Politics on the Orient Express
Turkey is like a sinking ship nowadays as the recent grand corruption probe led to political, social, economic and indeed moral crises. I am not one of those hopefuls who think that finally the authority of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has been shaken seriously and it will lead to more transparent and accountable politics. I am not saying that I wish everything had stayed as it is, not at all, but I am seriously worried that it is not only the AKP government but the whole of society that will pay a huge price at the end of the coming catastrophe. It is understandable why not only opposition parties, but also all those political and social segments who are excluded, repressed and ”depressed” under AKP rule, enjoy the moment. The current situation reminds me of a famous novel by Agatha Christie; ”Murder on the Orient Express” in which more than one have ”good” reasons to participate in the killing fest.
It was an ”open secret” which turned into an ”open fact” that the corruption charges exploded as a result of a rift between the governing party and the Gülen movement. In fact, it could only be ”the other” partner of the power coalition who could challenge the governing party on judicial ground, or in fact on any ground, given the fact that power has long been hugely monopolized by the governing party. As such it may be a relief that the governing conservatives not only split but turned against each other, otherwise there would be no way out from the ongoing authoritarian politics. Nevertheless, it also proved what we already knew; that there was no judicial independence from political power, it became even clearer that the executive power in the hand of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been used as a totally unaccountable power, and so on and so forth. In short, the corruption charge revealed more about the state of politics and institutions in Turkey. That is not to say that the issue itself; semi-illegal transfer of money in and out of Turkey and the huge amount of bribery is less important, but it is more important to see that the governing party leader, his ministers, bureaucrats and loyalists in general did not need to care for legality, transparency and accountability and they could get away with it.
It should be no surprise though. After all, this is one of the countries where in the mind of most of the ordinary citizens, ”ruling” and ”governing” is the same thing. This is a country among others, where for many democratic rule is a sign of weakness, whereas authoritarian rule is an expression of real power.
Besides, this is a country like many others where ”grand narratives of democratization” are based on ambitious yet shallow theories which claim that the elimination of the authoritarian ancien regimes inevitably leads to political salvation. Turkey is a country where the most ”sophisticated” democrats dismissed the problems of democratic deficiencies as elitist whims. Even the procedural correctness and judicial fairness could be seen as a trivial matter, since it is thought by the great democratic brains of Turkey that ”by the side of dry the green also burns”.
I am not meant to sound like an Orientalist, yet this is the truth of many countries and societies – not only in ”the Orient” but also elsewhere - where neo-authoritarian politics are on rise. That is why it is of utmost importance to see beyond a corruption case not only the bankruptcy of a political party but also the collapse of democratization narratives in (fast) developing countries. Otherwise, we can never truly understand why a corruption case - no matter how big - leads to a grand political crisis which leads to fights not only between the executive and the judiciary but also within the executive and the judiciary and beyond. Besides, this may be the end of AKP’s voyage on the Orient Express, but it is not the end of the whole story.