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BURAK BEKDİL > The man who would be king

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You might call him the man who owns the Crescent and Star.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is working hard to raise his country’s democratic standards to those of the Asian beacon of democracy; but, sadly, his popularity, measured at around 40 percent, is still significantly behind Kim Jong-un’s 100 percent. Mr. Erdoğan should work harder. A blanket ban on the Internet could help.

Here in Turkey we may not yet have the optimal level of support for our leader like the North Koreans have for theirs over there; but we do qualify, better than the Koreans, for the prestigious list of countries that make the world’s dumbest competition for the political scene.

See, for instance, how a Turkish-Kurdish folk singer, an Erdoğan loyalist, defended the prime minister’s ban on Twitter – by tweeting. A scene that was reminiscent of the ban’s first day in action when the president, half the Cabinet members and numerous state institutions breached Mr. Erdoğan’s ban on the bird. I found it particularly amusing that only a couple of days after President Abdullah Gül denied Mr. Erdoğan’s intentions to pursue a further crackdown on Internet freedoms, Twitter officially disappeared from Turkish computer screens.

According to one of Mr. Erdoğan’s political comrades, “It was too dishonest of the opposition to use the graft allegations in domestic politics.” In this gentleman’s ideal democracy, serious fraud by the ruling politicians should fall into the sphere of transatlantic policy, or, better yet, jailhouse talk.

According to another comrade, the ban on Twitter “should not be a subject of political debate.” Right? Right. An Internet ban would have prevented a Twitter ban and, naturally, a political debate. There is much Mr. Erdoğan should learn from Mr. Kim.

During last week’s election campaigning, Mr. Erdoğan strongly urged his loyalists not to buy newspapers published by this group or by the Gülenists; or watch television stations owned by either group. Circulation figures and ratings reveal that his loyalists are not really loyalists in choosing what to read and watch, and what not to. Mr. Erdoğan’s call for an altogether boycott of the Doğan group a few years earlier only served to boost circulation.

But Mr. Erdoğan added Boyner, a leading retailer, to his blacklist when he spoke to his party fans at a rally last week. Boyner deserved to be boycotted by almost half the country because he had instructed his outlets to help protesters if they were injured during protests for the death of the 15-year-old “terrorist,” Berkin Elvan. It is not a good sign that Mr. Erdoğan’s blacklist (of terrorists) is expanding exponentially, whereas the lucky Mr. Kim enjoys the virtues of a terrorist-free country.   

But my favorite for the dumbest political scene competition was the words of another of Mr. Erdoğan’s comrades who warned that, “without Mr. Erdoğan’s rule, Turkey might get dragged into a nightmare scenario reminiscent of George Orwell’s ‘1984.’” If that happens, the comrade further warned, it might be too late for everyone. The gentleman was right. We must work harder, unite tighter behind Mr. Erdoğan, and try to improve our democratic standards, instead of awfully envying Mr. Kim’s country.

Otherwise, God forbid, our country may get dragged into the abyss and turn into a tragic land that would remind us of Orwell’s “1984.”

If Mr. Erdoğan wants to avoid that tragic fate, he should immediately jail terrorists, vandals, marginals, atheists, conspirators, spies and traitors who, when combined, account for about 60 percent of the country – or about 45 million people.

But don’t rush to blame Mr. Erdoğan for the failure. He is fighting half the world, plus more than half of his own country, all of which have united to stop Turkey’s progress into the elite North Korean model. He is trying too hard to prevent Turkey’s fall into an Orwellian “1984.”

A good start for a better future could be a blanket ban on the Internet.

March/26/2014

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