Thanks to judicial reforms, the Kurdish and Alevi initiative, the developments concerning the rights of minorities and the steps taken concerning civilian-military relations, Turkey could be perceived as the rising star of the region and the Muslim world. Not only political reforms, but also economic achievements -- namely a threefold increase in national income, successful combating of inflation and record growth rates -- were dazzling.
A moment from the latest World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos was a source of pride. A session titled “Global Economic Outlook” featured prominent figures including IMF President Christine Lagarde and World Bank President Robert Zoellick, but among the panel, the only figure not feeling the weight of the economic crisis was Economy Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan. This fact was also noted by Financial Times economist Martin Wolf, who was moderating the session, and as he gave floor to Babacan he said, “The only privileged person here is you; please teach us.”
Despite some negative signs, and a few problems capable of causing a nuisance if they are not solved in the medium term, Turkey’s economic performance can still be considered successful. The same cannot be said of the country’s report card for democracy. Instead of talking about Kurdish and Alevi initiatives, we are talking about the Uludere tragedy, the abortion debate, the Court of Cassation decision regarding cemevis, the Treasury’s confiscation of the Mor Gabriel monastery, the interferences with the judiciary in many areas -- particularly in the case against Ergenekon -- the Büşra Ersanlı incident and the problems related to media outlets. These matters cause the international press to adopt a negative view of Turkey. While some criticisms are overblown and unfair, there is, overall, a negative atmosphere.
I attended Al-Jazirah TV network’s program The Café, along with Nursuna Memecan, Andrew Finkel and Merve Kavakçı. During the program, which I learned was watched by President Abdullah Gül, we discussed many issues including the abortion debate, the Uludere tragedy, freedom of the press and Turkey’s role in the Middle East. The feedback we received on my answer to a question about the performance of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) revealed that many people agreed with me. In brief, my answer was as follows: “It must be acknowledged that Turkey has made great progress compared to 10 years ago. We are in a better position in terms of democracy and the economy. The AK Party’s role in this cannot be denied. But although there is still much to be done, the party has been in stagnation for one year. I personally prefer the old AK Party.”
If you go back to one year ago, I think you’ll agree with my observations. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had announced (on April 16) the AK Party’s “election manifesto” ahead of the June 12 elections, noting that, “Unable to see 12 hours into the future in the past, Turkey has become capable of seeing 12 years into the future.” This manifesto, which was essentially a set of promises made to voters, consisted of the following five headings: advanced democracy, big economy, strong society, livable environment, brand cities, leading country.
And the following was listed under the heading of advanced democracy: “Our number one project is a new democratic, liberal and participatory constitution. We will maintain our national unity and fraternity project with resolve. We will ensure transition from the law of rulers to the rule of law. We will build a new judicial system, which is not the backyard of any group, but which will represent the collective conscience. We will continue to combat gangs, mafias and juntas with prowess.”
The progress made regarding these targets is clear, but the reforms which should be made according to the report on civilian-military relations prepared by the Strategic Thought Institute (SDE) have not yet been implemented. The following are the reforms pending on the to-do list of this report, and which can be implemented without constitutional amendments:
* The full civilian supervision of the expenditures of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK);
* Inclusion in the general budget of the expenditures of the Foundation to Strengthen the Turkish Armed Forces (TSKGV) and the Turkish Defense Industry Support Fund (SSDF), which are hardly supervised;
* Ensuring full supervision of the Court of Accounts’ authority over the military;
* Demilitarization of the Military of Defense;
* Abolishing the privileges legally granted to the Turkish Armed Forces Assistance Center (OYAK);
* Speeding up the transition to a professional army and reducing the size of the army;
* Revising the promotion system;
* Abolishing Article 35 of the TSK Internal Service Code, which is used as a pretext for coups.
I think I am right for wanting the old AK Party back. It is a pity that we have wasted so much time.