Turkey was supposed to be a model for Egypt after the events of the Arab Spring. Looking at developments in Turkey in the light of the corruption scandal that has shaken the government, one cannot help but wonder if it is the other way around now. It does indeed look as if the anti-democratic steps being taken by the government in an attempt at protecting itself against more corruption allegations are inspired by Egypt.
Deposed President Mohammed Morsi revealed himself to be a “majoritarian” almost as soon as he was elected. Acting as if he was waiting for that moment for years, Morsi did not waste any time in trying to impose his Islam-based world view on the whole of society. Like Erdoğan, he based his actions on a simplistic definition of democracy, arguing, in effect, that because he won the elections he was mandated to do as he pleased.
Thus, with the support of Islamist deputies, he had a religion based constitution drafted which he then rushed through parliament without the participation of the opposition. He subsequently held a flash referendum which, despite the low participation, endorsed a constitution that had no consideration for the rights of secular or Christian elements of society. All of this rings somehow familiar in today’s Turkey.
As if this was not enough Morsi started acting dictatorially as opposition against him mounted. He went on, in the name of “protecting the revolution,” to vest himself with powers that even Hosni Mubarak did not have at the time. Morsi revealed his anti-democratic nature further when he felt no constraint in sending the security forces against hundreds of thousands of demonstrators that had taken to the streets around the country once again. The violence against demonstrators was not short of the violence Mubarak’s security had perpetrated.
Being a natural enemy of the Muslim Brotherhood, the upper echelons of the military waited slyly for an opportunity to strike as the chaos in the country increased. Morsi, who clearly thought his electoral victory made him inviolable, provided this opportunity by mismanaging the first opportunity the country had for genuine democracy. The whole world knows what happened next.
Supporters of Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) are now shedding tears over the demise of democracy in Egypt. They refuse, however, to see the serious mistakes Morsi made in a country that has no democratic culture, or institutions to protect democracy against the kinds of things he was trying to impose on Egypt, or the coup that finally deposed him.
Instead of drawing lessons from Egypt in the name of “pluralism,” as opposed to “majoritarianism,” Erdoğan and his supporters are using the events in that country to fuel their obsession with the idea that they have to protect themselves against a coup in Turkey. Turkish democracy has been suffering the effects of this obsession since the Gezi Park protests. Like the current corruption scandal Erdoğan is convinced those protests were part of an international plot to topple him.
In order to protect against this alleged plot he is disregarding everything that lies at the heart of a genuine democracy, like showing no respect for an independent press and judiciary, and the constitutionally protected separation of powers principle. In short, like Morsi, he is trying to get hold of the reins of power in a manner that makes a mockery of his claim to be introducing advanced democracy to Turkey.
Turkey is not Egypt of course, and the age of military coups in this country is long over. This does not mean that Erdoğan’s actions will not result in serious disturbances, which in time will bring his political end too, albeit at a cost to Turkey as a whole. What is certain for now is that the more Erdoğan clings to his undemocratic ways the more political, social and economic upheavals we can expect in this country, and that is bad enough.