October 13, 2014

You can't lead a country by blank decree!

Ali Aslan Kılıç

The success of any leadership is essentially tied to the shared decision-making capabilities of its cadres. When one person -- the one at the helm of leadership -- begins making decisions solely on his or her own, leadership cadres are transformed into decorative accessories, and nothing more. In fact, it is one of the most distinctive features of rising authoritarianism; that leadership cadres become less and less perceptible.

The polite way of describing this transformation is to talk about a “blank decree.”

At the bottom of a blank decree all the signatures of the entire leadership cadre can be found. And yet neither the leader nor the cadre's members are fully aware of what they are signing off on. Because a blank decree is, of course, blank. It is an empty, white piece of paper.

Does such a thing occur in Turkey? As yet, the ruling party has not issued a response to the opposition's allegations that blank decrees do, in fact, exist here. In the meantime, the things we see would seem to confirm that these allegations are true.

For years and years, rumors circulated that when government ministers initially took up their positions, they would sign off on blank pieces of paper. Thus, when a prime minister needed a resignation or something of this kind, it was as easy as filling in the space above the signature with an explanation of what had already been signed off on.

Of course, whether or not all this talk was actually true, and whether or not such “blank decrees” actually existed, was never really known.

The topic arose again recently when permission that had previously been granted to aid organization Kimse Yok Mu to collect funds and assistance was canceled. The permission, which had initially been granted by the Council of Ministers, was deemed null and void by the same council. However, the cancellation was done in a way that placed government spokesperson and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç in a difficult position.

The fact that many of the revenge operations aimed at punishing the Hizmet movement came up empty-handed in the end has only served to increase the anger of some toward this community. The failure to bankrupt Bank Asya was followed by leaks to the media that the authorizations previously granted to the important aid group Kimse Yok Mu were soon to be canceled.

Answering reporters' questions after a Sept. 30 meeting of the Council of Ministers, government spokesperson Bülent Arınç said quite clearly and openly that the topic of Kimse Yok Mu's permissions being canceled had not in fact been on the agenda of the Council's meeting that day. In fact, Arınç even said some quite positive things about the Kimse Yok Mu organization, in words that look likely to cause trouble for him personally in the near future. Arınç said: “There is nothing concrete to say in regard to all this speculation. I do not know about such a decision having been made. But I am not saying it is impossible. But there needs to be a reason; it can't be something like ‘yesterday I allowed it, but today I don't wish to.' If there is no basis for the cancellation of these permissions, the leaders of that foundation will no doubt take legal action against the decision of the Council of Ministers.” With these words, Arınç also dropped a hint that some ministers might in fact be working on this topic. At the same time, Arınç made his personal opposition to a baseless cancellation of authorization quite clear.

At the same time, Arınç's statement saying, “…I do not know about such a decision having been made. But I am not saying it is impossible…” seems to be of key importance when it comes to the question of the existence of blank decrees.

If, in fact, the signs are correct and such blank decrees do exist, or if, similarly, decisions signed off on by Cabinet members later have additions made to them, it would be a stain on Turkey's political history.

The steadfast clinging to a belief that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria must be overturned, and the failure to label the actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as “terror” for so long, are not mistakes that a leadership cadre working in concert with one another would make.

There are two more signs that topics of critical importance are not being decided on with any sort of consensus: The first is the settlement process unfolding with the terror group the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The other is the sophistry surrounding the accusations about a “parallel structure” with regard to the entire Dec. 17 and 25 government corruption and bribery situation.

Authoritarian regimes may have some temporary success via blank decrees, but it never lasts for long.

And so now we see the Syrian crisis coming into Turkey! The PKK burns Turkish cities! And Hizbullah rears its head once again!

But how long will Arınç and the other Cabinet members bow their heads and give in to such rising authoritarianism, even at the cost of the country being dragged into certain disaster? Though they may have somehow accepted such a path, is it not completely clear yet that a country cannot be ruled by blank decree?

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 12 October 2014, Sunday