'Brutuses' in Turkey's political life

Recent events have reminded people of the chronic illness present in the right wing of Turkish politics, in which the "second men" rise up against the leaders.

'Brutuses' in Turkey's political life
The fact that police, as a part of the ongoing Ergenekon investigation, are poised to arrest former Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Balıkesir deputy Turan Çömez, who has stood by the side of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since his time as the mayor of the İstanbul Municipality, is a sign of the chronic illness inherent in Turkish politics.

At this point, everyone is asking the same question: "How could it be that someone who has backed Erdoğan for 15 years is now involved in a group aiming to overthrow the AK Party government?" Alongside this question, people have been reminded of the chronic illness present in the right wing of Turkish politics, in which the "second men" rise up against the leaders.

No single answer is sufficient in responding to the question of which difference in views, what sort of power and atmosphere, or which words and actions push these so-called "second men" to wage war against their leaders. Neither sociologists, political scientists nor psychiatrists can really diagnose this perennial thorn in the side of Turkish politics.

The trend that sees high-ranking names in the right wing of Turkish politics switch over, after a certain period of time, to the opposite side, is not new. In fact, Turkish political history is full of examples of this sort of thing. The differing views of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and his second man, İsmet İnönü, are well known.

İnönü may not have actually started an insurrection against Atatürk, but it is well known that right before Atatürk's death in 1938, İnönü had been pushed away from his duties as the prime minister. The moment İnönü was elected president of Turkey, he immediately had the images of Atatürk removed from Turkish money, replacing them with his own; this alone is enough to show the tensions between these two men.

The fact that Fevzi Çakmak, who led the military's General Staff headquarters during the Turkish War of Independence, split paths partially with Atatürk and entirely with İnönü, goes down in Turkish history as one of the first major cracks in Turkish politics. Another incident of this type was when the former commander of the Eastern front, Kazım Karabekir, became one of 12 deputies to be tried and sentenced to hanging for an assassination attempt against Atatürk. It appears that the sharp differences in views between these political colleagues had a direct effect on the structures that were to define Turkish politics henceforth. The inner struggles of the cadre that helped found the republic arrived at a critical juncture in the road during this period of conflict, between 1938 and 1950. Celal Bayar started up his own struggle against İnönü in 1946.

Speaking to Sunday's Zaman, Professor Abdülkadir Çevik, who teaches at Ankara University's faculty of psychiatry, notes that the Çömez's new spot on the agenda of Turkish politics is tied to the chronic illness that afflicts the creation of political identities here. He says: "This is because political identities are actually formed during the adolescent years. The later a particular characteristic enters an identity, the easier it is to bend it. It is much more difficult to bend or alter a religious or cultural identity."

Professor Çevik notes that, while people hold on tight to team affiliations they pick up as children, political identities are comparatively much less concrete, and thus much more malleable. "When a person's party is not successful at the ballot box, he or she can switch over to another party, but they don't do this when the team they support is beaten by another team," he says.

"The earlier something enters our characters, our identities, the harder it becomes later on to change it. People tend to forget the things they learned most recently. But the earlier they learn something, the later they forget it. You see this clearly in examples of aging. Grandmothers can remember quite clearly their childhoods, but they may not recall what they ate earlier in the day. They forget," he explains.

However, Professor Çevik notes that the changes of alliances witnessed within Turkish politics all have varying reasons behind them, and that each one of these incidents needs to be examined separately. He stresses that no one reason can be applied to all of these events.

Bayar starts up initiative against CHP

Bayar formed the Democrat Party (DP) in order to face off against the CHP and, despite losing the 1946 elections, which were carried out with the "open vote-secret classification" system, the DP did go on to bring an end to the CHP's 30 years in power in 1950. The Justice Party (AP), formed as the continuation of the Democrat Party, enjoyed power until the military coup of May 27, 1960, and was also replete with examples of just how political colleagues have abandoned each other throughout Turkish political history. The competitive relationship between Sadettin Bilgiç and the ninth president of Turkey, Süleyman Demirel, led to Demirel's companions and political fellows being "thrown off the train," but then years later, after the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup, Demirel experienced this same treatment.

There were more political uprisings in the 1970s, this time within the ranks of the CHP. During this period, CHP General Secretary Bülent Ecevit rose up against the second and legendary leader of the CHP, İsmet İnönü, by protesting the fact that the CHP had supplied government ministers to the government that was forcibly formed by the military. At the end of this process, İnönü was defeated. In fact, İnönü was so angry with Ecevit, his former right hand man, and the party as a whole that he even resigned from the CHP and was not a member when he died.

Moving on to the 1980s, Demirel received a similar blow from fellow politician Turgut Özal, with whom he had worked for years. Özal, taking advantage of the conditions set in place by the 1980 military coup, decided to form a new political party, the Motherland Party (ANAP), rather than work with the party under the leadership of Demirel, who was at this point banned from politics anyway. As for Demirel, by forming the True Path Party (DYP), he attempted to take revenge on Özal, though he was only able to do this after the political ban on him was lifted in 1987, which is when he was able to move to the helm of this party. Thus, the competition between these two former friends turned into a real push-and-shove struggle.

After Özal was elected president, he decided he wanted to leave the leadership of his party to Yıldırım Akbulut. This time, though, politician Mesut Yılmaz, whom Özal had chosen from among other ANAP founders and made into a government minister, began to rise up against him. It turned out not to be difficult for Yılmaz to eliminate Akbulut. In fact, Yılmaz was able to stay on the political stage right up until the Nov. 3, 2002 elections, in which ANAP failed to rise above the voting threshold. Yılmaz is still an independent deputy from Rize in Parliament.

Demirel, who swore that he would remove Özal from the Çankaya Presidential Palace after the latter was elected president, wound up becoming the president himself after Özal's death. As for Demirel, he too was determined to see his party left in good hands. But he, too, faced opposition, this time from Tansu Çiller, someone who he had brought in to head up the economy, and who he had even presented to the general Turkish public as "my daughter." Despite Demirel's actual desire to see current Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan head up the DYP, it was Çiller who wound up fighting off Toptan's influence and undertaking the leadership of the party.

Journalist and writer Celal Kazdağlı ties the betrayals that occur within the Turkish political scene to the leaders themselves. He says: "In Turkish politics, changes in leadership do not happen in time. What happens is that when the leaders do not leave their posts when they should, waves that come up from the bottom to the top manage from time to time to overthrow them. Sometimes these same waves wind up switching paths altogether and finding new arenas for leadership."

Kazdağlı also notes that uprisings from these "second rank figures" against leaders is not an illness relegated only to Turkish politics, though he does acknowledge that in recent years in Turkey the frequency of these sorts of situations is increasing.

"The political class is made up of people who see what would be to their own advantage before everyone else, and who appoint themselves accordingly. These are people whose contracts are renewed through elections every four years or so. They have no guarantees. So they are constantly searching for the groundwork on which they can fortify and protect their relationships. The reason that these things have increased recently is the fast pace of changes in the structure of Turkish society. The political groundwork in the nation is constantly changing hands," he explains.

Çiller met the same fate. In the end, everything that had happened to the leaders of the past also happened to her. After she managed to be the sole rider of the "Kırat" horse that was the symbol of the DYP, she formed an "A team" with powerful names in her bureaucracy from the 1995 elections. But then former Police Chief Mehmet Ağar, Necdet Menzir, Ayfer Yılmaz, Tekin Enerem, Gencay Gürün, Cefi Kamhi and others started up the move to break apart the DYP during the Feb. 28, 1997 coup process. In fact, the coalition that had existed between the Welfare Party (RP) and the DYP fell apart as a result of the group called the Democratic Turkey Party, which had mostly been composed of names from this so-called "A Team."

In the 1990s and 2000s, the incidences of uprisings in Turkish politics by so-called "second men" against leaders began to gain even more speed. Deniz Baykal, whose mind was filled with thoughts about the struggles against Ecevit prior to 1980, re-opened the CHP, which had been forced to close by the leadership of the 1980 coup. This marked the re-entrance of the left, which was saying, "I am also here," onto the political scene again. Erdal İnönü, the son of İsmet İnönü, was left in a tough situation, and decided to leave off politics. As for Baykal, he emerged victorious from the struggle into which he had entered with Murat Karayalçın and then went on to gather all of the CHP under the same roof. This time, though, he experienced a parting of the ways with Ertuğrul Günay, the current minister of culture and tourism, with whom he had formed this new CHP. First Günay joined up with the Democratic Left Party (DSP), then he resigned from that party and, after a break of about 13 years, he turned out to be one of the high-profile transfers from the left to the conservative democrat AK Party.

The cracks in the other major party of the left, the DSP, which came about with the refusing of an aging Ecevit to leave the helm of this party, really came to the forefront in 2001, when Hüsamettin Özkan, who had been Ecevit's right-hand man since 1991, gathered together then-Foreign Minister İsmail Cem and Kemal Derviş, along with some DSP deputies, and went on to form the New Turkey Party (YTP). Under the leadership of Cem, the lifespan of the YTP turned out to be very short. Derviş, who made a last-minute decision to accept an offer from the CHP's Baykal, thus leaving Özkan and Cem on their own, was later characterized as "for sale" by Özkan.

The inner struggles within the RP, which was removed from power by the 1997 coup process, and its political continuation, the Virtue Party (FP), brought along the birth pangs of the current ruling party, the AK Party. The uprisings against leader Necmettin Erbakan began much the same way struggles against Ecevit did; Erbakan, who was also aging, resisted demands for change within the National View profile of politics he was leading. Despite the fact that one of Erbakan's favorite princes, current President Abdullah Gül, lost his battle against Erbakan's personal candidate, Recai Kutan, there were some serious differences beginning to show within the ranks of the National View. And thus certain names that were prominent within this National View profile, such as Gül, Erdoğan, Abdullatif Şener and Bülent Arınç, signed off on the founding of the AK Party. After the AK Party emerged victorious from the elections on Nov. 3, 2002, this time Şener expressed dissatisfaction with some of the policies of this new party under Erdoğan's leadership, and thus pulled away from the main ranks. For a long time now, Şener has been attempting to re-enter politics.

Sunday's Zaman
Last Mod: 06 Temmuz 2008, 10:01
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