When demagogy replaces democracy. Or, the empty package

Nucan Cudi – News Desk 30.09.2013 – ANF – The AKP propaganda machine had been working for weeks. And finally the day of the announcement arrived.

The “religious” character of this “democratisation package” which was presented as a “revelation” was quite unsettling. Skepticism was the most prevalent attitude and not only among Kurds. Indeed the “surprise” promised by Prime Minister Erdoğan proved to be as inexistent as the content of the so much boasted about “democratisation package” unveiled today.

To begin with, looking around the room of the press conference, one could not stop thinking and feeling quite unsettled about the fact that most of the Kurdish (and left) journalists who would normally have attended PM Erdogan’s presentation were not there. The contradiction about the PM presenting his “democratisation package” and the absence (not because of their will) of these journalists was painful: these journalists were not there today because they are sitting in prison. And in case someone had any doubt on the PM’s idea of democracy, dailies Evrensel, Birgün, Özgür Gündem, Aydınlık, Sözcü, Sol Yeniçağ and TV channels Halk TV, Hayat TV, İMC TV were not allowed in the conference room. So much for freedom of expression (something Erdoğan mentioned – quickly though – in its long speech today).

This said (i.e. part of the country’s press are in prison for writing what the government does not like), let’s go down to the content of the package.

The very name, “democratisation package”, remind of something pre-defined, pre-decided, pre-chosen. Yet democracy is something in fieri, in constant transformation (as Basque writer Joseba Sarrionandia says, democracy is actually not a name but a verb) not something decided by someone and announced to the masses. Erdoğan thinks it differently and landed today with is pre-fabricated package. An half empty package as very few were the issues addressed there.

Erdoğan started by talking about Turkey’s current electoral system.

He stressed that it wasn’t the AKP which introduced the 10% threshold and then he added that the government would propose three options to be discussed in the coming weeks in the Parliament (yes, normally that’s where decision are discussed and taken) for the election threshold: 1) maintaining the current threshold of 10%; 2) lowering the threshold to 5% while implementing single-member district constituency system in groups of five 3) removing the threshold altogether and fully implementing the single-member district system. Erdoğan also said the current threshold on parties for receiving state aid would be lowered to 3% from the current 7%.It remains frankly unclear why the Prime Minister felt the need to insert the “idea of a discussion in parliament about the electoral system” in his “proposal package”.

On the other hand, he spoke about the right use different languages other than Turkish. He said that “With an amendment, the expression ‘and they shall not use languages and writings other than Turkish’, in the third paragraph of Article 43 of Law No. 2820 will be excluded from the text”.

But he went on to say that, for example, the teaching of Kurdish will be “free” (how much the PM loves contradiction in terms) in private schools. Meaning, free if you pay a lot of money! He than conceded that the hilarious (if it were not tragic, given that people are actually persecuted for it) arrangement in the Turkish Penal Code, which stipulates punishment for the use of different letters (x, w, q) other than those in the Turkish alphabet, dated 1928 will be abolished.

Other bits and pieces in the package include the lifting of the ban to wear headscarves in public institution (something the PM has been very keen on since he came to power), the renaming of Nevşehir University  as Hacı Bektaşı Veli University. A small candy which clearly should please Alevis, or at least this is what the PM seems to think. Pity someone has the feeling Alevis were asking somehow for more “concrete” and deeper changes, appropriated for a tolerant and multicultural, multi-nations and multi-faith society.

As for Roma people, they can now sleep well and sound, as the government will establish an institute that will work on problems of Roma minorities in the country.