The referendum as a war between the cross and the crescent
NURAY MERTNowadays, even some government supporters are hinting that the April 16 charter referendum is poised on a knife’s edge and that the “yes” side may not win as easily as thought before. Some governing party politicians have started to mention the danger of chaos and even civil war in the event that the “no” side wins. Nevertheless, it is not reason for hope for the “no” side, as it has begun to sound as if the referendum results might be considered another “coup” attempt in the event that the government is defeated.
It may sound rather odd to relate elections to some sort of coup, but Justice and Development Party (AKP) politicians and supporters already accuse “no” voters of complying and even cooperating with terrorists and the enemies of Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan often underlines the “fact” that the terrorist organizations of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) support the “no” vote and, therefore, voting “no” is a clear expression of solidarity with those terrorists. Besides, the governing party and its supporters often underline the “fact” that this is no ordinary election but is tantamount to the defense of the nation against the evil forces which pose a threat to the survival of the country and the Muslim world.
Most recently, one journalist who echoes the government party line declared that “the present conflict is not a domestic matter but reflects the struggle between Turkey and global forces.” The recent crises with the Netherlands and Germany have already been interpreted as clear expressions of not only Western enmity toward Turkey but even meddling within Turkey’s domestic politics. Besides, in the eyes of the ruling party, the West represent the united front of the “new Crusaders” whose enmity derives from the centuries-old hatred toward Islam and Turkey, its major defender. Finally, the referendum is the last stage of the war between the cross and the crescent.
The German media’s support of the “no” vote in Turkey has only helped those who are keen on not only internationalizing the politics surrounding the referendum, but also those who are eager to declare it a historical and civilizational issue. Moreover, it was fairly unusual and repulsive behavior on the part of foreign media to publish headlines in Turkish that were in favor of the “no” vote. This mode of behavior can be used as “evidence” of foreign meddling in Turkey’s politics, even after the referendum. It may be argued that in the age of globalization, it is understandable for all nations to be concerned with the domestic politics of other countries, especially in the case of Turkey, which is a Western ally and NATO member. Moreover, it can be argued that there was almost global concern and interest in the last U.S. election, with many in the foreign media expressing views against Donald Trump. As long as many supported the anti-Trump line, it did not matter for Democrats but after Trump’s victory, they did not refrain from accusing Russia of political meddling to the point of trying to open a legal case against the Trump administration and Russia.
It could be argued that the case of Russia’s meddling is based on the allegations that Russia exposed some of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s mails just before the election. Still, Turkey may come up with some different sets of accusations, such as the supposed “Western support for the PKK and the Gülenists.” I hope such a scenario will not come true, but there are signs that in the case of a “no” vote win, it may be regarded as “illegitimate.” In the event that the “yes” side wins, all dissenters will be branded and treated as traitors who voted “no” and collaborated with Turkey’s enemies. In either case, it will be dissidents in Turkey who pay the price for the West’s teasing of Turkey’s rulers. What would be worse is if Turkey continues to slide toward the politics of chaos regardless of the result of the referendum – unless the AKP starts to realize the “real danger”: sacrificing Turkey’s future on the alter of the referendum.