By Halil Karaveli
May 13, 2016
The dynamics of capitalist development have played a much more central role for Turkey’s journey from secularism to religious conservatism – and before that for the Kemalist break with Islam – than what is generally recognized. During the context of the Cold War, capitalist development and Islamization went hand in hand, as religious conservatism neutralized the challenge of the left and labor. Today, neoliberal globalization provides impetus for Islamization. Raising “pious generations” – who are “traditional,” not rebellious – is essential for sustaining neo-liberalism. An explicitly “religious” constitution, in which reference is made to God, will serve to mask that it is capital that reigns supreme. Ultimately, the survival of secularism requires that the economic order that depends on continued Islamization is called into question.
Soli Özel in Habertürk writes that secularism is a crucial concept in the upcoming discussion about what kind of fundamental principles that are going to shape Turkey’s politics in the future. Recently, people in the governing circles have more frequently started to state that societal arrangements in Turkey should be religiously based. However, the stance in society is different. According to a recent poll, 47 percent of people have a faith, but they are at the same time non-pious. The pious are 40,5 percent. Those who want “Sharia” are 16,6 percent. However, a majority of 76 percent does not want to bring back the khalifat. These numbers don’t mean that the public in Turkey has resolved the identity issue. While 70 percent wants to remain in NATO and 64 percent favors EU membership, 64 percent believes that there is a confrontation between Islamic and Western civilizations.
Etyen Mahçupyan in Karar asks if the new constitution that is going to be drafted is going to be the expression of a societal compact or the expression of the will of the side that is politically strongest. In Turkey it has so far always been the latter that has prevailed. A societal compact has eluded us for a very fundamental reason: we have yet not become a “society.” Since the days of Byzantium, we are a people of different cemaat -- fraternities -- who exclusively value their own identities, desires, choices and victimhood. Even though our experience to live alongside the “others” is age-old, our will to live “together” is weak. We have almost no habit of being curious about those who are different, of building relations, of listening and of understanding. Yet the historical dynamic in this geography has been conducive to creating and sustaining differences. Today we are not only facing different ethnicities and sects. There are also different life styles, value systems and mentalities. A societal compact must have a base that includes all of these differences.
Murat Aksoy in Haberdar writes that politics in Turkey has historically not been defined by the left-right axis, but by an axis of change-status quo. And but for a few exceptions, politics in Turkey has been carried out within the realm of the state, that is, with a view to preserve status quo. During AKP’s first term, the party made politics with society, not the state, as its point of reference, which set it apart in the historical context. However, the Arab Spring, and the process that started after the 2011 general election, has resulted in the AKP embracing the state, abandoning society as its point of reference. The main opposition party is not different in this regard. If CHP is going to become a strong rival to Erdoğan/AKP, then the party needs to differentiate itself from statism: it must stand up for society and give voice to the different societal demands, instead of also having the state as its point of reference. And the way to do this is to build coalitions with the different societal sections and groups. CHP should take the initiative to build a democratic coalition, bringing together the victims of Erdoğan, the AKP and the state.
Celal Başlangıç in Haberdar notes that AKP is taking action in parliament to strip especially the HDP parliamentarians of their immunity. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has said that the move “is against the constitution, but we are nonetheless going to vote in favor of removing the immunity.” Everyone in the party was surprised, even shocked, including some of those who are very close to the CHP leader. Why had Kılıçdaroğlu – who until now had accused President Erdoğan of violating the constitution – decided to be party to this crime? In CHP circles, four answers are suggested to this question: one is that the CHP leader feared that the AKP was going to accuse him of helping “PKK deputies.” Second, he was afraid that the neo-nationalists within CHP would have rebelled otherwise. Third, Kılıçdaroğlu’s own identity – he is Alevi and Kurd – played a role. But the explanation that is mostly discussed is that Kılıçdaroğlu decided to say “yes” after a briefing he received at the General staff. People in the party are saying that Kılıçdaroğlu knew very well – after a meeting earlier during the day with the central committee of the party – that the general tendency was in favor of saying “no” to the AKP’s motion, but that the briefing he was given at the General staff later during the day led was decisive, explaining why he went on television in the evening to tell that CHP was going to vote “yes.”
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.