Demirel was so “smart” that whenever there was the risk of him being politically embattled, he would invent such phrases. “We cannot be the ones who drank the non-existent oil” and “Roads don’t wear under the feet of walking people” are among my favorites.
“Yesterday is yesterday and today is today,” was the justification he came up with to defend his past deeds. It meant that although something he did in the past might appear to be the wrong course of action to take in “today’s” circumstances, there is nothing contradictory about this stance, so long as he no longer repeats the past deed under the new conditions. He had done so in the past because it was what needed to be done then. In other words, his action wasn’t wrong. Although he could be doing just the opposite of that under the new circumstances, he would still be doing the right thing because he would be acting in compliance with the necessities of the new day.
This is of course not a proper political mentality. He was corrupt, having voluntarily sold himself to the regime of military tutelage. He lacked any principles. For him, democracy and the people’s demands were optional while the tutelage was entitled to set the red lines. He saw it as a sort of division of labor to leave his position without causing many problems when alarm bells rang. So when the time came, he would transfer his position and duties to the military and the judicial tutelage, and when the dust settled, he would take them back.
People frequently ask me how I am convinced that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are different from those old-school politicians.
The question already has its answer within. Erdoğan and his staff are doing what the old-style politicians would not do. They have adopted a clear stance against the tutelage groups who see themselves as the owners of this nation. They may do this with a shyness tainted by much pragmatism; I think they are doing important and courageous work. I think that Erdoğan’s “yesterday” is really different from his “today.”
To be able to understand the value of the last nine years, we need to look at the developments that have taken place since getting rid of our ideological goggles and the influence of how we were deceived by the old-style politicians. The reform proposals announced recently by Hüseyin Çelik could not have even been imagined until very recently.
The biggest problem with the AK Party is that it is trying to conduct this struggle with a “zero-sum” policy. That is, it is trying to implement reforms so that the winner will always be the AK Party and no harm should every come to it because of these reforms. Time is the best cure for the AK Party. It carries out their affairs like a hot knife through butter and with an evolutionary method, assuming that things will be sorted out after they are set into motion. And the delays and hesitations resulting from this modality remind people who are distant to the AK Party of Demirel-like politicians.
This was how it happened with respect to the latest decree on returning the confiscated properties of non-Muslim minorities.
This decree was passed to regulate how the provisional Article 11 of the law dated 2008 should be implemented. As you will recall, the AK Party was accused of “betraying and selling the homeland” while the bill on non-Muslim foundations was being discussed in Parliament in 2008. Members of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), including Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, had scandalously voiced such objections as, “You care about the properties of non-Muslims, but what about the rights of pure Turks?”
The AK Party is influenced greatly by such attacks. The latest decree indicates that the regulations that could not be passed in 2008 under the influence of such criticism are being enacted today. So it is a sort of compensation. It is not complete even in its current form, and there are uncertainties and omissions. Expropriated or confiscated properties or those which were sold to third parties, the properties declared in the Declaration of 1936 -- in particular confiscated cemeteries -- are not in the scope of the new decree. The biggest problem is that the General Directorate for Foundations (VGM) still has the final say over registering the title deeds of the properties that will be returned. The VGM has not been very trustworthy in the past, which makes it really problematic to give any authority over this matter.
Still, I don’t think these are meaningless reforms which the AK Party plans to take back in the future. The problem with the AK Party is its high sensitivity to potential negative reaction that its reforms might trigger. It is for this reason the AK Party is waiting for the right time to reopen the Halki seminary on the island of Heybeliada near İstanbul.
However, the voter base of the AK Party, in particular religious groups, has welcomed this new regulation with great enthusiasm. That their party has taken steps to rectify the injustice -- which Islam does not approve of -- is a source of pride for them. I have received dozens of messages, mails and tweets of congratulation from my Muslim friends. These messages have pleased me more than the decree.
I ask myself, “What should a party be afraid of if it relies on such an aware and knowledgeable voter base?”