A new state for what?
Occasional flare-ups and passionate statements are trademarks of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) politics, and last week was no exception. Former member of the AK Party’s Central Executive Board and a former MP candidate for Kayseri, Ayhan Oğan tossed the idea of a new state being established and claimed that “[Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan is the founder of this new state, whether some people like it or not.”
Oğan is a careful politician; he did not come up with these words out of nowhere. He was a guest on my talk show on CNN Türk called “Turkey’s Agenda.” Despite some of his harsh words during the first three hours, he waited till the end of the show to drop the “new state” bomb. Oğan is not alone in the argument that the Turkish state might have been ended. In fact, in Ankara there are more supporters of him.
Daily Cumhuriyet’s Aslı Aydıntaşbaş wrote her impressions about bureaucracy and politics in Ankara after a recent visit. “It is as if the coup [July 15, 2016] had been successful and the state is collapsing,” she wrote.
“Everyone I talked to told me about the weakness or the fall of institutions. And I talked to AK Party people, not the opposition. My heart was torn apart. I could not feel anything but despair,” she added.
Reading between the lines of Aydıntaşbaş’s column and Oğan’s statements, one sees the similarities.
Despite the denouncements of Oğan by Erdoğan, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, and opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, bureaucracy in Ankara, politicians, and the AK Party elite feel and probably advocate that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s Turkish Republic is over. It is time to knock down the old building and start constructing a new one with AK Party’s values, piety, Erdoğan’s criteria, Sunni guidelines, male-dominated ideas, and so on. You got the picture.
And the signs have emerged as well. Pushing intense religiosity in schools, kicking Darwin’s evolution theory out of the curricula, segregating college dorms so that two students cannot stay together, and getting rid of cocktail classes out of hotel management schools are just a few of the signs. So despite all the hardships that are fought together, why are the AK Party and Erdoğan still far from creating a coalition of happiness? Who needs a new state and for what? Why are pro-AK Party pundits on TV shows shouting more than ever?
One former intelligence source told me that the signs are neither getting any better for the party nor for the country as a whole. “There are a lot of grey/dark areas in the July 15 coup attempt and these are becoming more visible,” he said. “People are quietly talking about these, but not challenging the government. Silently and patiently they are waiting. Plus, the elections will be rough if ever peaceful,” he added. Pundits like Oğan are advocating a new state so that not just a new society but a new penal code and a new legal framework should be established to immunize all the actors of this current state from prosecution and to create a “tabula rasa” for all.
The Turkish Republic founded by Atatürk may be weakened but it is not dead, and never will be. As Dr. Barış Doster of Marmara University said, “In this geography, states that are formed with blood and fight can only collapse that same way.” Governing this land will never be a cakewalk. Turkey’s rulers and citizens should keep that in mind to create unity once and for all.