Some Political Musings

17 Apr 2017

Obviously, after the neck-to-neck referendum of yesterday, I was bound to write something about Turkish politics. The entire article isn’t rant-y enough for me to call it a rant (Trust me, I can actually “rant” a lot about Turkish politics), so I call those random thoughts just “musings”. It was originally written as an entry in Eksisozluk in Turkish about Kemal Kilicdaroglu, CHP’s leader and CHP itself, later, as I was writing it, it transformed into a more general piece about political systems and stuff. What follows is (mostly) a translation of the same thing into English. If you know Turkish and wish to read the original; Here it is. Another thing to note is; when writing for a popular Turkish site in Turkish, I tend to write in a less ‘offensive’ manner, in a more ‘restrained’ style (for one reason or another). Whatever, here goes:

He’s the man who the leader-lovers keep talking about. Whatever, I don’t exactly support Kilicdaroglu (I’m neutral towards the man, however I oppose the concept of ‘Leadership’). I oppose the ‘If Kilicdaroglu wasn’t at the helm but Muharrem Ince / Metin Feyzioglu / Umit Kocasakal / Suheyl Batum / Sarigul (lol) / Deniz Baykal etcetc. was, we would definitely score an easy victory’ crowd. And for whatever reason, that crowd seems to overlap the ‘nationalist’ wing of the party. I observed that. Not all of that crowd is a nationalist, but nationalists love to support an alternative ‘party leader’ to Kilicdaroglu. And even another observation; they seem to support the opposition-figure-of-the-day (Meral Aksener these days).

By the way, I find HDP’s solution of two co-Chairpeople a step in the right direction, but not totally satisfactory 1. In that situation, one of the chairpeople seem to be much less active than the other one and one of these positions seem to be purely symbolic (especially in the local level for co-mayors, but the same thing exists for party chairpeople but to a lesser extent). Whatever, in that situation the gender requirement and the symbolicness of women in the system just seems to me like this was purely a move to please their Feminist-leaning voter base in the major urban areas (The Kurdish voter base seems to care less about that).

My solution here is a committee for the chairperson’s office a la the Swiss presidential committee. If I had the means, I would use the same system country-wide (I don’t think a Swiss-style confederal system is necessary for that). But using that system for a single political party (CHP in our case) is much easier. At that point I need to announce my preferred candidate for CHP chairperson; ‘Nobody’. In that fashion, that is also my preferred presidential candidate. You just change the party’s charter, and elect a chairpeople’s council instead of a single person as chairperson 2 plus a party assembly as usual.

For the chairpeople’s council, 8 is a good number of people to have (The number doesn’t matter much, it’s kinda arbitrary, the Swiss presidential committee had 7 or 8 members IIRC). At that point, if we are thinking about gender equality, we just add another article to the charter as “No gender shall have more than two thirds of the council”. The Turkish law about political parties requires you to name a chairperson, so we can just make that position a rotating one among the members (rotate in an alphabetic fashion, or another equally arbitrary measure). So, if we elected the committee of 8 to a 4-year term, the position of chairperson changes every 6 months. To make the rotating position more meaningful, we make one member of the committee the ‘chairperson’ and the rest ‘member of the chairpeople’s committee’, make the rotating position of chairperson a purely symbolical one. For powers granted to the chairperson by the ‘Law of political parties’, you require an approval by the committee (No idea if that is allowed by the letter of the law, IANAL, but if it doesn’t, than most of the article becomes moot).

And what about the Prime Minister (In a parliamentary system)? Option a - if the president agrees to appoint a new cabinet every six months and the party agrees to seek a new vote of confidence every 6 months, we can make the office of prime minister a rotating one as well. Option b - if that option doesn’t work (President is uncooperative or it is deemed too risky), have someone else in the party (not necessarily affiliated with the committee) to become the prime minister. For presidential elections; option b is the more sensible one.

And what about the campaigning in an election season? Who will campaign as the chairperson? In large rallies, every member (or most of them) of the committee can be present. In smaller ones, people can campaign as ‘Member of the chairpeople’s Congress’ just like how people campaign today as ‘Vice Chairman’ or ‘Member of the Party Assembly’. There’s not really a problem with that.

That one’s added later 3; what about the vice-chairpeople? Nothing will happen to them; there can be vice-chairpeople in tyhat system (Although possibly less in number).

Are there drawbacks to this system? Obviously yes.

  1. That might be completely violating the law of political parties (as I mentioned before), which makes the whole argument moot.
  2. Our people (the Turkish one) seems to (seems to?) prefer charismatic, strong leader figures. This system is explicitly designed to prevent such figures from emerging (Nothing about charismatic ones though).
  3. We come back to the previous drawback, one member of the council might become ‘chairperson but not in name’ and the others might become ‘nobodies’. We need strong institutions for maintaining the balance of power within the party (Being able to remove/impeach people from the committee by a simple majority of the committee and the party assembly is a possible idea that comes to mind).
  4. The rotating ‘chairperson’ shouldn’t have more non-symbolic powers compared to another member of the committee.
  5. ‘The council’ shouldn’t be significantly more powerful to other party organs - we come back to maintaining the balance of power.

Besides that system, I also support a British-style ‘Shadow Cabinet’ (by the main opposition party, independent of who the main opposition is). But that is another topic, I might explain that in detail in another article.

If the system I explained isn’t contradicting any laws, that is not just a suggestion for CHP. HDP can also adopt it, so can MHP (In case the opponents get into power, their power sharing might end up simialar to this), and so can AKP (possibly in a post-Erdogan situation). The system isn’t limited to a political party and can be implemented on a national level (Again, post-Erdogan). Though such a system is generally preferred by left-leaning political bodies, nothing stops right-leaning parties from adopting it (Other than the fact that they might be more concerned about drawback number 2).

Now, if we have that system in place, how should elections go? I suggest Schulze Method. It may sound a bit (a bit?) complicated to ear, but seems to have fairly nice properties.

Plus; I started writing about Kilicdaroglu and CHP, but ended up with a full electoral system. The thing I wrote isn’t limited to political bodies (Besides the Shadow Cabinet idea). These can be implemented by any group of people whetgher they are involved in politics or not. For example; the Schulze method is being used by various open-source communities, and many small-ish communities (Like student clubs in universities) tend to develop into a variant of the committee style, where there is an executive committee, one of them is elected the chairperson/president but that is purely a symbolic position. Anyone who sees that and wishes to implement it in any group, be it a student club, an NGO, a Canary-lovers Association 4, in the Council of the Wolves 5(^5) (possibly a somewhat more violent variant of this system), in Knights of the Round Table (You can just go ahead and tell “We have no king, we’re an anarchosyndicalist commune” to King Arthur), in a Homeowner’s Association (If you’re sick of electing that unnecessarily-angry retired colonel as chairman).

My closing words are; I think I am a bit too democratic-minded. Another step further than thar might be a literal anarchosyndicalist commune. It seems like Turkey couldn’t completely tame me in the democracy-loving aspect 6.

  1. Omitted a Turkish meme here. 

  2. Using the gender-neutral name for both political reasons (trying not to use gendered nouns much) and the original Turkish name for a party chairman doesn’t imply a gender. 

  3. Added to the original article later. 

  4. Common humorous name in Turkish for a random association. 

  5. A council of Mafia organizations in a Turkish soap opera. 

  6. Omitted another Turkish meme here, this time entirely limited to Eksisozluk.