The Supreme Court’s refusal to endorse the Constitutional Court’s decision means politics in Turkey has started to flow in an unprecedented ‘channel’. Ever since this ‘situation’ emerged, its unconstitutionality has been repeatedly written about. However, there was no need for this: anyone who can read and write could read the relevant constitutional articles and come to the same conclusion – and they did. There was no result of ‘misunderstanding/misinterpretation’. There was a problem of ‘refusal to understand’. Naturally, this meant ‘rejecting the Constitution’.
This was a crime. A ‘crime’. One of the most serious crimes that could be committed in politics. It’s as if the AKP government was teaching us all a lesson: ‘This is how you do a coup, not that way’. ‘The situation continues’.
What is the constitution, what does it tell us? It explains the source of ‘authority’ represented by the ‘state’ structure; it determines the rules for how this ‘authority’ should be used. With a few outliers like Switzerland (which do not deviate from this generalization), the emergence of the text called ‘constitution’ as an ‘international necessity’ is the result of the formation of the political entity that would become the United States of America. The community, largely migrated from the British Isles to the new continent and existing as a ‘British colony’, felt the need to separate from Britain and did so. Thus, it moved out of the ‘authority’ domain of the British state and the dynasty at its head. So, what would this new unit use as a rule, what would it adopt as the source of authority? The answer to the second question was already clear. The community had ‘formed’ itself, it had ‘constituted’ itself. This was the ‘source’. How it would work was not yet clear, it needed to be determined. That was what the American Constitution was to define. The Americans did this with as broad participation as possible and continue to live by these rules today. Since then, a lot has changed in history. Even societies still ‘nominally’ under a dynasty’s rule have written their own ‘democratic’ constitutions. What was an exception in the 1700s has become the ‘rule’ over time.
Let’s take a very brief look at our own history. We, too, were subjects of a ‘dynasty’ and were among the societies that stepped into the modern world towards becoming a ‘Republic’. Austria, which defined itself as an ’empire’ like us, emerged from the world war as a ‘republic’; the ‘Russian Empire’ became a ‘Union of Socialist/Communist Republics’. There were those unhappy with such a transformation in these places, especially here.
We broke away from the dynasty’s authority and, according to claims, fell under the authority of a ‘republican ideology’ not legitimately accepted by the majority of society (We can call this the ‘Kemalist regime’). This situation continued until the 21st century, but now –finally!– the conditions have changed with the votes of the people. The ongoing fight over the Constitutional Court decision is the fight over which ‘legitimate’ authority the society should accept. As far as I see, the AKP’s answer to this question is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (It’s impossible for any answer the AKP gives to be different from Erdoğan’s). No doubt Erdoğan will find an ‘Islamic’ name for the source of authority he will use (I don’t know, maybe he’ll call it ‘caliphate’, if he does, he’ll open new troubles); but this name does not change the real situation: the ‘real fact’ is that both the source and the executor of authority is Tayyip Erdoğan. So, the real name of the regime is the ‘Erdoğan Republic’. I don’t think this will have any positive effect on the existing Republic of Turkey. The political method Tayyip Erdoğan chose to achieve this goal already indicates how things will proceed in absolute arbitrariness once he reaches there. This is, after all, the ‘Nirvana’ of politics in Tayyip Erdoğan’s eyes: Tayyip Erdoğan will command, and the staff will execute. Nevertheless, since Erdoğan cannot dominate the whole, the opposite orders that will be needed the next day will also be implemented within the same system.
Tayyip Erdoğan has shown that he is ready to use illegal power to reach this ‘ideal’ state. When he reaches his goal, he will not hesitate to use the arbitrary style he will apply to get there. In fact, the word ‘hesitate’ might not be very appropriate, as it seems he would prefer such a method.
Occasionally, ‘opposition forces’ around the world may feel the need to step outside the existing ‘legality’ domain. Some governments may also be ready to violate legality and therefore may be satisfied with this situation. But the opposition facing the situation of protecting the limits of legality against power is not a frequently encountered situation. Let’s see what strange results this strange positioning will produce.”
*Murat Belge (born 16 March 1943) is a Turkish academic, translator, literary critic, columnist, civil rights activist, and occasional tour guide.
This article was first published in Birikim Magazine and translated into English by Politurco.