CHANGE IN TURKISH DEMOCRACY: 1950 ELECTION
The end of the one-party period in the Turkish Democracy changed its fate with the elections held on 14 May 1950; in other words, it can be called the first election where the will of the people reflects on the election results. The most important reason for this situation is the antidemocratic methods applied in the previous elections. The preparation of the list of voters who will vote, under the command of headmen and civil chiefs, and open voting can be shown as examples of these antidemocratic methods. Especially after the 1946 election, Republican People’s Party (CHP), who realized this antidemocratic atmosphere would create a reaction in public, formed ‘The Thirties’ cabinet and started to work to create a new election law. Secret ballot-open counting, judicial control of the election, and the freedom of all parties to organize equal campaigns on the radio are some of the opportunities which are provided by the new election law. While these opportunities were provided and the social opposition was at a high level, the Democratic Party (DP) received a great demand with reaction votes from those both who supported them and those who were opposed to the CHP government. The people, who are far from the word ‘Democrat’, have adopted the DP as ‘Demirkırat’ by making a connotation. During its opponent propaganda, Demirkırat criticized the CHP for the issues, such as the fallacy of its economic policies, the lack of the right to strike, not joining to the Second World War, the lack of the freedom of the press, and resembling of Village Institutes to communists’ homes because of its unethically mixed education of girls and boys. Opposing the DP, which made its voice heard with the sentence “Enough, the word belongs to the nation!”, there was a president who participated in the election campaigns even though he should have been impartial. That can be shown as an evidence that the CHP began to fear that the DP would become the new power. This active election campaign, which was for the first time in Turkey, was a preview of that, something would change in the country. This election campaign, which was carried out as a war for democracy, gave people great hope; therefore, the voter turnout reached almost 90% for the first time. After a long time, CHP lost an election for the first time, and this emerged as a concrete example of the beginning of a new era. Celal Bayar from DP became the president of the Republic and Adnan Menderes became the prime minister.
POWER OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY
Although the DP seems to have brought prosperity to the people and seems to be the result of the will of the people, it has become the representative of great pressures, especially in the later periods. Their policy was to constantly bring up the negative experiences of the people, especially during the CHP period, and to strengthen survivability by pushing people to hatred. Contrary to the statist policy of the CHP, an attempt was made to increase the orientation to the private sector; however, there was also a period when the National Protection Law, which was criticized, was accepted. There has been no progress on the right to strike, which is also frequently mentioned in the election campaign. Especially due to the populist identity of the DP, religious and national sentiments were used, and it tried not to leave any space for any leftist opinion, and fought with every oppositional thought. The recitation of the azan in Arabic was also a development that the public applauded in terms of religion, the public both supported the DP and a very radical group emerged against the CHP. The imam of Haji Bayram Mosque said, “The CHP members were even more infidels than in France, the quarter-century-old republic and revolution movement caused them to stray into the path of blasphemy. Nations get the government they deserve. Since we have good administration today, our position in the sight of Allah has improved.” (quoted in Nal; 2005, 152). All these events have led the people to polarization. With the help of Marshall funds provided by America, which was one of the biggest causes of prosperity in the DP period, agriculture was modernized, and productivity increased to a great extent, and DP’s infrastructure investments had a great impact on productivity and welfare. The CHP’s defeat in the 1950 election brought other consequences. First of all, the management of the Community Centers established by the CHP was in the hands of the CHP and its financial source was the taxes paid by the people. Since both the government and the opposition were in the same hand during the single-party period, these did not pose a problem; however, at a time when an opposition party came in power, it was considered unreasonable and unjust that this institution remained affiliated with the CHP, and some changes were decided. Therefore, the Community Centers are made autonomous, but the DP, who realized that the ties between the CHP and the Community Centers were not cut, decided to return all the real estates and acquired properties belonging to the Community Centers to the treasury with a vote in the Parliament. In addition, the assets of the CHP were also confiscated because of that it had been unfairly acquired during the time it was in power.
While the DP had 490 deputies in the 1954 election, the number of deputies issued by its closest rival, CHP, was only 30. The most important reason of this overwhelming victory can be seen as the fact that the DP came down to the people and respects the thoughts and will of the people, as opposed to the contemptuous act displayed by the CHP against the people despite its discourse of populism. The positive effects of the Marshall Plan, American aid and participation in the Korean War were reflected in the economy very well. Being able to have this prosperity brought the DP to a higher level in the eyes of the public, especially after the heavy taxes during the Second World War. In the 1954 election, politicians competed with each other to make their voices heard, and both DP members and CHP members never gave up on traveling from city to city for their election propagandas. While he should remain independent as a president, Celal Bayar participated in election propaganda, as like İsmet İnönü did in the 1950 elections. This rivalry between the CHP and DP was also reflected in the public, and they were divided into two poles rather than being united, which can be said to trigger radicalization.
When the 1957 election was coming close, the DP became a force which was accepted by the people and they were doing the things which were far from democratization and which they criticized during the CHP period. This pressure was present in almost every part of the state, but the most important one was the restriction over the press. They were trying to make news in the way they wanted, or they were intimidating the members of the press and organs with prison sentences as a sanction. The most shocking event in this period was the right of evidence. The fact that the right to prove came to the agenda infuriated even the DP deputies, and for this reason, some deputies decided to leave the party. During the 1957 election campaign, the CHP shared with the public its ideas about the constitutional amendment. They argued that the DP had turned into an oppressive dictatorship and they are far from democracy, and that impartial and just institutions in the country no longer existed. One of the injustices was the absence of any development regarding the Right to Strike, which was the DP’s biggest trump card in the 1950 election. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, was trying to show the public that it still exists with new investments, and its election slogan was “Towards the bright horizons”. This slogan can also be considered as proof of the DP’s reconciliation with the sects, which is an indicator of the combination of its populist identity and its policy that puts religion at the forefront. In the 1957 election, which was the riskiest and adrenaline-filled election since DP came to power, 419 deputies were elected. However, DP was below fifty percent across the country. The reason for the electing of 419 deputies was the electoral system which worked in favor of the DP.
TOWARDS 27 MAY
In 1960 Turkey, where non-governmental organizations could not be maintained freely, DP came to the fore with a non-governmental organization called Vatan Front. This organization undertook the praise of the DP. In order to encourage people, the names of those who joined the organization were announced on the radio every day; however, many people’s names were spoken without their knowledge, or even newborn babies’ names were heard. This, of course, had shaken the confidence of a certain part of DP voters in their party. Due to the polarization between the voters of the DP and CHP fronts, the waters in the country were not calming down and it was noticed by the soldiers who were on the side of the CHP and of course İnönü, who was a soldier. These situations both threatened the DP and shook their trust to the army. DP, who thought that the press had a negative impact on the public, also proposed the establishment of the Investigation Commission, and a motion was published on the powers of this commission. On the other hand, the reactions of the public and especially university students were great. In response to the protests, a state of siege was declared. Nevertheless, both protests and reactions continued, one of these protests was the well-known ‘555K’ event. It was obvious that; the people, the soldiers and the students alike believed that the DP had turned into a fascist dictatorship, and they were now showing their reactions. It was clear that the government was approaching a bad end, and even they could not save the DP, just as İnönü said. As a result of all these events, some members of the Armed Forces, who had been preparing for a while, seized the administration in the morning of 27 May 1960.
The DP could not confront the anti-democracy that it promised to be against during its rule, and experienced the gravity of holding power. For example, DP criticized the wrong and unfair proportional electoral system of CHP’s period, but they did not change it. Because they could not afford not to use the advantage, when the majority was with themselves and they preferred the electoral system, which was on behalf of them, against democracy. In other words, while the DP had a great chance to change and democratize Turkey, they could not take advantage of it. The Turkish soldiers who took part in the Korean War, and the implementation of a policy that sided with the United States, and even in the coup d’etat, the emphasis on allegiance to NATO, has pushed Turkish politics to a great fear and reaction against the left. There was almost an allergy against communism and socialism in the society, and it was tried to be brought into the subconscious of the whole nation that these thoughts could not be accepted. This great reaction against the left caused both the left and the right to become more polarized and radicalized; therefore, Turkish politics has turned into a system which is coming close to fascism. In addition, the prevention, censorship and suppression of the press; the strict control and pressure of magazines; non-governmental organizations, associations and unionization were like evidence of their close-mind to all different and new ideas. This shows that freedom of thought, one of the most important human rights, was gone and violated. In addition to restricting freedom of thought, perception management was also carried out. Political leaders occupied different newspapers and magazines. “Articles of İnönü and Nihat Erim were published in Ulus, Celal Bayar and Menderes in Vatan ve Zafer, and Fuat Köprülü in Kudret.” (Yıldız, 1996: 505). After the strict statism adopted during the CHP period, the liberal DP increased the incentives for the private sector and offered a new perspective in economic development, but this perspective did not bring the Turkish economy to the desired point. Unemployment and the imbalance of income distribution continued. “In fact, the social, political and economic policies implemented by the Democrat Party government have been the most important reason for the deadlock Turkey has fallen into today.” (Baytal, 2007: 567). Although incentives for agriculture have increased, it has become increasingly difficult to prevent imbalances as the beneficiaries are mostly large landowners. But rather than this imbalance, the main problem was that the main opposition party, the CHP, did not present valid proposals and could not fulfill its duty as the main opposition in a democratic manner. Just like the DP’s policy of staying standing by denouncing the CHP from the very beginning, the CHP tried to gain power again by making the same denigrations for the DP. This cold war between the two parties both leads away from finding a solution and has not offered a democratic result.
“Starting from the first years of its rule until 1960, when they were removed from power by a coup, with an increasing momentum, the Democratic Party implemented a series of policies aimed at limiting democracy, which they demanded to be developed and expanded” (Özçelik, 2010: 185), the idea like in this quote becomes an inevitable end when the events in the DP period are analyzed. The place of the end of the single-party period and the Democrat Party government that followed is very critical in Turkey’s democracy. With the end of the single-party period, while an atmosphere was waiting where many different voices will be heard in the country, where human rights will always be at the top of the pyramid, where people of all views, right or left, will be treated fairly and equally, and where the best decisions will always be taken professionally for the future of the country but there was an atmosphere like power was used uncontrollably. And Turkey found itself in a time closed to differences. Despite this criticism, I consider the getting rid of the history of no option or only option for Turkey, as positive. Although the 1950-1960 period did not advance the country in terms of democratization activities, but there was the victory of getting rid of history of one option.
Prepared by Zeynep Akyüz for The FEAS Journal.
Baytal, Y. (2007), Demokrat Parti Dönemi Ekonomi Politikaları, p.567
Nal, S. (2005) Demokrat Parti’nin 1950-54 Dönemi Din Siyaseti, p.152
Özçelik, P. (2010) Demokrat Parti’nin Demokrasi Söylemi, p.185
Yıldız, N. (1996), Demokrat Parti İktidarı ve Basın, p.505