By Nuray Mert
A political consensus to restore democracy is the only solution to Turkey’s deteriorating politics, but every day, we are moving further away from any possibility of a coalition that aims at a consensus. I have previously mentioned the difficulties of such consensus-building, such as the lack of trust among the political parties, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s personal concerns about corruption probes and the impact of historical culture wars between republicans and conservatives. Nevertheless, it seems that another big obstacle is the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) ambiguity on Islamism. The AKP was founded as a center-right party by denouncing Islamism and defining itself as “conservative democratic,” but its self-definition has changed in time. After The AKP obtained control of almost the entire political system and state apparatus, the governing party became increasingly ambiguous about Islamism. Moreover, it started to express more willingness to present its politics through an Islamist discourse, suggesting that the AKP was the only legitimate representative of “the Muslim nation” and the leader of the global Ummah.
Despite the election results which showed the electorate’s refusal of the idea of “Islamic state party rule,” it seems that Erdoğan and his party is still reluctant to heed the message. The AKP supporters’ media is full of opinion leaders’ articles of coalition bashing; since many new AKP MPs are also columnists in the AKP media, their media essentially directly reflect AKP’s views. One of them is the inventor of the term the “2002 Revolution” (Taha Özhan of daily Star). Since he is “a revolutionary,” it is not surprising for him to be against the idea of a coalition! Unfortunately, he is not alone in his revolutionary discourse; many others refuse to compare the AKP with any other political party because of its peculiar fight against the “ancient régime.” Besides, some major AKP thinkers like theologian Hayrettin Karaman, still mostly write against the “democratic system,” let alone consensus and coalition-building. Another one refuses “the idea of compromise as it means giving up the struggle,” (Atasoy Müftüoglu, Yeni Şafak, July 6).
After all, it seems that the basic question is not the possibilities and difficulties of a coalition with the AKP or a debate on coalitions in general, but if a coalition is possible with Islamism. If the political cause of the governing party is to struggle to remove the existing political system altogether and to build “a state for Muslims” as their major theologian has put it, or an “Islamic state” in other words, there is no need to elaborate on the possibilities of a coalition government.
I have never been against the Islamists’ freedom of speech; on the contrary, I have defended their right to speak for years now. But the problem with Islamism has always been their hypocrisy, namely their dishonesty about their political deliberations and their abuse of democratic means to build a non-democratic rule. This issue has been debated a lot not only in Turkey, but in Muslim countries elsewhere and even become a global issue. Nonetheless, it seems that we need more debate after every occasion of Islamist hypocrisy, such as in the recent case of Turkey’s Islamists. In fact, it was not only the denial of freedom of speech by secular regimes but also Islamists’ reluctance to have an honest debate on an Islamic state and politics that have been one of the major reasons behind this grand hypocrisy.
Democrats like me share some of the responsibility, since we ignored the latter fact and only focused on the limitations of freedom of speech. In fact, misplaced empathy sometimes harms those who are the subjects of such empathy, since it gives them an excuse to avoid sorting out the contradictions of their ideology. Indeed, this turned out to be the case with Islamism, too, in that they never bothered to elaborate on Islamic politics and democracy and ended up with confused minds, ambiguity and resentment in the name of Islamic politics.
It is time to renew this old and never-ending debate and discuss basic questions on democratic and Islamic politics, which have once again become one of the most prominent of our political problems. Otherwise, it will not only be talk of coalitions, but of all politics, that will prove to be futile.