This book is comprised of the opening speeches of Dr. Sami Selcuk, the President of the Court of Cassation, delivered in the last two years. Dr. Sami Selcuk, as the President of the Court of Cassation, is at the apex of judicial power; one of three powers constituting the state in Turkey: The presidency of the Court of Cassation is equal to supreme courts that are found in some democratic states where the rule of law prevails. Not only are the speeches of Dr. Sami Selcuk popular and actual, they are, by the same token, highly-esteemed academic works backed up with a good many of footnotes based on profound cultural background.
Dr. Selcuk dwells on many theses so as to radically transform the state, legal and political philosophy in Turkey and in countries where democracy does not work smoothly. While Dr. Selcuk recently comes to the fore as the only figure regarding legal and state philosophy, he is also known to be one of the most prominent representatives of an archetype of liberal enlightened man advocating democracy and supremacy of law. So far as we are concerned, he is the only enlightened man and philosopher who could spell out a new things in recent years.
"Longing for Democracy" is not only a significant book in view of the developing countries which are in an excruciating transition on the way to democracy, but also a treatise which must be read by enlightened men living in fully fledged democratic countries in as much as modern debates over democracy and jurisprudence have been evaluated and assessed by taking into account the latest reviewed literature. In the book, novel theses have been developed with regard to liberal democracy, supremacy of law, jurisprudence, human rights and freedoms, and especially, the freedom of thought.
To be brief, in this book, Dr. Sami Selcuk unveils an innovative "Democratic Manifesto" for the world on the threshold of the third millennium.
We thank both Dr. Kemal Baslar, an academic, who meticulously translated the work into English and Prof. Dr. Mustafa Erdogan who wrote the foreword.
Yeni Turkiye Publications
The treatise you hold presently has been penned by the president of the Turkish Court of Cassation. I do enjoy the privilege of introducing such a book to foreign readers. For a foreigner wishing to be informed about Turkey, acquiring this book is one of the best choices that s/he could make.
Longing for Democracy is composed of two opening speeches delivered at the inauguration of the last two new judicial years by the respected president of our Court of Cassation. The New Judicial Year Speeches are of ceremonial nature in Turkey. All the same, the speeches laid down in this treatise, as one could make out once one reads, are not "ceremonial" public addresses as we are accustomed to. Rather, these are texts being not only the reflections of the academic acquisition of an Honorable Judge of a Supreme Court of Turkey, who is at the same time an intellectual academic, but also refractions of the horizon of his comprehension and vision. The ceremonies during which these speeches read out are only a means: In this book, Sami Selcuk comes to the fore as a thinker and as a responsible citizen who is in search of civic virtue.
Sami Selcuk is one of the prominent Honorable Judges of Supreme Courts; he is the President of a Supreme Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal. It is a well-established tradition in Turkey that figures of the same status deliver "opening speeches" at the beginning of the new judicial years. Never the less, the speeches that eminent Selcuk delivered depart in a number of ways from similar speeches read out earlier. The most notable feature of his speeches he delivered, as the president of the Court of Cassation, is that not only does he touch upon the problems of the Turkish judicial system, albeit in a narrow perspective, but also he sketches out a perspective for Turkey. It is such a perspective addressing that the daily issues of the judiciary have to do in fact with the recognition of human dignity, "the rule of law" and democracy... It is because of this that in this treatise Sami Selcuk speaks with a wisdom having philosophical concerns rather than with a technocracy of a jurist.
There are several reasons as to why both Sami Selcuk, as a judge, and corollary his book, are different from their counterparts. One of the reasons is that in addition to his jurist identity, distinguished Sami Selcuk possesses an academic identity. Undoubtedly, this has an immense contribution in his analytic and systematic speech, and his competence in the relevant literature. Perhaps more important than this, - which this is the second reason -, Honorable Selcuk is of an intellectual skepticism and a talent for envisioning with broad horizon, which this, alas, is not a virtue often run into among jurists in Turkey. It is no wonder that his accumulation of juridical, academic, philosophic virtues made him different from his contemporaries. Admittedly, his previously published works carry the signs of his multifarious and broad intellectual capacity. Moreover, Sami Selcuk trusts in ordinary people and the public, which this is an extremely rare instance in judicial bureaucracy as well as among civil and military quarters. So far as I can observe, these points come out as a factor ever bolstering up his devotion to democracy resting on ethical-philosophical premises in principle.
No doubt is there that with Longing for Democracy, dear Sami Selcuk has contributed considerable to our quest for "democratic the rule of law". The author in this seminal work remarkably diagnoses the dilemmas of the quasi-democratic regime of Turkey and points out possible way-outs. While doing this, Sami Selcuk utilizes the parlance of universal language of the democratic the rule of law; however, he does not waive from fairness He does underline the problems; but never does he fail to make us remember the achievements and advantages of Turkey in the wake of democracy. The contribution that Sami Selcuk ushered in the struggle to build a more democratic society is exceptionally significant. This is because in an era where "the fear of democracy" holds sway among the elites of the state, the president of a Supreme Court ventures to call for more democracy and shows the courage to speak out these before everybody - especially the elites of the state. In Turkey being on the verge of being a full member of the European Union, while the government and the bureaucracy carry out some overt and covert attempts with the cause of preserving the status quo, one should never underestimate that the president of the Court of Cassation make speeches knocking down the myth of the unchangeable status quo. In this work, Honorable Sami Selcuk, who especially portrays an example of virtue that is expected from a responsible and brave citizen, has performed a praiseworthy and applaudable duty.
I do hope that Longing for Democracy will be an intermediary not only for an increase of interest towards our country but also for the discovery of the global concerns of a Turkish judge operating at "national" stratum. In reality, Sami Selcuk has served Turkey par excellence by proving that from a "less developed" and semi-democratic country, jurists, - enjoying the ability of communicating with universal values and with the common heritage of mankind -, might arise.
16 November 2000
Professor of Political and Constitutional Theory
Hacettepe University, Ankara