NURAY MERT > More babies for a strong Turkey

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Until recently, it used to be considered almost blasphemous to talk about “the rise of authoritarian politics in Turkey.” This fact alone is indeed a sign of authoritarian politics and/or authoritarian political cultures that it takes a long time to be alarmed by the signs of authoritarianism. The democrats of Turkey have long thought that authoritarianism is particular to Kemalism and its remnants, like the secularist military and judicial hegemony. 

Now, “democrats” claim to be disappointed and even shocked by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statements and Justice and Development Party (AKP) policies concerning the Uludere incident and abortion, which have been linked together in a curious way by PM Erdoğan himself. Finally, democrats have started to question the sincerity of the AKP on democratization or have begun to focus on Erdoğan’s personality.

There is no doubt that charismatic leaders like Erdoğan have a tendency toward autocracy.

Nevertheless, it speaks of a shallow understanding of politics to focus on traits like the “sincerity” of a political party or focus on the “personal mood” of its leader. 

The test of sincerity for a political party and its leader is only possible through scrutiny and an analysis of its politics. Apart from political developments which have offered clear signs of authoritarian leanings, Erdoğan and many AKP politicians have not been hypocritical about their political convictions.

Erdoğan is, in fact often praised for his boldness. A good example among AKP politicians is Professor Burhan Kuzu, the current head of the Parliamentary Constitution Commission and an eager advocate of the “presidential system” who unashamedly announced his support for “capital punishment” a year ago. Nobody, however, bothered to discuss the political discourse of not only AKP but of “conservative democrats” in general up until very recently. 

Now, it is the debate on abortion which has naturally provoked a lot of controversy. It is widely accepted that Erdoğan wanted to manipulate public opinion and divert attention from the Uludere controversy. Even if that is true, his anti-abortion stance underlined his authoritarian conservative leanings since he not only stated that he was against the pro-choice idea but also started a process to illegalize abortion. Moreover, he improved upon his conservative discourse by supplementing it with the nationalist line that he was against abortion and Caesarian operations because he thinks they are plots to hinder population growth in Turkey. In his Diyarbakır speech, he emphasized the importance of a young population for economic growth and for a strong country. Erdoğan wants more babies for a strong Turkey even if the mothers are reluctant. 

In fact, even though some projections show that there could be problems related to a population decrease in future, there is no sign of a labor shortage problem in Turkey. On the contrary, unemployment is still a social, as well as economic problem. Besides, it is possible to overcome any labor force problem by relaxing immigration policies. Erdoğan’s “politics of benevolence” for poor countries could be reflected in immigration policies. I am sure poor Somalis would be more than happy if they were granted permission to reside and work in Turkey. Otherwise, the politics of population growth is nothing but a nationalist ambition. 

The controversy on abortion is surely one of the conservative, authoritarian and nationalistic repercussions of Erdoğan and the AKP government – and I am afraid it will not be the last one.


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Agnes Smith

6/8/2012 12:23:35 PM

A visit to the southeast - don't worry PM you have your population boom. 10 babies on the plane from Mardin. There are oodles of kids running round, out of control and unsupervised, all born from uneducated mothers who are depressed and ruled with an iron fist by their equally inadequate husbands living in squalor without running water. So many young girls. Why, coz the boys are in school. I asked the girls why they weren't in school - no teacher was the reply. PM - votes coming your way.

onder mehmetoglu

6/4/2012 10:36:44 PM

The honor of creating a totalitarian and autocratic Erdogan goes to Nuray Mert and the other so called liberal leaning opinion shapers. It was always known to many, Erdogan had no democratic bone on his body, but these individuals gave him the undeserved credit in hopes that stronghold of the military will be weakened by his rise to power. Military's strength is diminished and these so called intellectuals started seeing only now what everybody else saw years ago. They picked their own poisons.

Murun Buchstansangur

6/4/2012 4:53:11 PM

@Blue Dotterel. You're exactly right of course. I don't think it is Erdogan's intention though that Turkey's expanded population all stay resident within Turkey.

american american

6/4/2012 1:42:46 PM

will this new generation face massive unemployment or just 800TL a month minimum wage?

Lale Devre

6/4/2012 11:57:15 AM

If the PM want to use his strong arm for good and keep the Turkish population alive, I suggest he wage a forceful campaign against smoking. People die young here because of tobacco-related illnesses. Isn't the health and longevity of the tax base just as important as producing more bodies for the state? Whatever he mandates on this issue will be a far greater benefit than more shopping malls.

Blue Dotterel

6/4/2012 10:25:50 AM

As many have noted, if you want a "strong country" quality will trump quantity. The planet has too many humans, and Anatolia is quickly reaching its own carrying capacity. Pressure on the environment - water resources, agriculture, increase in pollutants - will increase poverty and hunger, leading to a weaker country. Given an intelligent use of science and technology, excessive population is not required for a "strong country". Erdogan needs to provide evidence for his illogical position.

Rimon Tree

6/4/2012 9:22:20 AM

@ Turridu And I remember another one, who reminds me of the esteemed PM in many respects, he was German (in fact Austrian born)

Red Tail

6/4/2012 9:08:10 AM

The number of babies does not matter much. The important thing for the people of a country is to get a good education and to live in a clean and free and safe environment. Which are the nicest countries in the world to live in? Usually we see the scandinavians. Population arouind 4-9 million per country. Compare them with the living conditions in India or China the countries with largest population. Where do you want to live? And also, children get old one and will then need care.


6/4/2012 8:43:15 AM

The idea of having more children to sustain an aging population is surely not sustainable in the long term as you would need to continue to increase the number of children born each decade to support an ever growing aging population.

Eric Martin

6/4/2012 3:04:41 AM

India and China are not strong for the size of their countries. Having an educated public, low taxation and free society grows an economy.
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