As the leader of the country’s main opposition party, Deniz Baykal is in a position of exceptional influence. It is his responsibility to be something of a symbol of morality for the rest of us. He would be ill-advised, for instance, to be pictured smoking a cigarette. Or making a rude hand gesture. Or shunning an affectionate baby.
The same, you would think, would apply to respecting the country’s state mechanisms. Surely it goes without saying that the CHP leader believes in the rule of law?
It appears not, according to what he said yesterday: “If the Constitutional Court dismisses the CHP application, Turkey could be dragged towards conflict. It could lead to worse times.”
He seems to suggest that the court’s decision is a matter of life and death. It is scaremongering rubbish and should not be taken seriously. Turkey is not going to descend into fighting in the streets and families torn apart over a court ruling. What should be taken seriously is the fact that the words were spoken at all.
I find it difficult to understand Mr Baykal’s intent. If his statement is an assesment of the political climate, it is weak. If it is an attempt to influence the verdict, it is pitiful. If they were meant to be sage words of warning, they were anything but.
What Mr Baykal should have done is what the ruling AK party did after an internal meeting yesterday evening. “We cannot comment,” a short statement said, “while the court process continues.”
That court process is expected to be concluded tonight, whether it is in the early evening or in the early hours of Wednesday morning. It is certainly true that the verdict will shape Turkey’s immediate future. A pro-AK ruling will effectively install Abdullah Gül in Çankaya as the next president; a pro-CHP ruling will thwart that. An early election is likely in both cases – not only, as Mr Baykal would have us believe, if AK is defeated.
Whatever verdict the court does reach, it must be an impartial one. It must be a decision reached without the influence of outsiders such as Mr Baykal. The trouble is, in a country like Turkey, you cannot be sure that will not happen.
As for Mr Baykal himself, his words have proven what we already knew: that he does not respect the very institution upon which he says the country’s future hangs. “Instead of offering an alternative vision,” said last week’s Economist, “he has built a career on scaremongering. The EU is bent on dismembering Turkey, the Americans want to dilute Ataturk’s legacy, the CIA is plotting to kill him — these are his tired mantras.”
I would go further: Deniz Baykal is a thug. As the leader of the largest unreformed political party in Turkey, he is more adept at orchestrating the secular bloc he leads than recognising the needs of his people. This legal challenge is just the latest in a long series of attempts to force an early election. It looks like this time he has succeeded. The polls suggest that AK might lose some support at the next election, but they also suggest those supporters will not be flocking in their droves to the CHP. Mr Baykal should be worried.