The Resurgence of the Old Republic in the Elections of 1950
If indeed they had given the go-ahead for the raid, the local leadership of the RPP had not sufficiently analyzed the situation. The possibility of a shift from a one-party to a multiparty system had brought into view a new kind of political equation. Since the members of the National Assembly were henceforth to be chosen in direct and free elections, anyone at the local level who could turn out thousands of votes would have a claim on the leadership of a political party. And if a particular political party succeeded in winning a national election, then the person who could produce thousands of votes would also be able to make things happen at the level of the state system.
By the later 1940s, this new political equation was on the horizon. The leadership of both the RPP and the DP had made contact with local elites of the regional social oligarchy in the provinces of Rize, Trabzon, Giresun, and Ordu. According to an announcement in a provincial newspaper that appeared on July 1, 1949, Reşat Agha Muradoğlu, together with his two sons, had resigned from the RPP in order to join the DP. Reşat Agha was a direct descendant of the first several generations of aghas of the Muradoğlu family line, one of the last of the local elites in the old imperial style. The news of his support for the DP caused a sensation in the district of Of and near panic among the local RPP activists in the town, given the prospect of national elections in the spring of the following year. There were many more members of the Muradoğlu than members of the Selimoğlu. Furthermore, the former had a reputation for sticking together, while the latter had a reputation for quarreling among themselves. More significantly, the countrified Muradoğlu were themselves farmers who resided in their villages, and so they were potentially able to communicate with the average Oflu much more effectively than the citified Selimoğlu, who sat in offices behind desks in the district center. In other words, the Muradoğlu had a more extensive and a more operational district network of agnates, relatives, friends, and partners. Some of the descendants of Ferhat Agha, who had a clear understanding of what their rivals might be able to accomplish, feared that Reşat Agha might personally be able to sway the votes of a major segment of the rural population. Mehmet Bey himself, too long accustomed to the elitist and statist practices of the RPP, still had an imperfect understanding of the electoral importance of numbers, solidarity, and populism. Asked about Muradoğlu support for the DP during a Giresun congress of the RPP, he appeared unconcerned. "These shepherds (çoban) might attract five thousands votes," he is said to have replied, "but what is that going to get them?" As it happened, Mehmet Bey had counted correctly but reached the wrong conclusion.
Receiving word of Mehmet Bey's insult, "The Muradoğlu are nothing but shepherds," Reşat Agha became all the more determined to bring out a massive vote for the DP by mobilizing his relatives, friends, partners, and allies. He is reported to have toured the villages, specifically telling his audiences that they should not be afraid to vote for the DP. He would see to it personally that they would not be subject to reprisals. The first sacking of the DP offices had been the last. With the assistance of his two sons, both men of strong character and determination, Reşat Agha could energize a circle of interpersonal association for the purpose of bringing out a large vote for the DP in the national election. At the local level, electoral politics and party organizations were reawakening the legacy of the leading individuals, family lines, and district social networks. The mechanisms of social relations that had been able to pour seven or eight hundred men in arms into the district center as late as 1908 were now being used as a means to bring out the vote.
So Mehmet Bey, whose only solid constituency had once been a narrow circle of officials, civil servants, professionals, and merchants in the town, was in deep trouble. He was openly opposed by the sons of Rasih Efendi, his half-brothers, who had joined the DP in the belief that he had slighted them in the distribution of favors. Leading individuals among the Muradoğlu were touring the villages to bring out their friends, relatives, and partners to the polls. His control of the town of Of was slipping away to his clients, the descendants of Ferhat Agha, the latter having always believed that he had usurped their rightful position. And resentful of the descendants of Ferhat Agha, the sons of Rasih Efendi were also touring the villages to urge their agnates, relatives, friends, and partners to support the DP. But worst of all, the political party through whose ranks he had risen was facing the possibility of a resounding electoral defeat.
It is at this point that Mehmet Bey made a belated move to become a leading individual from a large family grouping. He assumed a new name. Formerly known as Mehmet Bey Sayıın, he now became known as Mehmet Bey Selimoğlu. He was far from being the first or the only person of his family line to make an adjustment in his surname. On the contrary, he was among the last. For some years, the members of large family groupings in the coastal region had been reverting back to the original form of their old patronymics, even with the addition of the suffix "oğlu" (occasionally even using "zade"). In a few instances, large family groupings that had actually split their surnames, despite the counsel of state officials, reunited as they reverted to the old patronymic. The prospect of free and direct elections of the representatives of the National Assembly had given a new meaning to the old vertical and horizontal solidarities. The old republic was acquiring a new purpose and becoming a political force in the new republic.
The DP roundly defeated the RPP in the national elections held in May 1950. The fortunes of the two parties were, however, mixed in the provinces of Rize, Trabzon, Giresun, and Ordu, the part of the coastal region that formerly comprised the old province of Trabzon. The DP did very well in Rize and Giresun, but the RPP was able to hold its own in Trabzon and Ordu. Still, Mehmet Bey was not reelected to the National Assembly. The Muradoğlu were only able to turn out five thousand votes for the DP in the district of Of, as opposed to seven thousand votes for the RPP. But the "shepherds" could nonetheless take satisfaction in having determined that Mehmet Bey would lose his seat in the National Assembly.
Mehmet Bey is said to have come to the town of Of from Trabzon on the night when the election returns were announced. He was seen walking through the streets with the district officer (kaymakam) on one arm and the district judge (hakim) on the other. He had been drinking and his face was drawn. The interlocutor who told me of this memory seemed to recall the scene as the end of an era. Mehmet Bey had been selected by national party leaders because of his presumed position as a dominant figure in the district of Of. We can guess that he must have occasionally hinted to them that he was the heir of the old aghas of the Selimoğlu. In fact, his place in the family line, and hence in the social networks of the district of Of, was tenuous. He would run again in the national elections of 1954, but the DP would take all twelve seats for the province of Trabzon. On this occasion, the votes he personally garnered fell below the totals he had received in 1950.