Can democracy be protected by the court-ordered closing of a political party, and possibly even by a coup d’etat? If democracy is simply head-counting, as Hugh Fitzgerald puts it, then no, it cannot. But Turkey faces the possibility that its secular system and relative (and I do mean relative — relative to Sharia, that is) equality of rights for all its citizens can only be protected by these means. Condoleeza Rice has warned the Turkish military, the historical guarantors of Kemalism, not to act against the government, but she doesn’t seem to have taken into account the fact that the government is clearly moving to establish Islamic law in Turkey, and to destroy the elements of Turkish society that make it more of a natural ally of the U.S. than any other Muslim-majority state.
Is she not being short-sighted?
“Domesticating political Islam,” by Yusuf Kanli in the Turkish Daily News, July 25:
Letters poured into my mailbox, some protesting what they considered a “shift” in my attitude regarding the closure case against the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP and of “opposing” a possible closure decision, while some hailed me for becoming a “lesser Kemalist” and “more democratic” as I “agreed” with the thesis of the AKP and some of its supporters in the Islamist and allegiant media that indeed closure of parties by the Constitutional Court is very much like a criminal court condemning an individual to the death penalty. Some have gone to the extent of accusing me of “betraying the secular democratic Republic”¦”
Self-catering democrats, self-catering secularists, self-catering supporters of individual rights and liberties may not of course comprehend the need to demand justice for all, equality of all in front of justice, to oppose all anti-democratic moves without discrimination and even to be able to say “if in principle I am against closure of political parties by a military junta or by the Constitutional Court, I am against — in principle — the closure of the AKP as well though like many people I have very strong doubts that the ruling party has an agenda incompatible with the secular democratic Republic.”
But, of course, from a purely legalistic point of view, a possible closure of the AKP by the court has to be respected by everyone irrespective of whether we like it because there is such a penalty in our laws and as long as a law remains in the penal system of a country it must be applied without discrimination.
Some readers, on the other hand, provided food for thought by suggesting that the past practice demonstrated that the clauses giving party closure power to the Constitutional Court were indeed “corrective measures” aimed at “protecting the secular democratic Republic against separatist, Islamist and some totalitarian aspirations.”
Yes, indeed, if the history of political Islam is examined, over the past many decades the “political” element of “political Islam” in Turkey appears to have been “domesticated” with the closure of one of the other four previous parties of the movement. Yes, in each case, some time after the closure decision by the military junta or the Constitutional Court, political Islam re-organized in one or more new parties but the new parties were established with “safeguards” against the reasons cited for the closure of the previous party and thus newer parties, at least in the initial phases, were more in conformity with the secular democratic order of the country than the former ones….
So ultimately, party closure hasn’t worked. But what else can be done?