I and a group of my friends with different political views were at a dinner the previous night. We kept talking hours on the topic that should be more than easy for you to guess: the re-run of the election in Istanbul.
One of these friends, who I know is not against AK Party categorically although he is not its voter, said deep into the night, “We thought they would go through elections as they came to power in the same way, but their insistence on re-run of the election in Istanbul reveals that this may not be the case.“
I felt alarmed at that moment.
The following day and this morning, I came across a different version of this view in a number of alarming articles in newspapers written by commentators who have always supported AK Party and possibly voted for it in most elections.
The articles are questioning AK Party’s stand concerning democracy.
My mind immediately took me back to the year of 1996.
My paper on the issue of Islam and democracy
Nilüfer Göle is a Turkish professor of sociology who explored the topic of ‘veiling‘ with a positive approach in her work, ‘The Forbidden Modern: Civilization and Veiling‘, and provoked fierce criticisms from so-called ‘secular circles‘ infamous for their deeply-rooted hostility towards visibility of religion in public life although she herself is a secular academic. She gave me a call telling that she had been invited to a discussion event with a limited number of speakers organized by an American foundation, but she was too busy to attend. She asked me if she could suggest me as a speaker to the organizers of the event.
I didn’t think long and accepted the offer as it came from Professor Göle.
Let me keep it short: The discussions lasted a week, and I was eventually requested to express my thesis on the topic in a written form, too. My article appeared in one of the periodic publications of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), an influential American think-thank.
The main thesis of my paper was “Islam and democracy are compatible” and in that paper I used Welfare Party in Turkey as an example.
In those days, while a group of people engaged in a blistering opposition against democracy by discovering an affinity between the words of ‘democracy‘ and ‘demon‘ at home, some others abroad who claimed to speak in the name of Islam were castigating the concept of democracy in demonstrations or other actions in public.
The Welfare Party (Refah Partisi) came to the forefront in the political life of Turkey in the midst of those circumstances. The party managed to come out of the general election in 1995 by winning more votes than its rivals for the first time in its history, and became a powerful partner of the coalition government under the prime ministry of its own party leader despite all barriers.
Suspicious comments like “They have come to power through elections, but we will see if they will accept to go in the same way” were common those days, too, because a discourse against democracy within the circles supporting the Welfare Party seemed to make a splash.
Such a suspicious approach towards Welfare Party was quite noticeable at home and abroad.
With my thesis that I defended in the discussions abroad and came out as an article later on, I had participated indirectly in those debates around possible intentions of the Welfare Party from a distinct perspective. I often expressed my thesis in my pieces in the newspaper I worked for as well.
The coalition government under the leadership of the Welfare Party could not survive long. That experience got bogged down due to what is famously known as the ‘post-modern coup of February 28‘ (1997). Who came to power through elections left power through the pressure of the army. Today too, I believe that Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of the Welfare Party, would not seek a way to stay in power if his party had got less votes in an election later on.
The military did not allow the political power of a party with ‘Islamic references‘ to be replaced by another government by elections despite the fact that this party had come to power through elections.
The event and the view undermining my thesis
Now, we are in the year of 2019. When the view of “AK Party came to power through elections, but it seems it will not be willing to go through elections” was expressed in our gathering of friends, none of those individuals around our dinner table who are known as AK Party supporters opposed this idea by taking a firm stand, unlike what I had done in a foreign land before foreign opinion leaders through defending my thesis.
A few meant, “Oh come on! Do you really think so?” but that was all…
Objecting voices remained weak.
Despite everything, I am still of the same opinion. I believe AK Party would leave power some day in case of an election defeat as it was the case for other political parties who left power when they lost popular support.
Who came to power through elections will leave power in the same way.
However, it seems that the re-run of the election in Istanbul has caused some second thoughts about this conviction among people who always viewed AK Party governments with a positive outlook even though they haven’t been AK Party voters like some of my friends in the dinner, besides those who have traditionally held negative thoughts about this party.
Those views held by some prestigious commentators in the pro-government newspapers hardly help anything other than causing more confusion in minds.
For instance, this view below which has come under criticism:
“Rulers may make mistakes in matters concerning justice, fairness, competence and honesty, involve in corruption and deviate from the right path. However, according to our Muslim scholar and preacher, talking about such mistakes and weaknesses is impermissible in terms of our religion if this would benefit the enemy (he means the political opposition here). He explains us in details under what circumstances lying in public and hiding truth are permissible in terms of the religion.“
The ‘Muslim scholar‘ who is criticized in this piece by the writer is a theologian known as the senior mentor of AK Party…
These recent contributions may very well begin to have an adverse effect on people who give support to AK Party in name of defense of democracy after some time, and such a situation may accelerate the process of change of power in this country through elections.
Because, the view of “Who comes through elections go through elections” is the corner stone of democracy…
Translated by Bernar Kutluğ from the the article appeared in this site’s Turkish section on June 15, 2019]