On politics

By: DOĞU ERGİL

Politics has two definitions; one short, one more comprehensive. As for the more comprehensive definition, politics is the act of designing the common realm — daily life — which people share.

They negotiate the terms of peaceful engagement, manage diversity, meet basic needs and decide on the methods of selecting and placing officials.

The short definition of politics is that it is a struggle for power. What determines who wins is the ballot box. However, constitutional constraints and the rule of law, which is guaranteed by the separation of powers, provide protection for individual rights and freedoms and prevent officials from transgressing the boundaries of their powers and responsibilities.

If those who emerge triumphant in the elections turn their power into privilege and go beyond their professional responsibilities, their authority becomes arbitrary and rule of law is breached by laws that are no more than executive orders. Constitutional limits are overrun, justice becomes obscure. Public life no more depends on consensus but the imposition of the majority (or the will of their representatives).

The dramatic outcome of this development is the possibility of the incumbent government becoming the architect of another tutelage, that of majority rule.

At this moment, all political rhetoric loses credibility and its relationship with truth disappears. All concepts become propaganda instruments of the powerful or the incumbent authority.

Here are some examples that fit this theoretical deduction. Serious graft and corruption charges, rather than being subjected to detailed research into their credibility, have been smothered with haste and wrath. A systematic counterattack was staged to dismiss them as an international plot against the government and Turkey as a whole. Thus the eradication of both corruption and graft was prevented.

Two, the incumbent government prepared a constitutional amendment package four years ago in order to end military-bureaucratic tutelage over the system and presented it for public endorsement on Sept. 12, 2010 in a referendum. The people approved the change by a 58 percent margin.

The most important articles of the amendment were those that arranged the structure and powers of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). Both of these bodies were empowered with autonomy.

While today’s opposition vehemently opposed the changes, the government defended them in the name of contemporary democracy and rule of law. Foreign democratic governments extended their admiration and support.

However, after four years, the government felt that the separation of powers was limiting its ambitions through legal oversight of its initiatives. It proposed a law to change the composition of the HSYK, rendering it a bureaucratic adjunct of the Ministry of Justice.

This time, those who opposed constitutional changes concerning the HSYK rose up against the government’s proposal to truncate the powers and autonomy of the council. Their appeal to the Constitutional Court ended up with the cancelation of the new HSYK law on the grounds that it breached Article 159 of the Constitution concerning the separation of powers.

The government that tried to do the opposite of what it did four years ago found the ruling of the Constitutional Court “anti-national.” An influential member of the Cabinet voiced his concern about a “revitalization of judiciary tutelage.” He said, “Serious chaos would ensue if arbitrariness becomes the norm!”

Oddly enough, concern about chaos is a shared feeling on opposite sides of the political spectrum. But each party accuses the other of being arbitrary and getting out of line. Nongovernmental actors believe that a new tutelage is in the making at the hands of the executive, which is trying to establish control over the judiciary.

Lastly, the words of Mr. Pietro Grasso, the renowned anti-mafia prosecutor, now head of the Italian Senate, should be taken seriously if justice and rule law are to reign. He said, “The way to fight corruption cannot possibly be by getting rid of those who are fighting corruption.”

It is time to take politics into consideration in its wider definition. Otherwise we will never transcend its narrow aim of coming to and holding onto power no matter what. There is little room for ethics and higher human standards in this definition.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN