Fethullah Gülen stated a few days ago that he made a mistake by supporting the Justice and Development Party (AKP) during the 2010 referendum campaign. Even though, as of today, I do not think that supporting the constitutional amendment package was wrong in itself, it seems that this package has paved the way for the AKP's growing semi-despotism.
As I have underlined here repeatedly, with the Ergenekon trials, the AKP eliminated its first major fear of a military coup, and, with the 2010 referendum, it eliminated the second major fear of its closure by the Constitutional Court. Thus, now, it feels free to do away with democracy and rule of law. Yet, no one could predict this in 2010 since Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan very skillfully hid his real intentions. This is not Gülen's fault. Out of humility, he is criticizing himself. But I think, on the basis of his adherence to the principles human rights, democracy, pluralism and basic freedoms, he would support the same package even today.
I think the Hizmet media and many Hizmet volunteers, including myself, made their major mistake concerning the AKP during the 2011 general elections, when they very openly, publicly, enthusiastically and strongly supported the AKP, helping the party get 50 percent of the votes. As regular readers of this column will remember, in addition to the results of the Ergenekon trials and 2010 referendum, this election result, in my view, is the third major factor contributing to Erdoğan's intoxication and transformation into a semi-despot.
It is easy to speak now, but considering the circumstances surrounding the 2011 elections, this mistake could not be easily diagnosed. Center-right parties sabotaged themselves by siding with the military generals during the crisis that erupted during the presidential election in 2007, and I remember hearing that Gülen was upset with them for leaving Erdoğan without any viable alternatives. He had actually foreseen that Erdoğan would one day become spoiled and naughty because of the lack of alternatives. Remember that, in the 2011 elections, only three serious contenders existed: the AKP, the People's Republican Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and both the CHP and the MHP had nominated Ergenekon suspects for parliamentary seats. It was only natural for many Hizmet volunteers and the Hizmet media to fear the probability that Ergenekon and the military's coup tendencies would return.
Moreover, the AKP was the only big party to support the EU accession process, democratization, basic freedoms, human rights and pluralism in 2011. Even though I and several others at this newspaper started seeing the major deficiencies of the AKP and started criticizing them around 2008 and 2009, the pluses of the AKP still outweighed the minuses until 2012.
Nevertheless, these Hizmet volunteers and the Hizmet media could have restrained their pro-AKP enthusiasm a little more and, instead of fully supporting it, they could have been more balanced, objective and neutral towards all political parties. It was a mistake not to see the deficiencies of the AKP, its lack of enthusiasm for the EU and democratization and its corrupt practices that were criticized by the opposition. If the AKP had received 45 instead of 50 percent in 2011, it would have still come to power, but it would probably have been less spoiled by overindulgence.
It was a very serious mistake not to denounce Erdogan when he repeatedly used and abused the illegally obtained records of the private life of opposition leader Deniz Baykal and several MHP candidates in his election rallies. It was a huge and unforgivable mistake not to earnestly investigate AKP corruption in the Deniz Feneri case. I am very ashamed that I naively tended to believe what pro-government columnist Fehmi Koru wrote about this case at the time. He made us believe that this was a foreign plot against the AKP. I am deeply ashamed.
We did not believe the white-Turk and pro-Ergenekon media at the time since, in the past, they had published innumerable fabricated stories critical of the AKP, practicing Muslims, the Hizmet and so on. My colleagues and I were so busy with the fight for democratization and the Ergenekon trials that we did not spend much time to hear, analyze and investigate what the opposition was claiming about the AKP's corruption, anti-democratic practices, wrongdoings in the KCK and Ergenekon trials and so on. All of us, including the Hizmet, are now paying the price.
It is now a little late, but I feel sorry for not being more curious, more investigative, more balanced, more outspoken, less impartial and less naïve.
Published on Today's Zaman, 08 August 2014, Friday