What is this sudden interest in Republic Day?
The Turkish state apparatus is an interesting phenomenon. When it comes to the brink of falling apart, it initiates its self-defense mechanisms in such a surprising way that, even the most conservative, Islamist government faces the reality of secularism and Atatürk. That is what we have been seeing for the past three weeks.
Republic Day celebrations became such a show of force that even the most pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP) businesses felt the need to advertise in daily Cumhuriyet. Do not underestimate this, as for the majority of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s supporters, Cumhuriyet is still a paper charged for treason on the grounds of blowing the whistle on the MIT (National Intelligence Agency) trucks that carried weapons to Syrian opposition groups.
There are two major reasons for this palpable but still timid change. Erdoğan, after looking into several poll results concluded that he does not (and probably will not) have the 50 percent+1 majority vote under these policies. Not only has he lost the confidence of secular voters and businesses, his close circle is under great criticism from what Ibrahim Uslu, the founder of Ankara Social Research Center (ANAR) calls “white conservatives.” This is a big voter base that has benefited from the liberal policies of the AKP’s rapprochement with the West and has grown intellectually. Erdoğan, as realistic and pragmatic as always, is switching gears to the center again, but it may be a bit too late.
The second factor that shows Turkey’s slow reset to factory settings is the state itself. Sayıştay, the equivalent of the General Accounting Office, was the central bookkeeper and watchdog for government expenses for decades. It still has a record of every single Turkish Lira and kuruş spent. From extravagant car purchases to real estate allotments to Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) related businesses, Sayıştay has been the center of all political operations lately. Erdoğan, after years of ignoring and harassing Sayıştay, is using its reports to remove mayors from office on the grounds of improper activities.
A source from Ankara told me that the office of Financial Crimes Investigation Bureau (MASAK), has given a full report of all monetary activities of AKP circles with FETÖ members and asked the president if he really means “cleansing.” “This is a state decision, it is not Erdoğan himself,” my source told me. “So with some hearts broken and some level of fear as well, Erdoğan had to hit the start button.”
Deep sources say, after Ankara and Istanbul, Trabzon, Antalya, six of Istanbul’s municipalities and two CHP (Republican People’s Party) municipalities may be in the firing range in the weeks ahead. “Kılıçdaroğlu may not resist if the charges are solid. He also has to show he is cleaning his party before elections,” one source close to the CHP leader told me.
When the Turkish state apparatus starts moving its wheels, the balls start rolling. That is how Mesut Yılmaz’s Motherland Party (ANAP) and his energy minister ended up defending themselves before the Constitutional Court on corruption charges. That became the beginning of the end of a party that was founded after the 1980 coup. The AKP is not there yet. But when former mayors get invited to the prosecutors’ offices, be ready for twists and turns in politics.
And this is a question of when, not if.