NURAY MERT > The Myth of Autocracy

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Autocracy is defined as “one-man rule,” but autocracy is never a product of the politics of “one man,” namely, the autocrat himself. What makes up an autocracy is the authoritarian understanding of politics by many.

Modern history has shown that people are often inclined to support strong leadership, choose stability over uncertainty and opt for security over freedom. Besides, leader- centered politics promise more opportunities for those who crave instant political and economic gratification and for careerists of all sorts. For many, it has always been more difficult and uncertain to be promoted under the conditions of meritocratic competition. It has always been easier to achieve a career by cherishing and flattering one man who is capable of everything. It may not always be personal gains but also political ideals that can be achieved by a strong leader. This is the foundation of the authoritarian understanding of politics and this is the current case in Turkish politics.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has never needed to hide his authoritarian political understanding, or – to put it mildly – his “peculiar understanding of democracy.” Nevertheless, on one hand, the so-called democrats of Turkey refuse to recognize this fact, and on the other, his supporters do not press for more freedoms. First of all, it was democrats who supported strong leadership and strong political power, paradoxically, to achieve “democratization.” As for conservative supporters, the basic problem has only meant the elimination of secularist hegemony.

Last week, Erdoğan once again bluntly expressed his political understanding by stating that “the system is wrong from the beginning and the separation of powers simply means a hindrance,” in a public speech. Yet this time, it was so blunt that even he himself needed to modify his words in a TV interview. Nonetheless, he may not need to step back from his words since there would not be a very strong reaction even if he did not do so. There is nobody among even the top politicians of the governing party who feel brave enough to disagree with him. There is almost nobody in the media, in universities and in civil society who dare to be seriously critical of the prime minister.

No, I do not want to be unfair to Erdoğan by criticizing his authoritarian politics. It is those who choose their well-being and careers over matters of principle who create an autocrat, not vice versa. The personal political power of one man is a myth and in fact, it is conformism and opportunism that creates this myth.


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Khushal Khushal

12/26/2012 1:18:07 PM

In the U.S, we have the Electoral College (Total Electors= No of Senators+Representatives( 438+100), whereby people vote for the candidates via proxy electors. The lowest number of electors that a state can have is 3.The system guarantees the rights of the small states, and yet the electoral vote approximates the popular vote. The U.S did, initially, experiment with the notion of Congress electing the President, but discovered this to be a better alternative.

Khushal Khushal

12/26/2012 1:04:55 PM

Blue Dotterel! People have been experimenting with different forms of governance for over 2000-years (Greek/Roman City States). The present system is the optimal blend for governance derived from numerous different models, and it has consistently delivered satisfactory results over hundreds of years;not even a significant minority has expressed a desire for an alternative system. Do we have any alternatives to choose from?What are some of the alternatives?The salient features of each?

Blue Dotterel

12/25/2012 6:33:35 PM

Khushal, you assume that the purpose of the intelligentsia is to educate the masses apparently to make better decisions. You also assume politicians in democracies make decisions in favor of the people. This is not usually the case. The intelligentsia is often there to support the status quo, like capitalist economics, and the politicians are there to promote the policies of the elite that put them in power. Fact, Obama got 29% of the vote of eligible voters. Slightly, under 50% did not vote!

Khushal Khushal

12/25/2012 8:42:46 AM

Nuray Mert! You didn't quite muzzle me as I, wrongly, assumed you would.This was despite the rather curt/abrupt wording of my retort, which might have been perceived as harsh by others. I do admire you for not being duplicitous and for having the conviction to listen to and debate dissenting opinions because of your own conviction in such speech. I'm liberated, in both my thoughts and actions, than most people professing to be. I do believe to have found kindred in spirit in you.

Khushal Khushal

12/24/2012 8:31:39 PM

Agnes! Well, with the state-of-the-art diagnostics and an experienced specialist, you should get both an accurate diagnosis and a potent curative regimen.After having been to four different doctors, does one finally rely on a coin-toss for the ultimate decision regarding one's health/life?Am I to perceive this as your bias towards autocracy, but as him being the wrong choice/result?Or do your opinions imply a different framework/process to remedy the system?

Khushal Khushal

12/24/2012 8:22:14 PM

Agnes! No offense, but I do perceive an apparent ambivalence if not an outright contradiction in your stance. On the one hand you're accusing Erdogan of morphing into an autocrat, while on the other hand you're expressing a conviction about the people not having the requisites in terms of education/awareness to elect the right person. Am I to presume you to be in favor of or opposed to autocracy?

Agnes Smith

12/24/2012 4:21:04 PM

And Kushal, when I am ill in Turkey I go to 4 different doctors at great expense to get a result that I am comfortable with. For your info and with respect to the following comment - ' Politicians likewise rely on their own knowledge/prowess and the expertise of those who happen to be the thought leaders in a particular realm of policy to decide on an issue.Erdogan is a representative elected by people to the post of the President.' - Yes but only when you get the right result.

Agnes Smith

12/24/2012 4:13:43 PM

@ kushal - principles of representative democracy - So when you vote them in they have one mandate and that changes day by day? The role of politicians, likewise, is to make policy/ decide issues on behalf of the MASSES - who cannot make an educated decision because they live in inadequate housing, little in the way of education and don't know a thing about human rights, tend to turn to god and just survive. Are you proud of this arrangement.

Khushal Khushal

12/24/2012 12:44:44 PM

Whenever you’re ill, do you follow your doctor’s advice or do you solicit the majority popular opinion? Politicians likewise rely on their own knowledge/prowess and the expertise of those who happen to be the thought leaders in a particular realm of policy to decide on an issue.Erdogan is a representative elected by people to the post of the President. How does the Turkish constitution/any constitution define leadership positions?Does the electorate/the constitution expect him to be decisive?

Khushal Khushal

12/24/2012 12:41:13 PM

Now, what is the role of the intelligentsia and literati in a society? To educate the masses through professional/expert opinion/analysis, right? You should be familiar with this because as a columnist you might fall into this peculiar demographic. The role of politicians, likewise, is to make policy/ decide issues on behalf of the masses. What precisely, in your opinion, is the role of politics, politicians, elected officials, the President, and the government?
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