‘Erdoğan saved you from the army, who will save you from Erdoğan?’ My answer...
The question in the title was asked by veteran journalist Metin Münir in an article published on online news portal T24.
Münir, a friend and a colleague who I respect a lot, had never trusted the Justice and Development Party (AKP). That is why he was one of the first journalists to be fired by the newspaper where he worked, penning articles with solid criticism based on concrete facts - rather than on empty rhetoric or insults. When he left active journalism in Turkey and settled in Turkish Cyprus, the AKP was still in its “glory years.”
“The Turkish state does not have the institutions that can check the arbitrary ruling of someone or team that has gotten hold of power,” Münir wrote the other day.
“It has always been like that, and it is so today. But there is an important difference between today and the past. In the past, when politics went off-track, the military had the power to intervene and set the game up again. Today it does not have that power,” he added.
Some saw the neutralization of the army by the AKP as the elimination of an obstacle to democratization, according to Münir, who argued that it was in fact the elimination of an obstacle to arbitrary rule.
Knowing Metin, I don’t think he is suggesting getting the army back involved in politics. At the end of the article, he blames Turkey’s political parties for failing to consolidate democratic rule in Turkey.
But he asks the question: As the army has no longer its former power, and as the political parties lack efficacy, who is going to save the nation from Erdoğan?
While some people may still dream of the days when the army intervened in politics, (which was a delusion as political instability always followed the relative “order” established by the army,) I am convinced that the Turkish nation has reached the maturity of not relying on the army to remedy the shortcomings of political life. Unfortunately, at this point it is obvious that we cannot rely on the political parties. But the situation is not so desperate after all.
“The people will find a way to save themselves from Erdoğan. There will be no benefit in it if the people have to be saved by someone,” a friend recently told me.
Actually, the Gezi protests of summer 2013 were a turning point. Those disappointed by existing political parties took action for the first time. This was important in terms of the development of the concept of active citizenship.
If Turkish democracy has not consolidated itself over the years, we should not only blame political parties, but also the average citizen, who for years has equated active citizenship to merely casting a vote in elections. While the system indeed encouraged the citizen to remain inactive, this trend is now being overturned as Turkey’s civil society has started to bloom - especially over the last two decades.
It would have been too naive to expect immediate results from the Gezi protests, but initiatives such as Vote and Beyond, the first domestic NGO to monitor elections in Turkey, came around after Gezi.
Another friend of mine argued that we will not be saved from Erdoğan until the end of his presidency, but we had started to be saved from his ambitions with the June 7 election.
Even if re–elections bring about a result whereby the AKP is able to form a single-party government, it will be difficult to expect a smooth cohabitation between Erdoğan and the AKP. Erdoğan’s ambitions and his lust for one-man rule will deepen the already existing cracks within the AKP. A double-headed administration is doomed to fail, especially when you have two separate heads that will not want to share power.
So, my short answer to the question of who will save us from Erdoğan is: Erdoğan’s ambitions.