SEMİH İDİZ > Turkey’s “Quo Vadis?” moment

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This is my last piece before Sunday’s March 30 local elections. Normally it would not have made any difference whatsoever. These are, after all, merely local elections, and in any normal country people cast their vote in such elections for the parties and individuals they believe will provide them with the best municipal services.

But these are not normal times. We are going to wake up to a new Turkey on Monday. Not in the sense that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says though. It will either be a Turkey that sets a more positive course for itself in terms of democracy and accountability or one where the infighting gets worse, thus damaging further the democratic and legal environment.

The reason is Erdoğan has transformed these elections into a life or death matter and has admitted openly that he expects the electorate to clear his name of corruption charges. In other words, the question is not about simple municipal services, but about clearing Erdoğan’s name by non-legal (please note that I don’t say “illegal”) methods.

His hope is the allegations put forward by prosecutors - who incidentally served him well in the past when he was going full throttle after Kemalists and supporting the same prosecutors for locking up secularist generals – will evaporate and disappear as a result of a strong turnout for his party on Sunday.

But if he gets the numbers he wants, we can expect an even worse witch hunt than the one underway, as Erdoğan and his ministers unleash his already highly apparent fury on those he considers his enemies. Meanwhile, his enemies will not rest either and we can expect even more unsavory revelations about Erdoğan and government members.

The real fight, whatever the results of Sunday’s elections, will be for the presidential elections this year and the general elections planned for next year. I have said it before here. The bottom line is the stronger the AKP comes out of these elections, the more turbulence we can expect in Turkey.

Pro-government commentators accuse us of being scare mongers and agitators for saying this. They also accuse us of serving the interests of foreign powers. Calling someone a traitor has always been the easiest refuge in Turkey for those who have no arguments left.

But those who level these accusations disregard the fact that it is the vindictive language that Erdoğan and his ministers are using, and the anti-democratic steps they are taking which promise more instability in Turkey if the Justice and Development Party (AKP) comes out strong on Sunday.

Erdoğan has proved he has no love lost on the 50 percent that did not vote for him in the last general elections. He could not pronounce even on word of sympathy for a 15-year-old kid killed by the police during last summer’s anti-government protests. He even got the kid’s, namely Berkin Elvan’s, mother booed during one of his rallies.

Of course pro-government circles will say everything is democratic and Erdoğan and the AKP have won the elections fair and square. No one disputes this. What is being disputed is their understanding of democracy. It is back to the “majoritarian-pluralist” dichotomy.

Even Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, a key AKP personality, is saying now that democracy is more than just elections. It is also the system based on the rule of law which protects the interests of everyone, regardless of who they voted for.

I therefore stick to my initial prediction. Unless Erdoğan miraculously transforms himself from a majoritarian to a pluralist, there is more trouble in store for Turkey. This is not agitation or scaremongering, but many peoples’ reading of the big picture.

It is hard to believe in miracles, but miraculous occurrences do happen in life. It is nevertheless a sad day for Turkey when we have to rely on this to save our democracy and make this a country where people can trust the laws of the land, regardless of who is elected.

March/27/2014

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