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From Milliyet 18 February, 2005. Translated from Turkish by Tim Drayton.

by Taha Akyol

ERKAN Mumcu’s resignation is an important event. For Mumcu is not a run-of-the-mill minister, an ordinary politician; he has vision and charisma. He was responsible for the democratic outburst against rector Alemdaroğlu. He was a violent opponent of 28 February. He was a firm defender of civilianisation and reform. He was even more radical than Prime Minister Erdoğan on the subject of removing the ban on head scarves; he defended the position of pushing through university reform “as far as constitutional change” to achieve academic independence and lift the ban on headscarves.

He quit not for “ideological” but for “political” reasons. Mumcu, who has a “hyperactive” personality, resigned from the government and the party in a very extreme reaction to certain defects that he detected in the AKP (Justice and Development Party) and the government. But Mumcu is not “uncalculating”. I believe he thought he had detected certain defects that would cripple the AKP and wanted to produce an “outburst” today that would sow the seeds of a movement that would serve as an alternative to the AKP.

THE QUESTION facing Turkey is this: Has the AKP started to tire out? Even successful administrations naturally become worn out with time but will the AKP get worn out earlier than “usual”?

This is a question of life and death for Turkey, for the AKP, for the opposition and for Mumcu!

This question is now being spoken of more than it was three or four months ago. Events that appear “isolated” are being connected in people’s minds.

For months it has proved impossible to appoint a “head negotiator” with the EU … It has proved impossible to pass the three reform laws required under the agreement with the IMF … It has proved impossible either to reshuffle the cabinet or remove this issue from the agenda … The government sometimes gives the impression of taking ill-prepared measures on matters such as the number of grant-supported provinces and the Higher Education Council law …

More examples can be added.

This performance by a government that up until 17 December has been extremely dynamic begs the question: Has “metal fatigue” set in? Certain problems are also appearing in the AKP concerning the acceptance of party discipline and party policies; negative “outbursts” that compromise government policies are coming from within the party.

Divisions even occurred over time within relatively homogenous and “firmly-rooted” mass parties such as the DP (Democrat Party) and AP (Justice Party). It is clear that the matter of “party identity” is more critical in the AKP, a “new” and mixed party similar to Özal’s ANAP (Motherland Party).

HOWEVER, the existence of problems within the AKP does not yet mean that it has become crippled. Just as these problems have not yet assumed critical proportions, so the AKP continues to maintain its high standing in public opinion and there is no strong movement away from the AKP in society. The AKP is capable of shaking off these problems and resuming its normal path.

If the AKP fails to do this and gets caught up in a whirlpool of “early destruction”, Erkan Mumcu’s words, “Circumstances not individuals create parties” will strike a chord with society.

The early destruction of the AKP and a return to disunity on the right are not in Turkey’s favour. Turkey lost out under the coalitions of the seventies and the nineties and has fallen behind many other countries as a result of this twenty-year loss.

The government and the AKP should act speedily at both the administration and party levels to blow out the cobwebs and resolve these image problems. The eventual alternative to the AKP should not be disunity on the right but rather a strengthening of social democracy.

Archive of Turkish press translations by Tim Drayton