Academic journal article International Journal of Turkish Studies

The Principles of Celal Bayar's Leadership: Transition from a State Elite to a Political Elite

Academic journal article International Journal of Turkish Studies

The Principles of Celal Bayar's Leadership: Transition from a State Elite to a Political Elite

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article deconstructs the political discourse of the third Turkish President Celal Bayar (1883-1986) by seeking to identify the overarching principles that motivated his political rhetoric and activities throughout his career. In line with the interactive method in leadership studies, internal and external factors that shaped Bayar's political discourse are analyzed. The article arrives at the conclusion that Bayar was a transitionary figure between the state elite and the political elite. National unity and the security of the state were the main motivating factors of Bayar's politics. He interpreted these principles quite narrowly and, for their sake, was ready to disregard a number of other ideals such as political pluralism and freedom of expression. Consequently, he had a majoritarian understanding of democracy and had little tolerance for opposition movements in society. The article concludes that Bayar's principles represent an approach that was shared, approved or tolerated by the state elites who held political power in Turkey during the Republic's formative phase.

Introduction

Members of the current Turkish government often refer to the legacy of Turkey's first successful opposition party, the Democrat Party (Demokrat Parti-DP), as one of the cornerstones of Turkey's democratization history.1 The most prominent leader in this discourse is Adnan Menderes (1899-1961), chairman of the party and Prime Minister, 1950-1960. Celal Bayar (1883-1986), the party's actual founder, its chairman from 1946 to 1950 and the third Turkish President, from 1950 to 1960, does not occupy an equal place in this discourse. Yet, Celal Bayar held a crucial place in Republican history. It has even been discussed whether Bayar should be called the third man of the Republic, after the first man Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) and the second man Ismet Inönü (1884-1973).

Celal Bayar's importance is based on his role in the two most critical turning points of the Republic. First, as Prime Minister Bayar successfully managed the transition to Inönü's presidency after Atatürk's death in 1938. Even Inönü, who was Bayar's political rival at the time, appreciated Bayar's skillful handling of this matter and said that if someone with bad intentions had been in Bayar's position and abused the situation, it would have had catastrophic consequences for the country.2 Second, as chairman of the DP, established in 1946, Bayar was influential in the smooth transition to multiparty politics. When it was understood that he was to become head of the new party, there was relief in political circles. The least controversial figure in the DP leadership, he was acceptable to practically everyone either as party leader, Prime Minister or President.3

The experiences of the short-lived Progressive Republican Party (Terakkiperver Cumhuriyet Firkasi-PRP) in 1924-1925 and the Free Party (Serbest Firka-FP) in 1930 had demonstrated that any successful opposition party and its leadership would have to guarantee to the state establishment that the party would be loyal to Republican values and have a firm hold on its political base. Bayar was able to convince President Inönü that the DP met these criteria because of the credibility derived from Bayar's personality and the positive reputation he had earned in the earlier phases of the Republic. 4 As a result, the transition to a multiparty system was achieved rather smoothly, without causing the new opposition party to be associated with anti-Republican forces the way that the FP and the PRP had been.

Was Bayar motivated by political expedience, or did overarching principles dictate his actions during these critical moments and other phases of his political life? If so, what were these principles and how were they formed? Answering these questions is important for drawing an accurate picture not just of Bayar's leadership but of an approach that was shared, approved or tolerated by the state elites in Turkey during the Republic's formative phase. …

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