The Pretorian Experiment

The Pretorian Experiment

It took many by surprise to see opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu embrace the Kurdish issue in a way that the ruling Justice and Development Party (the AKP) couldn’t. He even upped the ante over the weekend by mentioning “house-arrest” for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan. This has already started sending shock waves through the base of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

But for those who have been keeping an eye on Kiliçdaroglu’s meeting diaries for the past two years, this comes as no surprise.

The CHP leader met with the South African ambassadors to Turkey numerous times. His deputies, particularly Osman Korutürk, kept close contact with both the outgoing South African Ambassador Tebogo Seokolo and the newly appointed Vika Khumalo. The political officers of the South African Embassy were almost regular guests in the Söğütözü Headquarters of the CHP.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s previous rapprochement on the Kurdish issue, “the wise-men commission” also very much resembles the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” of South African Republic. One thing distinguishing the Turkish effort from the South African experiment is the secular character of the reconciliation efforts. While in the Pretorian example Archbishop Desmond Tutu took the lead for the regime to form the commission, it will be up to the Parliament and most likely the CHP to take the risk and push for the initiative in Turkey.

Sezgin Tanrıkulu and Faruk Loğoğlu, the two spokesmen for the CHP’s new rapprochement initiative, are keeping their cards close to the chest these days.

In the South African experiment, the Parliament allowed police chiefs as well as black gang members to come face to face and talk. Families that suffered from apartheid talked and cried and poured out their sorrow.

However, the “house-arrest” issue that was first brought up by the deputy Leyla Zana during an interview with daily Hürriyet and picked up by both Bülent Arınç and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, might be the death kiss to the whole idea.

As in almost everything that happens in Turkey, the new Kurdish initiative seems to be falling into the trap of consumerism. If Kılıçdaroğlu could simply resist the temptation of being in the headlines of the newspapers and let the issue be discussed and digested in his party structures for a while, he may be doing a better service to the country.

This is because, due to the speed of the discussion, his supporters may be forced to defend him rather than defend the idea in the days ahead. The CHP leader has boldly said that the solution may cost him his chairmanship of the party. Unfortunately, that may be the lesser of the costs.

So, while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is away on a foreign trip, the politicians should perhaps calm down and let the people discuss the options of how to move forward with these new dynamics.

The recent uprising in Şanlıurfa prison shows us that real judicial reform may be more urgent than the “house-arrest” initiative.