military tutelage, the move might be meaningful, but what is Turkey actually transforming into: a democracy or an absolute tyranny?