Turkish PM Davutoğlu signals softening tone to avoid polarization

Turkish PM Davutoğlu signals softening tone to avoid polarization

Sedat Ergin ISTANBUL
Turkish PM Davutoğlu signals softening tone to avoid polarization

Prime Minister Davutoğlu (C) attends celebrations in Bilecik province Sept. 14. ‘Over the last three weeks, has there been any polarizing language or stance in my speeches? But the opposition is trying to test our patience,’ he has said.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said he is trying to use a softer tone in order to ease polarization in society, while blaming the opposition for political tensions in Turkey.

“A new era has started, we have had a new president and a new government for the last month. No one has doubts over the fair and legitimate election of the new president. He made a call on Aug. 10, signaled the start of a new era, and has not been a part of any political debate since,” Davutoğlu told a group of newspaper editor-in-chiefs on Sept. 13.

“Who did not participate in the oath-taking ceremony? Who made a scene during the ceremony in Parliament? Who threw a book at the parliamentary speaker? Who sabotaged Parliament’s honor? That is the polarizing attitude,” he added, criticizing the opposition.

Davutoğlu slammed main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for his “attitude” against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“Our president said he was ready to talk to anyone, but Kılıçdaroğu’s answer to that was ‘I will not talk so long as there is not a war.’ Can there be more polarizing language than this? Do we need a war for the president and the main opposition leader to talk?” he said.

The prime minister said Kılıçdaroğlu did not congratulate him when he was elected leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), but he called the CHP leader after the recent congress that confirmed Kılıçdaroğlu as his party’s leader.

“I do not expect support from him, the opposition will be the opposition, but courtesy … I called him the day he won his party’s congress and only then did he congratulate me,” he said.

“Have you heard a polarizing statement from me since I took the office? No. But Kılıçdaroğlu still uses them, [Nationalist Movement Party Leader, MHP, Devlet] Bahçeli still uses them. I address Kılıçdaroğlu and Bahçeli: I am your peer now, not our president. Our president is now in a position beyond politics,” Davutoğlu said.

“I have been speaking every day over the last three weeks, has there been any polarizing language or stance in my speeches? But the opposition is trying to test our patience,” he added.

“From now on, our president and the presidential post should not be subject to debates. Every debate and all tension regarding this post will disturb the nature of politics in Turkey, makes it impossible to settle. Political debates take place in Parliament, take place between the government and the opposition, and they should take place with respectful language,” he said.

Discrimination loosens social structure

The prime minister added that he has always appreciated Bahçeli for his politeness in his personal speeches, but his tone becomes harsh when he reads out texts.

“Those who write the texts control Bahçeli’s wording in such speeches,” he said. “I expect him to use a language compatible with political delicacy. Personal politeness should be reflected in politics. If they don’t respect this post, they cannot expect respect from us.”

Davutoğlu also criticized the opposition parties’ decision to nominate a joint candidate for the presidential post in the August election.

“What we call a joint candidate is in fact reflective of the March 12 [1970 coup] era: If a president cannot be elected by the normal process, imposing something outside of the democratic process … They wanted to put Turkey in a transition period, to put it in turbulence. How much of our gross national product, how much of our reputation we would have lost to get out of that turbulence? No one thought about that,” he said.

Davutoğlu added that despite “scenarios of chaos,” the transformation following the Aug. 10 presidential elections was completed smoothly.

“For the first time in Turkey, the handover of the presidential post was done with ease, in front of the eyes of the whole world, as a festivity between two friends who come from the same political movement. I was tasked with forming the new government and the Cabinet was announced 11 hours later. We overcame two obstacles, the local elections and the presidential elections, by strengthening our institutionalization and increasing our political support. This is not an elected government of eight months; it was built on 12 years of experience. No one should expect new turbulence in Turkey before the general elections,” he said.

The prime minister also touched on the Kurdish peace process, saying it aimed to solve ethnic and sectarian-based discrimination.

“What makes a state is the strength of the citizens’ feelings of belonging. Ethnic and sectarian-based discrimination loosens the social structure. What we have achieved with the solution process is to have strengthened these ties. Technical details may be debated, what matters is that people saying ‘I’m happy to be a citizen of this country,’ feeling that they are a part of this country and this society,” he said, also describing the peace process is the “sole success story” in the Middle East at present.

“We have come a long way since 2012. While ethnic and sectarian-based conflicts are rising in Iraq and Syria, we are carrying out the solution process. Currently, there is only one success story in the Middle East, and it is Turkey’s solution process. There is not any other success story, but I wish there were,” he said.

Davutoğlu added that public order and the peace process were not “alternatives” to each other.
“We will not tolerate actions that damage public order because we have an ongoing solution process. We have a clear road map, but it is not right at this point to go into the details. I want to add that there is no difference between the information the military has or with what the civilian branches have. I have met our Chief of General Staff three times in the last 10 days. We have come to this point from very difficult places. That is why we will not easily abandon the process, and we will not sacrifice it to any provocation,” he said, adding that Ankara will meet with any “honest” actors in the region.

“We met with the Democratic Union Party [PYD] leader Salih Müslim and he came here. We can meet again, there is no problem with this. If the PYD had listened to us in 2013 and kept a distance from the Syrian regime, their relations with us today would have been different. Today they are more careful, trying to send more cautious messages, and we are taking note of this,” Prime Minister Davutoğlu said.

“The latest developments prove that we were right in the ‘zero problems with neighbors’ policy. [Nouri] al-Maliki, who had problems not with Turkey, but with his own people, is gone. [Iraqi Prime Minister Haider] al- Abadi told me over the phone the other day that they wanted to open a new page. The problems stemmed not from my ‘zero problems’ policy, but from al-Maliki. If the regime changes in Syria tomorrow, we will continue relations the way they were,” he added.