Some political and economic models have emerged successful after having gone through historic courses. While some of these models are well-known and tested, Turkey continues to engage in 10-year error and trial processes, learning only too late from its mistakes.

The best example of this can be found in the manifesto of the newly established Democracy and Progress Party’s (DEVA). It is almost identical to the party manifesto of the Social Democratic party founded 20 years ago.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power 17 years ago. Ali Babacan, who was amongst the party’s founders, served as the state minister in charge of the treasury between 2002 and 2007, as Foreign Affairs Minister between 2007 and 2009, as deputy prime minister in charge of the economy between 2009 and 2015. Babacan was active in the government for 13 years. Between 2015 and 2018, he served as an MP.

While managing the economy between 2002 and 2007 was relatively easy, political problems arose after 2009, a more authoritarian line was adopted, the rule of law was neglected, the judiciary turned political, democratic rights were restricted and economic problems began to accumulate. Babacan took part in this process.

“Unless Turkey becomes a country that actually abides by the rule of law, there will be no first-class economy or democracy. Without the rule of law, Turkey joining the world’s 10 first economies will remain a dream,” Babacan had said in March 2012. Still, he kept his ministerial position for another three years.

Institutional self-criticism

The first chapter of the DEVA party program is “Liberal, Participatory and Pluralistic Democracy,” suggesting it is one of the party’s top priorities.

The party program merely reflects what Turkey has done wrong for the past 10 years, laying out what should be corrected. While some might argue the party’s programs is new, it little less than a personal, on Babacan’s part, and institutional-level self-critique. But Babacan has yet to express this openly.

Turkey can only correct its mistakes through social consensus and reconciliation. It will not only have to be a one-time consensus but will have to involve a grand renewal of the principles, institutions and rules governing our political life.

DEVA’s party program features straightforward chapters that all segments of society would agree on. That is because they are fundamental issues the opposition block has been voicing for more than 10 years. 

Protecting the individual against the state

The program, perhaps for the first time in a right, central, conservative disposition, indicates a stance to “protect the individual’s freedoms against the state,” emphasizing this belongs to the field of justice and thereby prioritizing the individual: “The most important reason the judiciary exists is to protects the rights and freedoms of individuals against the state. The judiciary is equipped with the shield of independence as a requirement to guarantee the rights and freedoms of individuals, deliver everybody their rights and reach just decisions. This privilege granted to the justice system is aimed at providing justice.”

Other lines the economy are remarkable: “As a party, we believe that at the basis of the social uneasiness and economic crisis in our country lies the unstable structure of our judicial system, which is far from being reliable and being predictable. We believe that in the stable environment provided by law, insecurity and uncertainty will decrease, production and investment decisions will be reached without fear and with confidence, thus accelerating our development process.”

The party program points out the independence of the Central Bank and other regulatory and supervising bodies would be strengthen institutional capacities. It is also said that greater independence should be granted to TÜİK as that would increase the credibility of its statistical data.

The Turkey Wealth Fund is disrupting the integrity of the public financial management, the program said, at the same time pledging to end these structures that are off-budget and free of audit.

Of course, they also pledge not to resort to tax and premium amnesties. The party program indirectly says the BDDK arrangements are not implemented in an equal and transparent manner to public and private banks in the banking sector. This will not happen, they promise. There is also a pledge to prevent the intervention of the government and the BDDK – through practices against legislation – in the decisions and administrations of banks.

The party program explains that public banks will be prevented from disrupting the competition within the sector. These banks will be stopped from doing business with political pressures. Appointments to top managerial positions in public banks will be done within the framework of objective capability and merit criteria, the program emphasized.  

But remembering that Babacan was once in charge of those banks, and that stacks of cash were found at the houses of those who ran them, it remains uncertain whether he has learned a lesson.

Fiscal rule anchor

Babacan’s unfulfilled desire, the “fiscal rule” theme also features in the program. He had made preparations to start the practice of fiscal rule in 2010, until Prime Minister Erdoğan shelved this. Now, it is in the DEVA party program.

Another outstanding topic is about the practices concerning the Public Private Partnership (KOİ) over projects such as bridges, highways, airports and city hospitals that contain certain contingent liabilities. The burden they will bring to the general budget is not explained transparently.  

The party program said they would issue a framework legislation on this matter. The KOİ model, they say, will be based on the principle of limiting them only to projects where the beneficiaries are able to finance themselves.

It is also emphasized that stakeholders will participate in the feasibility studies of such projects; equality, transparency and competition would be increased in public tenders and these projects would be open to independent auditing. Moreover, it states that information such as the burden these projects bring to the budget, the scope of the guarantees given, their justification and expiration dates will be shared with the public regularly.