A former AKP deputy’s disappointment
I was struck recently by a commentary piece in the English-language daily Today’s Zaman, on July 17, by Suat Kınıklıoğlu, a former deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) titled “We had a dream.”
No doubt many observers of Turkey were also struck by the piece, since Kınıklıoğlu is a well-known and respected “think tanker” whose opinion pieces, research, and comments to the international media on current events have always been highly regarded and taken seriously in Washington and European capitals.
Some extensive excerpts from Kınıklıoğlu’s piece are therefore in order for the benefit of those who may have missed it, keeping in mind that his name was even mentioned at one time as a possible candidate for foreign minister.
Touching on the brutal Gezi Park raid by police on May 31, and the ensuing events, Kınıklıoğlu expressed deep disappointment over Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s and the AKP’s performance during this period, and used some striking language for someone who was once this party’s window on Turkey for Westerners.
Pointing out that we have become “a much more charged, tense and polarized country than we were prior to the morning of May 31,” he went on to say the following:
“We are now a truly divided country. Years of efforts to live side by side, years that seemed to bridge our differences, have been wasted by the response to the Gezi Park protests. Police brutality, the lack of accountability, the strong sense of injustice and the continuing witch hunt all point to an alarming societal atmosphere. Friends, colleagues, even families have been divided depending on where they stand on the Gezi Park protests.”
Indicating that the AKP (or AK Party as he puts it) was an important democratizing force from 2002 to 2010, he went on to recall that Erdoğan once enjoyed unprecedented power and popularity that he could have employed to truly unite this country. “He could have moved the party further to the center and also embraced those who did not vote for him. Instead, he chose to revert back to his roots,” Kınıklıoğlu wrote, adding that this trend did not actually start with the Gezi Park protests.
The long list of Erdoğan’s mistakes, according to him, include the Uludere/Roboski affair, the choice of Turkey’s first ombudsman, the insistence on a strange presidential system, the sectarian language in relation to the Reyhanlı bombing, the restrictions on alcohol sales, the name selected for the third Bosporus bridge – which is offensive to Alevis – and his insistence on anti-Turkish foreign conspiracies, which include a shadowy “interest-rate lobby” that most people are still unable to understand.
Kınıklıoğlu argued that the AKP did almost everything to create its own self-fulfilling prophecy, and went on to say that this party “no longer enjoys the moral high ground.” Instead, he said, it is now seen as a regressive force in terms of democracy and freedoms. “It is impossible not to be saddened by this. It did not have to be like this. It could have been very different,” he concludes.
It is hard not to be struck by these observations from a former AKP insider who clearly expected more from the party he joined and promoted abroad for the duration that he was in it as an elected deputy.
One can also understand better now why the AKP chose not to nominate him for Parliament again.
Clearly there was a mismatch between Kınıklıoğlu’s highly urbane and Western-oriented identity, and the identity of the AKP which has become more overtly Islamist and authoritarian these past few years.
Looking with hindsight, it is no surprise that this mismatch should have surfaced at some stage. One obviously wonders now if there are others who think like Kınıklıoğlu in the AKP. It is hard to imagine that Kınıklıoğlu’s disappointment is not shared by others in the AKP as well.