‘Banality of evil’
After the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) nominated Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as its candidate for the presidential elections, he gave a speech and promised the beginning of “a new epoch” for Turkey.
Indeed, a new epoch is ahead of us, but it does not promise more democracy and freedoms, rather a more powerful Turkey under a more powerful leadership. Unfortunately, power is not expected to emanate from more liberal and democratic governance in this part of the world, but from more control, more unanimity. Besides, the new Turkey is thought to be born out of the ashes of the old, and the new beginning is thought to end a century-old “dark period.” For some supporters of the “New Turkey” project, this is more than a century - it is the end of two centuries of historical decline. Erdoğan’s unbound leadership is expected to reverse the history of defeat and humiliation not only in the nation’s history, but also in the history of Muslims who have suffered from subordination to the West. The rise of a powerful Turkey - under the new willful leadership of a man who compares himself to Saladin, who defeated the Crusaders, and the great Ottoman Sultans - is the promise and dream of AKP supporters.
History is full of tragic stories of oversized ambitions and ours is going to be another case. One does not need to read thrillers nowadays, just the reviews of AKP supporters in the media. Their accounts of recent history are full of revengefulness concerning anybody who is thought to be the responsible for conspiracies against the rise of the New Turkey. Even the Gezi protests are considered to be a plot not only against the government but against the Erdoğan Revolution. Yes, now the so-called “silent revolution” is turning out to be a proper one, with a radical “revolutionary discourse.” We all know what happens to “counter revolutionaries,” don’t we?
A chief adviser to the PM, who has long been writing about the new prospect of Turkey as a powerful international actor next only to the U.S., constantly underlines the importance of the “solid unity of society,” “historical duty,” and the “essence of the nation.” He also makes the point that Turkey has “imposed borders,” restricting a great nation that inherited the legacy of an empire within a narrow space. It is therefore now time to change this destiny, if not in terms of physical borders then at least in terms of political, economic and cultural influence and mastership of a wider geography. Thank God, he still acknowledges the limits of irredentism, for the time being at least.
As has happened elsewhere, the self-appointed architects of the New Turkey think theirs is a unique political discourse based on Turkey’s unique historical experience, and that the revolt against it stems from the unique case of the awakening of the “national will.”
In fact, all discourses and politics of radical transformations view the past as “the end of a dark period,” and all have many enemies that are considered “dark forces.” All similar discourses manipulate the feelings of humility and injustice, and tend to mobilize the masses to create a new order. Fınally, all justify suppression of all kinds as a necessary means through which to reach salvation and recovery.
These are the classical cases of authoritarian regimes that are established in the name of revolutions, or of all sorts of ambitious political transformations. There are many present day and historical examples of such regimes, and indeed the retreat to authoritarian politics is a very common phenomenon nowadays. Indeed, this has been the case with Turkey, and its promise is a more authoritarian political future.
No matter, the AKP believes in the authenticity of its politics, its discourse on history, and its projections of the future. The discourse of the ruling party in Hungary, of the newly-elected BJP in India, and of other similar cases, is not too different from the discourse and politics of the ruling party in Turkey. I am sure that Erdoğan will not fail to fulfıll his promises after being elected as president, and Turkey will complete the process of emerging as a new political system of one party and one-man rule.