What Ali Babacan has said and hasn’t said ?

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Translated by Melissa Clissold

Hello, good day. The previous deputy prime minister and minister of economy Ali Babacan who has been preparing to form a new party has finally spoken. He spoke to Ahmet Taşgetiren and Yıldıray Oğur from Karar newspaper. It is a long interview and he discusses and explains a lot of points here. I say explain, yet some things are still not certain. It is certain that they will form their party, that this will take place before 2020; yet other than that, when we read the interview, as journalists, there is not much we can make of this interview. There are long sentences, yet as you can see there is not much other than the phrase “We will form our party before the end of the year.” There are important stresses; yet other than the main guidelines for what the party will be like, there are no details – most importantly, there are no names. There are no names other than Babacan. Yıldıray Oğur and Ahmet Taşgetiren have asked, but he doesn’t give any answer. They have such principles.

First of all, I would like to say a few things about the interview itself. Whilst talking about Ahmet Davutoğlu at some point, he does no disrespect, yet he says “Our priorities, methods and approaches are quite different when it comes to politics.” Yet, this interview shows us that they are actually quite similar in terms of a lot of issues. Both of their first appearances in the media have been with people from their own environments. Ahmet Davutoğlu had done this. No matter if the presenter was Yavuz Oğhan, how can I put this, it was not a risky broadcast. Afterwards, he appeared on TV 5. We could say that prioritised speaking to his own neighbourhood.  The same thing is occurring here. Karar newspaper, as is known, was formed by journalists who up until very recently, just like Ali Babacan, worked together with the Justice and Development Party (AKP). Therefore, it is clear that his priority is his own fraction. Plainly speaking, was it reasonable to appear in the media with such a written interview? I’m not sure. I’ve observed that it hasn’t really echoed across social media. Am I wrong? I don’t think so. Maybe this is because what they have said, why they have said it and also as I have mentioned in the title of this broadcast: What they have not said. No one can say this: “Ok, Erdoğan controls the media to a large extent; the media we know from the past.” That’s already a reality.

But what’s important, other than that, is to be able to walk from where he has left off. Just like with politicians, the opposition or with the example of Babacan and Davutoğlu, the ability to do this for those who want to start a new movement…And of course there are platforms on the internet that are broadcasting, social media itself etc…despite everything, no matter how much it wants so be prevented and blocked by the administration, certain voices manage to find their own forms of release. The most important example of this is, questions are asked to Babacan and he replies in a positive manner. The latest example of this was the rap video that was released, “Susamam” (I will not stay silent). This shows us that the platforms exist. 

Maybe the old platforms don’t exist, maybe the old platforms are being audited, maybe they are under very strict auditing. Yet, those platforms no longer have any impact in forming public opinions. 

As it is, since there is no opportunity in Turkey, because they are not presenting daises for themselves, and because social media is what is effective, using social media – for someone especially like Ali Babacan – is a lot more important. Because, when we look at this interview, we can see that his stress on youth, technology and globalisation is at the forefront. In this respect, I cannot say that this has been very bright start. We will see with time how this will develop.

He stresses three aspects constantly: 1) justice, 2) freedoms, 3) economy. 

Freedom, justice and economy. These are Turkey’s main problems and he states that the main reason he is forming a party is because of this. He states that there is nothing left to do within the AKP. He is very soft when it comes to this, but actually he is expressing very meaningful things. For example, he says: “This was not our dream, we wanted a very different Turkey. We imagined a different attitude and approach to be honest. This is not personal, it is a disappointment for the country. Of course, when I saw the phrase “to be honest” a few times in the interview I thought of Abdullah Gül. It is a cliché of Abdullah Gül, this phrase is one he uses often. We know that this movement is supported by Abdullah Gül. Ali Babacan replies to the questions regarding Abdullah Gül to convey this support of his. Abdullah Gül also accepts the fact that he will not be a part of the party, but that he will help show the way a little.

A lot of things were discussed. Of course, the topic he is most ambitious about is the economy. Other than that, regarding politics, freedoms and justice he can say: “There are so many journalists who have lost their jobs, just for being critical. This is a very sad situation for our country. On the other hand, the limiting of the freedoms of civil society representatives, intellectuals, academics, journalists and politicians just for expressing their opinions is unacceptable.” Some may see these expressions as soft. But to say that these are unacceptable, is of course important for someone who has been associated with the AKP and its history, as a starting point it is important. But there is the aspect of how this will continue. And this interview doesn’t really create the necessary excitement. It is interesting of course for journalists such as myself; but for ordinary people – such as AKP voters, or opposition voters – I don’t think that it’ll create much excitement. Babacan himself does not look as if he has done this to create excitement. But we can possibly see this as a prologue against the criticisms and questions regarding “When will he talk?” etc., as one of my friends has said, we could potentially see this as not the actual film but the trailer for the film. But, let me stress and say again, that the trailer does not really spark much interest. 

The aspect that Babacan constantly stresses – and we can see signs of the new party here – is that it will not be a movement consisting of old members of the AKP. That it will consist of young people. Of course, there are no tangible things here.  He describes these, he states that they are in such a search and that they have been received well; but as long as we don’t see these people, it is all still out in the open. Therefore, we must wait for Babacan to present his team to us. This is important here: I must have mentioned this when I broadcast about Ahmet Davutoğlu, Davutoğlu speaks saying “I”.

And I had stated that Babacan would most probably speak saying “we” and we see this. Other than a few personal questions directed at him, we can see Babacan constantly using “we” persistently. That collective mind, of consulting one another etc. is something that AKP once was but moved away from. Davutoğlu also in his speeches stated that the collective mind etc. had been left behind; but he also always responded to criticism made towards him regarding gathering power in his own hands with the first-person singular. Here we can see that Ali Babacan is bringing the expression “we” more to the forefront. Therefore, this movement, from the start has more of a claim to being a collective movement from the offset. 

One of the most important elements among what Babacan has said is that despite the fact that many people won’t actually be within the party, that many people will support this movement. This is an interesting situation. Why are they doing this? First of all, they may not want to be carrying out politics; but another reason – Babacan is not saying this but – people are still very scared, they are hesitant. There are probably scared of experiencing Erdoğan’s wrath, they are hesitant. And this option will always exist, as far as I understand: Babacan will form his party, some names will come about, but other the ones in the spotlight, there will constantly be rumours about those supporting the party morally and materially. There will be discussions regarding the power and fraction and team behind the image of the party. 

He does not give any specific example regarding freedoms, but he does state, as mentioned above, that the limitations of freedoms to journalists, intellectuals and academic are unacceptable. When asked about solutions to the Kurdish problem, he gives positive responses. But it is understood that he – at least right now – does not want to really discuss this matter at length. The most important element is to manage the balance between security and freedom. Especially in Turkey, if you are claiming to carry out politics on the field or in the centre, then solutions to this problem actually show how much you can maintain this balance. But at this point we cannot say “Yes they have truly tangible preparations, programs, policies” regarding this issue. 

There’s a lot to say, but there’s no need to prolong this broadcast any longer. Babacan’s interview was a prologue. And my evaluation is also a prologue. Like I said, there aren’t that many exciting aspects. But it is certain that the party will be formed. It is certain that this party will define itself as a centre party. It is certain that they will not to show themselves as extensions of the AKP. How they will do this is uncertain. As long as they prove that they are a centre party focusing on freedoms, justice and economic development and are not simply an extension of the AKP, then they have a chance of succeeding.  

A final note: Regarding the system, Babacan states that his personal views are the same with most of the people within the movement. But he does’t say what this is. As far as I understand, they are against the presidential system that Erdoğan has imposed on Turkey. However, until the party is formed, he does not want to talk about this openly. This will give them flexibility, as far as I understand.  

But in the sections he explains that he did not take place in the referendum process we understand that Ali Babacan prefers the parliamentary system to the presidential system. 

But an agreement hasn’t yet been reached regarding this in the party. But it is seen that most of them prefer the parliamentary system. Let’s see if this movement will become more than a movement of those people that Erdoğan and AKP have alienated and discharged. And will it truly assist in re-constructing a Turkey with fundamental rights and freedoms, democracy and the rule of law? Will they come out as a movement that can perhaps help in resolving the economic crisis? In normal circumstances, we would say that they may have a chance. 

But to do this, your intensions are not enough. Firstly, most importantly, is how the administration will treat you and how they will respond to you. It is important to what degree you will be able to satisfy the needs of  people. And of course, beyond content, methods and systems are important. When we look at the current situation, there is still not an Ali Babacan who has placed Erdoğan on the opposing front. And as long as he does not face Erdoğan, his plausibility will be damaged. But if he treats Erdoğan as an enemy, then perhaps he will receive reactions from the AKP fractions that he does not desire. This is a hard job.  

But from what I see so far, they still have a very respectable, balanced and cautionary approach towards Erdoğan. This might work to their advantage among AKP supporters. But if this movement wants to be successful, then it must be able to draw people from different fractions towards it. There’s a very serious question mark as to how successful this will be if they act in this shy manner. Yes, that is all I have to say. Good day. 

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