CONTINUED REFORMS OR CHAOS?

Today's Zaman
Oct 31 2012
Turkey

It seems Turkey has come to the end of an era. We have reached a
point beyond which we can no longer continue to carry our old burdens.

This is not only because the country is exhausted from these problems,
but also because its people have paid a great price, and people have
reached a new level of awareness on achieving their rights. Moreover,
the world is also at a crossroad that is inclusive of Turkey and thus
Turkey and can no longer go on like this. These three factors signify
the quality of change in Turkey. Ten or 20 years from now, Turkey
will be a very different country than it is today. But the decisions
we make today will determine the very direction of this change.

We have serious problems, but we have serious advantages as well. We
are a young and dynamic society. We have a big appetite for living a
good, dignified and prosperous life. The very region where our country
is located places great burdens on our shoulders, but at the same time,
it offers us great advantages. Turkey is located at the crossroads
between Europe and Asia. It has inherited many cultural assets from
an empire, and it has a multicultural texture. As such Turkey does
not have the luxury of severing its ties with the world or isolating
itself from other countries. Turkey has to think and "play big"
and in doing so act cautiously as regards the rules of this game.

This is both a major risk and a big change.

The 20th century's entrenched order was disrupted with the
disintegration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)
and the collapse of the Berlin Wall. And this was the very global
reason why the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) emerged as
a reformist movement in the wake of the post-modern coup of Feb. 28,
1997 in Turkey. In the 1990s, Turkey was positively affected by the
circumstances that paved the way for the Cold War concept to become
unpopular around the globe. Foreign forces that once placed pressure on
Turkish society had changed their attitudes, giving way to the winds
of liberalization. The era of deep states and Gladio-like networks
was coming to an end. The totalitarian mentality that would keep
society under duress was losing its power and clout.

Today, we are on the cusp of a new era as symbolized by the Arab
Spring. We know that the borders that form straight lines between
countries in the Middle as if they were drawn with a ruler as well as
the totalitarian regimes of the Middle East and Africa will change
in the coming 10 or 20 years. Just as it is directly affected by
developments in Syria, Turkey will be sitting at the very center
of this change. Consequently, Turkey does not have the luxury of
maladministration. In particular, it will be increasingly impossible
to maintain the status quo as regards the Kurdistan Workers' Party
(PKK), Kurdish, Alevi, Armenian and Cyprus issues.

One of our advantages is that we have a powerful ruling party that has
managed to attract one out of every two voters in Turkey. Given the
fact that in the past, it was capable of acting swiftly and wisely in
implementing reformist policies, the government may make very valuable
contributions to the country's progress. In particular, it may be
able to take swift and correct action to tackle the above-mentioned
issues with the support of the general public.

In a sense, it is compelled to do so as there is no powerful opposition
party to which it can hand over the government mandate, and what's
worse is that it appears that this won't change for several terms to
come. Except for a serious crisis and instability -- God forbid -- this
government does not have any challenging rival. As the opposition is
feeble, it is unable to give the government any positive competitive
environment or encouragement. The AK Party does not have the luxury
of withdrawing into its shell or relinquishing the government mandate
to rest or recover its strength as an opposition party even for a
single term.

And the coming several years are very critical. If Turkey is unable to
settle its Kurdish and PKK issues by 2015, these problems will evolve
into global issues under the influence of the Syrian crisis, which has
the potential of growing into a problem like the one in Somalia. For
the time being, the Kurdish and PKK issues are Turkey's internal
problems. But they will become global issues in the coming three
or four years, and the international community will start to impose
solutions on Turkey. Like any other imposed solutions, these will not
be true solutions, and the ensuing chaos will affect us more severely.

In this context, it is of crucial importance that we should take
the process of drafting a new constitution more seriously and make
it a top agenda item. One year has passed since the establishment
of the parliamentary Constitutional Reconciliation Commission, but
it has been able to come to an agreement only on 10 articles of the
new constitution. Moreover, this has turned into a cold, official
process being conducted behind closed doors and driving away social
participation. Yet, it was supposed to be the top priority for
the country as the drafting of the new constitution will imply the
announcement of a democratic Turkey and a pronounced divorce from
the old Turkey.

Instead, meaningless bans are imposed on Republic Day festivities to
boost polarization and create tension in an unreasonable manner. I
cannot understand the childish logic behind such a move. Actually,
we should be discussing our new constitution with involvement from
all walks of life. Instead, we are wasting our time and energy in
unneeded disputes and divisions.

Don't forget that in the future, we may regret having done so.