What is Turkey?
Whether it is appreciated or not, dictatorship, like constitutional democracy or pluralist democracy, is a form of government. Efficiency and stability in governance, decisiveness and such might be cited as positive aspects of a dictatorial rule while arbitrariness, unconditional submission to the dictate of a monopolized party and often one individual, yet absolute ruler, manipulation a la carte, and eventual adventurism might just be some of its negatives.
What is Turkey? What do Turks want? Has not Turkey’s democracy been proven unworkable so many times since the country moved to multi-party democracy-like governance in 1950? Did it not often have “elected dictatorial leaders?” Then is there meaning in becoming panicked now that soon the country might have instead of a dictatorial premier a dictatorial head of state by transforming itself from the often dysfunctional parliamentary system to a presidential one? Could presidential governance indeed work in this land?
Every one analyzing Turkey’s political situation is ignoring one fundamental reality shaping the present day political/mental setup of the Turkish people. This nation has lost more than half of its wealth accumulated in many years within less than three years. First, the nation was hit in 1999 by a massive earthquake that did not just kill thousands, but leveled the industrial heartland, the Marmara region of the country. Before some remedies might have been introduced to heal the wounds opened by the deadly quake, the financial quake came in 2001 when the banking and finance system of the country totally collapsed. The trauma induced by the two quakes on the Turkish people has been immense and the immediate resulting atmosphere in the country helped the current ruling party – then the only untested political group – jump on the platform of power.
Now, the fundamental demand of the Turkish people, irrespective how valuable they might be for them otherwise is not democracy, human rights, free speech or freedom of press. Turkish people are so traumatized with their 1999-2001 losses that their fundamental demand in governance is efficiency, stability, decisiveness and firm leadership. Did not the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its absolute leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan offer efficiency and stability in governance, continued growth, decisiveness and firm leadership, even to the extent of polarizing the country? What else could an ordinary Turk want from his government? Though they cannot know in advance the extent the size of an earthquake, as long as they believe they will not lose, whatever the amount might be in their pocket, some of that money in a political quake, why should an ordinary Turk be unhappy with Erdoğan’s totalitarianism?
Yes, freedom of speech, freedom of media, democratic pluralist society and politics with all colors of ethnicity, religion, language and such differences are all important, but to what extent they might be important for a person trying to make it to the end of the month with a meager income? Indeed, can it be a coincidence that dictatorships were most seen in countries with such a picture?
Now, is it relevant to ask whether, if elected president will the already totalitarian Erdoğan become a full-fledged dictator? What will happen if he is not elected? Would it make any difference where he is sitting?