Wednesday, 25 June 2014

What the Columnists Say

Published in Roundup of Columnists

The nomination of Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu as the joint candidate of the two opposition parties CHP and MHP in the upcoming presidential election has set off a lively debate among pro-CHP, secularist commentators.


Yüksel Taşkın in Taraf writes that the CHP base has not reacted as negatively to the candidacy of Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu as some had hoped and that it has instead taken a wait-and-see stance. The coming performance of İhsanoğlu is going to be attentively followed, and if a spark is detected in him, he will be quickly appropriated. The opposite of this is also possible. If the base does not feel an expectation, it does not feels that the election is possible to carry, then it will quickly retire inside its shell and this will help the AKP carry an election that will be without suspense. Seen from this perspective, the selection of İhsanoğlu carries certain risks.  In order for İhsanoğlu to overcome his disadvantage of being an unknown public figure, he needs to turn this to his advantage by presenting a narrative. This narrative can be built on moderation. By making the case that this moderation is going to contribute to the stability of the country, the support of those who are worried about instability can be won. In terms of the language of politics, this can be achieved by stressing the identity of a “statesman.” What should be emphasized in this identity is not that of a member of the state elite, but rather of a unifier that would approach everyone, including those at the very bottom, with rightness and justice. And in today’s Turkey this requires using the pulpit to convey a populist message.


Can Dündar in Cumhuriyet writes that the selection of İhsanoğlu as a candidate represents a victory of the realists over the idealists. The realists say we cannot win with our own candidate, so the rational thing to do is to pick someone that can defeat our rival by taking votes from his base. The idealist responds that fine, but even if he wins, it will be your rival that will have won in ideological terms; he imprisons you in his own mental universe. When it comes to İhsanoğlu, I think like the idealist. From the perspective of the CHP, there are two problems; the first concerns the method of the selection of the candidate. A party that claims to be democratic has chosen a candidate in closed consultations between just a few people. The problem concerning the content of the selection is that it represents surrender to the dominant nationalist-conservative mentality in the country. To challenge Erdoğan, they have a picked a candidate from his own mental geography. İhsanoğlu is the white flag of surrender of a society that they have been trying to suffocate by denying it pluralism. Sure, the CHP is tired of losing elections and wants to reach out to conservatives. But when you choose to convey the message “We are also pious,” you serve those who are attempting to force the straitjacket of reaction on society. This election may not be won, but instead of trying to fit into the mold of society by moving to the right as the CHP is doing, there is a need for an energetic movement that refuses surrender by saying “another world is possible”; such a movement can quickly grow and become organized. Such a movement can also persuade those conservatives that are repelled by the exploitation of piousness in the service of theft.


Emin Çölaşan in Sözcü writes that Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu deserves the support of those who are against Erdoğan. It does not matter whether or not we like him, whether he is one of us or not; I still believe that we have no choice but to support him. What is important is that someone like Tayyip be barred from occupying the top of the state. The presidency cannot be used as the headquarters of any individual or party; Tayyip definitely does not belong there, he certainly does not deserve it. If he is elected president, a person that has become the laughing stock of the whole word is going to use the presidency as an instrument of his own deranged policies, deploying it in the service of his dictatorial ambitions. Imagine that someone who cannot bring himself to say that he is a “Turk”, who cannot talk about the “Turkish nation,” who has intimated that Apo (Abdullah Öcalan) is going to be pardoned, who has the intention of partitioning Turkey gets installed in Çankaya [the presidential palace]! Then, it’ll be too late to be regretful.


Ali Sirmen in Cumhuriyet asks how it can be that the country that has convicted the two surviving leaders of the junta that took power in 1980 still has not brought itself to comprehensively change the constitution – although it has been amended – that the authors of the coup once drafted. If the popular will that was oppressed yields even less libertarian results after it has been emancipated than what it did when it was oppressed, one may ask what kind of liberty this is that does not liberate?  Does the blame belong to Kenan Evren, if so many years after his dictatorship, we still don’t have a freer regime, indeed are stuck with an even worse oppression? With this mentality, I’m afraid we’ll one day find ourselves in the situation of saying “May the Almighty not let us long back to the days of Evren!”


Taner Akçam in Taraf writes that between 2008 and 2012 Turkey went through a sort of reckoning with its history. The Sledgehammer and Ergenekon trials were part of this reckoning. And of course the trial of Kenan Evren for the 1980 coup and the ongoing trials in Diyarbakır of the killings (during the dirty war against the Kurdish separatists in the 1990s) should also be included as parts of this settling of accounts. The result is simple: this was it! The Sledgehammer and Ergenekon trials offer us evidence enough of Turkey’s ability to settle accounts with its past. It seems that what we as a nation – Turks and Kurds – are saying is this: “This is all that we could do,” “don’t expect more from us.” At the point where we stand now, we have settled accounts quite a lot with the past; indeed, one has to confess that we have grown a bit tired of the exercise. It is certain that we now as a nation have entered a period of reconciliation.  A general amnesty on top of this would be just fine! Is Turkey ever going to accumulate enough energy to once again face up to its history? And if so, how many years will that take?

Read 8242 times Last modified on Monday, 30 June 2014

Visit also





Joint Center Publications

Op-ed Halil Karaveli "The Rise and Rise of the Turkish Right", The New York Times, April 8, 2019

Analysis Halil Karaveli "The Myth of Erdogan's Power"Foreign Policy, August 29, 2018

Analysis Svante E. Cornell, A Road to Understanding in Syria? The U.S. and TurkeyThe American Interest, June 2018

Op-ed Halil Karaveli "Erdogan Wins Reelection"Foreign Affairs, June 25, 2018

Article Halil Karaveli "Will the Kurdish Question Secure Erdogan's Re-election?", Turkey Analyst, June 18, 2018

Research Article Svante E. Cornell "Erbakan, Kisakürek, and the Mainstreaming of Extremism in Turkey", Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, June 2018

Analysis Svante E. Cornell "The U.S. and Turkey: Past the Point of No Return?"The American Interest, February 1, 2018

Op-ed Svante E. Cornell "Erdogan's Turkey: the Role of a Little Known Islamic Poet", Breaking Defense, January 2, 2018

Research Article Halil Karaveli "Turkey's Authoritarian Legacy"Cairo Review of Global Affairs, January 2, 2018


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.


Sign up for upcoming events, latest news and articles from the CACI Analyst