October 31, 2015

An illusion taken for granted

Doğu Ergil

Politics have taken such a dramatic turn that they have lost their connection with reality. Those who are at the helm are painting an illusionary state of affairs that has nothing to do with what they do.

Since the last election on June 7 Parliament has deliberately been kept in session so that the deeds of the appointed -- not elected -- government cannot be scrutinized by the elected representatives.

The duty to form the government was not given to the opposition leader by the president after the majority party leader failed to form a coalition government. The president personally rallied for the electoral success of his former party, namely the Justice and Development Party (AKP). He has not heeded popular warnings pointing out that he is breaching the Constitution. In fact he has declared that he has acquired the powers of the presidential system with a constitution that only legitimizes the parliamentary system.

This de facto twist in the system has led to a concentration of power in the hands of a single person and an atrophy of institutions. We now have a government unaccountable to Parliament -- and hence the people -- that is running the country based on its whims and fears of losing its grip on the system. It is because of this that it rarely abides by the rule of law. One of the last things it has done prior to the election is to seize TV stations and newspapers and have them be run by a board of trustees.

The definition of a trustee is as follows in basic legal texts: One or more trustees are called to duty when the owner or the management of a firm fails to perform his/her duties.

In the case of the Kanaltürk and Bugün TV stations and the Bugün newspaper, they were not failing either financially or administratively. Yet a group of politically appointed “trustees” escorted by the police who duly broke down metal fences and doors interrupted TV broadcasting and prevented the newspaper from being printed. The last news is that the Bugün daily will be allowed to be published under control with no authors. All column writers have been prevented from expressing themselves and barred from writing, at least until the election.

Mind you, the aforementioned news organs are what are commonly called the “opposition.” They are part of a minority in the media sector that is not controlled by the government. The government and the incumbent political leadership cannot even tolerate that much opposition that might affect the public opinion before the elections.

Trustees have certain duties, some of which are fiduciary. These include:

-- Carrying out the expressed terms of the trust's instrument
-- Defending the trust: prudently investing the trust's assets
-- Remaining impartial among the beneficiaries
-- Accounting for their actions and keeping the beneficiaries informed
-- Being loyal and not delegating or acting on behalf of a third party
-- No profit making or being in a conflict of interest position
-- Administering in the best interest of the beneficiaries

A trustee carries the fiduciary responsibility and liability of using the trust's assets according to the provisions of the trust instrument (and often regardless of their own or the beneficiaries' wishes).

The politically appointed trustees that have taken over these media organs are neither impartial nor loyal. They are acting on behalf of a government that has declared war on them. As the president has declared, “We will hunt them down in their caves.” Nor do they care for the economic well-being of the media organs. In fact, they are doing everything in their power to stop them from broadcasting or publishing.

In short, the trustees elected by the government are far from the name they bear; they are untrustworthy. Yet the government is acting as though such things are not taking place.

For example, the president of the republic has gone on record saying: “We did not want to impose our own media. We wanted a free, competitive and multicolored media.” Why then did these raids on the Zaman and Hürriyet dailies take place? Why have the Bugün TV and Kanaltürk channels been literally blockaded? Why then was a pro-government pool of media organs created with funds from economic activities contracted out by the government to certain businessmen?

The president had also said, “We have not imposed religion, denomination or any other kind of beliefs.” I wish this were true, for the sake of the country. Why have the Alevis been disappointed for so long? They only had a few demands that were never met: to be respected and treated equally.

Furthermore, the president has emphasized more than once he is for raising a religious youth. A religious education neglecting a sound scientific foundation has often ended up in raising radicals, as the world has seen.

In short, Turkish politics alludes to a fantastic world it is portraying rather than the reality it fails to acknowledge. Let us see if the election results will bring us to our senses.

Published on Today's Zaman, 31 October 2015, Saturday