From the observation deck

Politics is not my cup of tea, I hope it will never be. I'm not cut out to be a politician and don't think I could endure a day in politics. Furthermore, if I ever pluck up all my courage to run for office, I wouldn't like to feel the non-elected and shadowy persons' breath on my back. In a democratic country there's no difference between the state and the government, right? Not in Turkey, not according to experienced politicians.

You know perfectly well what I mean if you've followed the latest disclosures of former President Suleyman Demirel in daily Sabah. As an old hand in politics, he disclosed the existence of a strange mechanism of undemocratic forces who are ready to intervene whenever the parliamentary system fails. Curiously enough, the definition of the "failure" is formulated by the very forces of intervention. This system of a "state within a state" is a vital part of our survival, according to Demirel. Who are those forces ready to intervene, where they are located and what kind of people populate them: all this is up to your imagination.

My intention is not to challenge this disclosure, far from it. The four successive interventions in our democratic march over the last 50 years are testimony to the accuracy of what Demirel claimed. He barely escaped the first intervention, since he was a state employee then, building dams all over Turkey. The three others happened under his very eyes, two against him when he was prime minister. In fact, the fourth intervention was triggered by him with flying success. I remember very vividly how he staged the whole February 28 process mise-en-scene from his vantage point in the Presidential Palace.

So, when former President Demirel speaks about irregular happenings throughout the democratic process in Turkey's recent history, I always listen. I suggest you should also give close consideration what he says about the matter.

Is power divisible? In a democracy, power lays in the hands of politicians regardless of their backgrounds. Any political party successful in occupying enough seats in the Parliament forms the government and runs the country until the next election or until it loses its majority in the Parliament. Right? Not so, says Mr. Demirel.

According to him, although the power is indivisible, there are certain institutions in Turkey who have a say in the day-to-day affairs of the state. He calls them "constitutional institutions" and accepts their function as a necessity. "The Jacobin politicians usually face hardships," he says. In Mr. Demirel's vocabulary, "Jacobins" are those who do not agree to share their responsibilities with the constitutional institutions, claiming that they alone represent the will of the people, and are in a position to do whatever they feel necessary for the good of the public.

I'm sure you caught the twist in the meaning of "Jacobinism" in the reasoning above. The Jacobins, in the historical context of the concept, are those with little regard for people's wishes, no respect for elections. They usually come to power in an undemocratic way and stay there by using excessive force. Calling a politician or an elected prime minister a Jacobin is a travesty of what the inventors of the term had in mind. That is why Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan politely rejected the notion, when he was asked to comment on being called "Jacobin" by former President Demirel.

The problem at hand is obvious: why bother with politics while you can reach the very top without troubling yourself with gaining the sympathy of a sometime ungrateful public? The system prevalent in a country with little regard for democratic rules would encourage greedy aspirers who might feel the power is up for grabs if they exert a little effort to make conditions riper for a takeover.

I am a democrat at heart, otherwise I would have suggested that public utterances of once- overthrown politicians should be restricted to their own four walls, never to see light in newspapers. They make wrong comparisons, never considering the changing nature of the time when their experiences were shaped and the present time when different rules are applicable.

Contrary to Demirel's depiction of the prevailing system in Turkey, democracy has matured considerably. I have no idea if this "state within the state" still exists; if it is, it's not making itself obvious now in every field of life. The government is free to maneuver in a wide sphere and take decisions all by itself. Jacobin or not, Prime Minister Erdogan doesn't seem to be ready to share the power endowed to him by the public with anyone.

Democracy thrives in a country whose people are experienced enough not to fall victim to deceptions, deceptions by the forces lurking in the wings waiting for the first opportunity. When the elected governments fail to quell the public's discomfort due to anarchy and terror rampant in the country, those forces waiting in the wings feel free to step in to save it from chaos. What if -- a big if -- anarchy and terror are not spontaneous, but stage-managed to create the effect of chaos by the same forces waiting to manipulate them to grab the power?

You can take this essay as an exam-like search for finding excuses to move closer to the political arena, from which I traditionally keep my distance, opting for an observation stand rather then taking a front seat.

In that case you deserve to be told: I failed to convince myself, again.

From The New Anatolian, April 5, 2005


  • The mirror has cracked - March 29, 2005

  • Remembering things past - March 22, 2005

  • I invite you to use your imagination - March 15, 2005

  • A time for encouragement - March 8, 2005

  • The proof in the pudding - March 1, 2005

  • Hail to the Columnist! - February 22, 2005

  • It is in our blood, we do not waver - February 15, 2005

  • Excuse my question - February 08, 2005

  • A friend in need - February 01, 2005

  • 5 Nisan 2005

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