Since ancient Greece, politics has been defined as the art of ruling and managing a state’s affairs and its true purpose has been known as reconciling clashing interests found in society. It is the duty of those holding executive powers to bring about reconciliation among various segments of society.
To ensure such reconciliation, it is imperative that the powers that be understand the needs of the society in general. Before catering to the needs of a certain group, they should ensure their decision would not harm any other group. It’s all about an all-inclusive approach so as to extend their outreach to the masses. Protecting the interests of all segments of a society has become a challenging task nowadays. In the past, societies had limited modes of communication and education due to which chances of disagreements were minimal. Secondly, today societies are widely diverse in terms of ethnicities, faiths and philosophies etc. The diverse nature of today’s societies have made it all the more difficult to keep everybody happy and to build content societies.
Consequently, politicians need to work more for reconciliation and master the art of politics to achieve this goal. Let’s take Turkey as an example. The Turkish people, for the first time in the history of their republic, will elect their president this August. Needless to say, the image of a candidate as much as his promises makes all the difference. For now, it seems that the race will be between AKP candidate, incumbent Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the joint candidate of the opposition parties, Eklemeleddin Ihsanoglu. Naturally, the Turkish people are carefully tuned into the messages disseminated by these two candidates and keenly examining the person they believe can meet the ideal presidential image in their minds.
Erdogan has been the premier of Turkey since 2003. He is a valuable politician who has served the country greatly during his administration and brought a new image, understanding and spirit to Turkey. He is also a great visionary who played a significant role in the development of the country over the past decade. Since he was first elected as the prime minister, he has enjoyed the support of the 50 percent of the population and it is very likely that the trend will continue during the upcoming presidential elections as well. However, last year’s Gezi protests highlighted the discomfort of the other half of the Turkish population. Surely, the premier didn’t turn a blind eye to those requests; yet since the sense of polarization in Turkey still continues, it will be expedient for him to show clearly that he is also willing to cater to the needs of this other half as well.
Erdogan won the hearts of millions as a devout Muslim, as an ordinary Turkish citizen and as a typical Anatolian. However, it would also greatly benefit him to also adopt a more intellectual style that hails a European sort of culture and art so that he can also cater to the Turkish citizens that usually reside in the metropolitan and coastal areas of Turkey. Such an image would never be demeaning on his part, nor would it clash with his religious character. On the contrary, it would be a positive step to help bring the Anatolian people to a more Europeanesque society. The culture and quality of Europe, coupled with the way it champions freedom, is an essential need, especially for Middle Eastern societies and Turkey should pioneer this important leap in the Middle East. Surely, a religious president who achieves this ideal will get the approval of the entire Turkish population.
Ihsanoglu, on the other hand, is an esteemed name that led the OIC for a long time. With his impressive demeanor, excellent manners, intellectual stance and embracing attitude, coupled with his education and European style, he has also emerged as a strong presidential candidate that can easily win over the hearts of the Turkish middle class. However, his presidency can be possible only if he embraces the conservative population in Turkey. Surely he has truly impressive qualifications that are necessary for this position, but they may not be enough for Turkey. To be successful, Ihsanoglu should emulate the methods of Prime Minister Erdogan in his efforts to win over the Turkish nation. Ihsanoglu is a hafız who knows the Qur’an perfectly and has dealt with the problems of the Muslim world for years. Therefore, it would be very fitting for him to adopt a religious language just like Erdogan does and show himself as a leader who frequently quotes from the Qur’an. It is impossible for a politician to succeed in Turkey if he doesn’t adopt a religious tone. Even the leftist parties in Turkey now understand this and have changed their attitude and rhetoric accordingly. Leadership in Turkey can be possible only by demonstrating this religious attitude in a strong and unyielding manner. It is especially imperative that Ihsanoglu clarifies his statements regarding our Syrian refugee brothers and sisters. Turkey is an important country where the cultures of Europe and the Middle East intersect. The liberal, democratic and modern European way of life that would greatly help the Middle East and the loving and lofty Islamic culture that will greatly benefit Europe will pass over Turkey.
Therefore the Turkish state has responsibilities not only to its own people but also to the Muslim world in general. As a result, the Turkish president has to be a politician who is aware of this great duty and must have the necessary skills to bring reconciliation to a region currently embroiled in major conflicts. This is not only possible, but also quite simple; if the leaders can show that society can reconcile itself despite differences in lifestyles and opinions, people will follow their lead, and conflicts will come to an end. When that happens, politics will have reached its true goal and “reconciled the clashing interests of society.”
Adnan Oktar's piece on Arab News: