Talking about privileges instead of the financing of politics

Talking about privileges instead of the financing of politics

Being a member of Parliament is already a ticket for membership in a special “caste” in society.

If a deputy works exactly as much as I have and pays exactly the same amount of premiums to the Social Security Institution (SGK), if he receives a pension 2.5 times I do when he retires, then in the simplest terms, that person is a member of a privileged caste.

Above all, if that same person and, moreover, his family, have access to domestic and international treatment that I cannot even go near if I become sick, and all his and his family’s costs are covered by the Parliament, then nobody can talk about equality here. That person is already a member of a privileged class.

Look, I am not talking about the salary of a deputy. I am saying that salary needs to be meaningful. That salary must be meaningful and if needed, it has to be truly high, but only on one condition: The deputy and his family should not have other incomes. If they have investments, they should place them in what is called a “blind trust,” which is a type of investment tool.

Because the logic of a high salary for a deputy is to ensure that he will not be in need of funds and that he will not be under the influence of any material gain while he is voting in Parliament.

Whatever, what we really need to talk about in this country is the financing of politics. The salaries of deputies and the privileges of deputies are only one of the extensions of this subject.

In a place where the expenditures of parties and especially of candidates at election times and the donations they collect are not transparent, we cannot declare the financing of politics to be “clean.”

We are providing Treasury aid to political parties so that “they do not need to beg for money and later distribute interests in return.” But parties continue collecting donations; candidates finance their campaigns through channels we will not be able to know about.

Well, it is a pity if such extremes have been reached, such as possessing the right of way in traffic like a fire truck or an ambulance, not being obliged to renew a gun license, having Parliament cover accommodation and catering expenses and not being obliged to wait in visa queues as everyone in the family will have a diplomatic passport. As a matter of fact, Bülent Arınç is right when he says, “They criticize now but they will forget later.” Because we have never spoken about what we need to speak; we have not spoken about the financing of politics.

Nobody has been speaking about it for the last two days either.

These kinds of issues are ones that need to be discussed with a holistic point of view. As if gossiping in the neighborhood, saying, “They receive a lot of money and they do nothing” does not contribute to the debate; neither does contribute to our bruised democracy.

Let’s talk about deputies’ independence, about them being free in thoughts and in spirit before their party and especially before their leaders. Of course, together with this, we should willingly provide them with financial independence.

Nobody makes anyone become a deputy by force. All of those in Parliament are there of their own free will and desire, and they have spent a lot to be there. But we are never curious as to why a person would agree to spend a lot to become a deputy and then how they make a living afterward…

The key to the issue is the financing of politics.

İsmet Berkan is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published May 10. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.