The Turkish president’s statements implying that an ongoing probe into espionage and the leaking of state secret documents to media outlets, dubbed as the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks cases, can also reach the leader of the main opposition, as one party deputy is already behind the bars in the same case, cannot be taken lightly, according to Kılıçdarloğlu.
“I don’t want to think of a scenario in which the head of Turkey’s main opposition is behind the bars,” the CHP leader said, while adding that despite the possible repercussions, he is ready for everything.
Every aspect of justice will be discussed at the “justice congress,” which will take place next week in the western province of Çanakkale, he noted.
“We want to establish a platform where those who are suffering from problems with justice and those seeking solutions to it come together,” he told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Do you think you are facing a tactic of intimidation or is there seriousness to your potential arrest?
The government says the judiciary is independent. But the very person who claims the judiciary is independent is pointing a finger, through the judiciary, at the leader of the main opposition party. This shows that the judiciary is not independent and is under the orders of the political authority. Five days after the July 15, 2016, coup attempt, a state of emergency was declared. We call it the civil coup. Each coup creates its own law. We have seen this after the (military coup of) March 12 (1971) and Sept. 12 (1980).
Civilian coup leaders created their own laws. After the July 20, 2016, civilian coup, leaders created their coup laws with emergency decrees upon the order of the law. When you look at the past, just as coup leaders could arbitrarily apprehend anybody and send them behind bars easily, our dictator thinks he has the same authority. “I will make the arrest, the judiciary is under my order, I can send him to jail,” is how he thinks. We will not be intimidated. You might ask where the self-confidence is coming from, that is because there is no crime committed. The Constitutional Court ruled about that (espionage) case, saying it was not a state secret and that the information is open to public knowledge.
But you claim there has been a civil coup in Turkey and with it a new legal system, so you seem to insinuate that you might be arrested according to that new legal order.
Yes, the coup plotters can do that, despite the rule of law because the law is being sidelined. Erdoğan said, “I do not accept the Constitutional Court’s decision” (about the MİT trucks).
So do you think you are facing a serious possibility of going to prison?
Each coup creates its own law and court, his police can detain and arrest as well. It is not right to see these (Erdoğan’s) words as unserious.
Let me ask directly: Are you expecting to go to prison?
I said it before, no one’s life nor property is secure in Turkey. When I say no one, it includes me too.
You are preparing for such eventuality.
What is it after all; coup plotters do these kinds of operations during coup periods and think they are powerful, but no coup period lasted until eternity.
You seem to say you are ready for everything.
But what does the picture in which Turkey’s main opposition leader is arrested tells you?
I don’t even want to think about such a picture.
Will your arrest weaken the CHP’s opposition ability?
On the contrary, it will become stronger. We are not just an ordinary party; we are one of the four oldest parties in the world. Turkey cannot go backwards. Turkey cannot carry this burden.
Tell us about your expectations from the justice congress.
We will be discussing a concept that is nonexistent in Turkey. Justice in the elections for instance; there was an absolute inequality during the referendum. Or justice in the judiciary. We will talk about all aspects of justice.
The justice march made a huge impact also because you were in the field and had the chance to physically be with thousands of people. When you talk about a conference, congress and workshops, people assume intellectuals will be coming and making sophisticated talks but not much tangible results will come out of it.
We will build a justice monument. Those participating in the congress will put a brick on the monument. People who will come will visit exhibitions about injustices in Turkey. There will be several panels.
What are you expecting in the aftermath of it? Will there be some kind of a road map?
This will take us to the presidential elections. We will obviously have a road map; what should be the principles in choosing the presidential candidate and what this candidate should voice in the campaign promise will be discussed. The presidential elections are not about the right wing or the left wing; it is about democracy, gender equality, and media freedom.
You are speaking of justice, but maybe there are many in Turkey who believe there are no problems in justice and that what matters the most is being able to make ends meet at the end of each month, i.e. bread and butter issues.
But there cannot be bread without justice. But we will also talk about these issues, like justice in education. Today, no family is happy when sending their children to school. We will talk about justice in welfare, we will talk about violence against women. The concept of justice will no longer be an abstract concept as we will put flesh on to the bones. Everyone has their own demand for justice; when I go to court, I want justice, when a family sends their children to take a test so they can go to better schools, they want justice. People should come and explain what they expect from education. We need to bring those suffering from problems and those who can provide solutions. We want to create such a platform.
Foreign policy seems to be another issue to be discussed. What is your view on the government’s accusations that European governments are providing safe havens to coup plotters?
We want those who participated in the coup to be extradited to Turkey. We don’t want criminals to be protected by other countries and we want suspects to come and face trial in Turkey. But this is not the only reason why Turkey’s relations with the world is deteriorating. It is the first time in our history that a government is isolating our country severely from the world. Turkey is not emitting confidence with its foreign policy.
How do you see relations with the EU?
We seem to be going toward a break up, and this is tremendously risky. Foreign policy cannot be used as a domestic policy issue. Foreign policy is a national policy in all countries, where both the government and the opposition defend the same foreign policy; that was the case with us as well since the founding of the republic. But for the first time there has been a break up between the government and the opposition.
Turks living abroad seem to always be on the government’s agenda.
We are respectful to laws; our laws ban campaigning for elections abroad. The government is trying to give lessons to others who are violating our own laws. We have not forgotten our citizens abroad. We even brought to parliament a draft law for our electoral constituencies abroad. We should have representatives of our citizens abroad in our parliament.
What do you think about the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) former member Meral Akşener’s initiative to form a new party? Could that further divide the anti-ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) bloc?
Politics do not accept vacuums. Akşener believes there is such a vacuum in Turkish politics. I wish her success and I think it is an important step for our democracy to have a woman especially taking this initiative. I cannot say something negative or positive. I can make a clearer comment after I see the party’s program and its principles.
You are focused on the presidential elections but there are also municipal elections, and the AKP seems to have started working. They are talking about a wave of change. What’s your strategy for the municipal elections?
There is no wave, their morale is devastated. They confessed it to be “metal fatigue,” but it is a metal collapse. We have a wave of enthusiasm and we are working as if there will be elections tomorrow.
Who is Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu?
Born in 1948 in Tunceli, Kılıçdaroğlu completed his Bachelor’s degree at the Ankara Economic and Commercial Sciences Academy. He started his career in the Ministry of Finance in 1971. Following many positions in the ministry, he became deputy director general of the General Directorate of Revenues.
Kılıçdaroğlu was appointed to the Social Security Organization for Artisans and the Self-Employed (Bağ-Kur) in 1991, where he acted as the director general. He began to work for the Social Security Organization (SSK) in 1992, and later took office as the deputy secretary of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.
In 1994, he was presented with the “Bureaucrat of the Year” award by Economic Trend magazine.
Following his retirement in 1999, Kılıçdaroğlu was elected to be an Istanbul MP for the Republican People’s Party (CHP) in 2002. While serving in the party’s Central Executive Board, Kılıçdaroğlu was once again elected as an Istanbul MP in 2007. He acted as the parliamentary group’s vice president until he was elected head of the CHP on May 22, 2010.