July 13, 2014

Whose side is the president on?

Orhan Oğuz Gürbüz

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says: “If elected, I will not be an impartial president. There are two sides: The nation and the state. I will be a president who is on the side of the nation.”
Unfortunately, the prime minister's policies since the 2011 parliamentary elections have not been promoting freedom. We have encountered the mindset of someone who wants to use the status quo for his own interests, passing anti-democratic laws in the parliament to do this. For this reason, his claim that he will be a president who favors the nation is not convincing. The type of future this mindset seeks is best evidenced by what happened during the operations of Dec. 17 and 25 in which the judiciary and the police were made non-functional. All segments of society have been demonized by the reliance on a strategy of antagonism and lynched in smear campaigns. The superficial references to the national will and the argument that he has embraced even his opponents have no meaning and hold no truth. All institutions responsible for protecting the rights of the state and the people are either eliminated or transformed into aspects of a tutelage model. 

It is now reported that in a motion forwarded to the police department, the profiling of the members of the Hizmet movement was ordered. The relevant units and bodies were also urged to keep the Hizmet movement members under complete surveillance through illegal methods. Politicians and journalists recall that this is the infrastructure of a witch hunt carried out through the fabrication of fake evidence.

Newspapers also report that a Cosmic Study Group was formed within the police department to maintain full control over business enterprises in Turkey. It is argued that more than 100,000 business enterprises affiliated with TÜSİAD, MÜSİAD, TUSKON and TOBB have been put under the spotlight and profiled. The current stage of the AK Party, which claimed that it would deal with military tutelage in Turkey, attracting a great deal of support in the process, is a huge disappointment. It would not be farfetched to argue that Turkey is experiencing the Feb 28 coup process with a civilian, conservative makeup. This time the actors are the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) figures who argue that they are religious and democratic. They are trying to attract support domestically through reliance on an anti-Europe and anti-American discourse. But they are also trying to polish their image abroad, arguing that they are distant from the political Islam they employ in order to get more votes.

The AK Party figures and the president carry out their presidential campaign with reference to the national will and cause. They create virtual enemies in order to send the message that if they ever go, they economy will collapse. This strategy has worked, at least partially. The AK Party administration now holds that this strategy could be used in the campaign this time as well. Constitutional law professor Levent Köker makes the following assessment on the key attributes of the notion of “cause” in the presidential election: “The prime minister has to be clear. What is this cause? Is it a democratic cause? Is it a cause of Islamic struggle? They should tell us what sort of cause they are promoting. Are they seeking to create a central administration? What type of presidency do they want? Will they lose support if they tell us this? So they have something in mind that most of the people could not possibly endorse.

But we have something in our hands. The choice of the people has never been adequately revealed because of constant pressure on the freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is exercised within a framework drawn by the rulings and actions of the Council of Europe, European Court of Human Rights and Constitutional Court. The AK Party administration has been violating freedom of expression for a long time to repress dissident voices. That is obvious.”

It is evident that Erdoğan has a Turkish type of presidency in mind. The people are now concerned that an arbitrary and repressive government model in which the legislative, judiciary and executive are combined in the hands of the president and the principle of the supremacy of law is set aside is on the horizon. Regardless of who is elected, the president has to be on the side of the supremacy of law. Any other statements or actions are nothing but empty promises and manipulations. Any positions or actions outside the coverage of law are null and void.

Published on Today's Zaman, 12 July 2014, Saturday