Although populism, as one of 9 Principles of declaration, known as 9 Umde, officially entered the constitution in 1937, its origins can be traced back to the Second Constitutional Era, II.Meşrutiyet, (1908). ZiyaGökalp and Yusuf Akçura, leading intellectuals of the Mesrutiyet era, formulated populism by being influenced of the Russian Narodnik Movement though this concept was interpreted in a different sense during the early republican period of Turkey. For such reason, we can claim that populism in Turkey is not a rigid and unchangeable ideology. That being said, it should be assumed as an idea that adapts to the conditions of the period, constantly renews itself, and reflects the economic and social conditions of the period.
As a leading historian, ZaferToprak, put forward a claim that populism in Turkey is divided into two periods. The first period is mostly about intellectual populism (1908-50) while the second is a political populism that marked Turkish political life after 1950. Toprak argues that the main purpose of intellectual populism in the early republican period is to make the people feel that they are part of the revolutions during the nation-state building process. Thus, intellectual populism had several traits such as denying the existence of classes and seeking the values of the nation in the far corners of Anatolia. However, Toprak overlooks the political populism during the War of Independence (1918-1922) and the early republican period. Meanwhile, populism has served as a means of mass mobilization for political purposes. That is to say, the overarching aim of the leading political figures was to gain the support of different social classes. Thus, I argue that such acts was at odds with intellectual populism and can be regarded as window-dressing.
Furthermore, concepts among others; people, will of the nation and popular sovereignty frequently mentioned in the parliamentary debates and official texts and therefore, nearly became synonymous with the early republican period. For instance, the first article of Teşkilat-ıEsasiye, adopted in 1921, states that “sovereignty is vested in the nation without condition. The governmental system is based on the principle of self-determination and government by the people”. The following article emphasizes that “executive power and legislative responsibility is exercised by and concentrated in the hands of the Grand National Assembly which is the sole and real representative of the nation”.
After World War I, Turkey had been dragged into a War of Independence and such national struggle lasted for many years and left the country in ruins. It is therefore little surprise that the main aim of a leading statesman, Mustafa Kemal, was to carry out revolutions against the danger of another collapse and accordingly create a modern society. Thus, the necessity of a popular political party to carry out such revolutions emerged. Mustafa Kemal expressed his intention to establish a party as follows:
“To be worthy of the respect and trust shown to me from every class of the nation, even from the furthest corners of the Islamic world, I will be honored forever, as a humble person of the nation, to dedicate the good of the country until the end of my life. After peace, based on the principle of Populism, I intend to form a party called the People’s Party”.
The election program, known as 9 Umde, was announced on April 8 1923, and formed the ideological infrastructure of the People’s Party. The first two principles of the Umde are directly related to populism. The first principle emphasized the unconditional sovereignty of the Turkish nation while the second principle stated that the sole representative of the nation is the National Assembly of Turkey.
In the following months, the deputies started to prepare the regulations for the new party to be established. The three principles, populism, nationalism, and republicanism, were adopted as basic principles, but the principles of national sovereignty, rule of law, and revolution were also included. The People’s Party was accordingly established on September 9, 1924, and during the single-party government period, it claimed to have represented all social groups. The main reason behind such a claim was the underdeveloped class structure in the newly established country and the lack of class consciousness of the social segments. Therefore, “a classless, non-privileged fused mass” has been the main motto of the one-party rule throughout the 1920s and 30s in Turkey.
In the next article, early populism in Turkey will be analyzed through People’s Houses, known as Halk Evleri.
- Doğan, Erkan. II. The Development of Populism Idea from the Constitutional Period to the Foundation Years of the Republic. Insan&İnsan, Yıl / Year 6, Number / Issue 20, Spring 2019, 131-144. https://dergipark.org.tr/tr/download/article-file/702559
- Koroglu, KirvakEsin., ―Chain of Populism From The Democrat Party to the Justice and Development Party in Turkey. Doctoral Thesis, 2016
The 9 Umde is the declaration of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, published on 8 April 1923. The declaration states that sovereignty unconditionally belongs to the nation and self-government of the people is essential.
1927 census demonstrated that the majority of Turkish society had a rural and traditional way of life. It was, therefore, claimed that serious class distinctions did not exist.