The message President Abdullah Gül gave in his speech at Parliament's opening can be expressed in a single sentence: It is not more democracy, but less democracy that stands to enfeeble Turkey.
As it is, it is this topic which determines the essence of political debates in Turkey. Those who approve of Gül's observation as well those who oppose them determine both the content and approach to the debates.
Those in the first group see the "historic opportunity" that Turkey is faced with and have assumed a stance of "more democracy and more freedoms" in order to avoid missing the chance. Those in the second group evaluate the current level of democracy that Turkey has attained as "problematic."
When you listen to opposition spokespeople in Turkey, what you witness will not be opposition to the idea of "unity within diversity" that emerged from the president's mouth yesterday. Just the opposite, what they're saying is the same. They'll say that there's wealth in our diversity and leave it at that -- but when it comes to regulations in respect to this diversity in the political and administrative spheres, they immediately begin talking of their "fears" and "ailments of populism."
They say that they love Turkey very much but that they do not trust Turkey and Turks.
In the 1980s, when Turgut Özal made the decision to remove Articles 141, 142 and the third clause of Article 163 from the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), two voices rose from among the political arena. Politicians on the right worried over the future of Turkey and communism due to the eradication of Articles 141 and 142. As for politicians on the left, they were worried that reducing Article 163 would pave the way for Shariah law in Turkey.
In the same way, Özal's allowing of the production and distribution of audio cassettes with Kurdish songs on them struck fear into all political circles that Kurdish nationalism would take over and the nation would be divided.
Turkey did not turn communist nor start ruling according to Shariah following Özal's reforms. Kurdish audio cassettes did not lead to the nation's division. The lifting of all these restrictions allowed for more breathing room for Turkey. It eliminated some shameful practices. It brought the country to become a more open-minded country in which ideas could be more freely discussed.
Did we not experience the same thing recently with the opening of the 24-hour Kurdish television station TRT 6?
Countless examples can be given on this topic.
This is Turkey's fate; major reforms of this kind will never be accomplished without travail, without objections and uproar. But in the end, these changes are made through the struggles of one or two brave and determined politicians, and Turkey wins. It has always been this way.
Never in previous periods, though, has the picture been as clear as what Turkey faces today. In no period did the need for an "initiative" manifest itself quite so clearly. At no point had the way ahead of Turkey been so clear. In the past 40 years, at no point had Turkey taken on the appearance of a country with such high self-confidence.
The late Özal used to say, "They'll get used to it, they'll get used to it," speaking about those politicians who opposed these reforms. Maybe he was right. It's best to wait for them to get used to it.
© 2018 Gürkan Zengin - Personal Website