Recently, the foreign media have portrayed the country with these words:
“Its leaders have snuffed out dissent.”
“They have arrested even those who dared to put up anti-government posters.”
“There have been waves of arrests and deaths in the police crackdown.”
“There were weeks-long cycles of protests and government-orchestrated violence.”
“The government is armed with powers to ban all unwanted protests, declaring them unlicensed, and has vowed to keep the peace by all means possible, including, of course, violence.”
“There is disgruntlement among the youth who sense that the ‘wall of fear’ has been demolished, but is being quickly rebuilt around them, brick by brick.”
“The opposition media is being systematically punished, more neutral voices are being taken off the airwaves; the press has largely degenerated into a hectoring, cheerleading booster of the government.”
“Noisy, pro-government politicians often rage about purported foreign plots to kill the near-sacrosanct leader of the country whom many voters idolize.”
“The near-sacrosanct leader of the country threatens to hunt his enemies from house to house and tear them limb from limb.”
“Harsh prison sentences have been served to youths for illegal assembly or vandalism.”
“A number of journalists remain in prison under vague charges.”
Anyone could think that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s European Union-candidate country would perfectly fit that international portrayal. Quite, quite…
But the press clippings above do not describe Turkey, but the country, by a simple twist of fate, Mr. Erdoğan and many others, perhaps quite rightly, despise being run by a coup government. That’s Egypt, with which Mr. Erdoğan has been forced to cut off diplomatic relations because “he could not deal with a coup government.” Because that would be against the “national will of the Egyptian people.”
This column need not remind any reader of Egypt’s modern or more recent political history which is full of coups, counter-coups, counter-counter-coups and counter-counter-counter-coups. But a couple of numbers should be telling who is – really – who in Middle Eastern politics.
On June 24, 2012, Mr. Erdoğan’s man in Cairo, Muhammad Morsi, was announced as the winner of Egypt’s first ever free election. In the first round of the presidential election, the voter turnout was a respectable 46 percent, and Mr. Morsi won 25 percent of the valid vote, or 11.5 percent of the entire eligible Egyptian vote. In the winning round, Mr. Morsi got 51.7 percent of the vote out of a 52 percent turnout, or 26.9 percent of the entire eligible vote.
These numbers made Mr. Morsi Mr. Erdoğan’s Egyptian hero of democracy, and the final/decisive 26.9 percent, for the Turkish prime minister, was undoubtedly Egypt’s “national will.” He has never said what the remaining 73.1 percent was.
And on Jan. 14, the Egyptians were at the ballot box once again, this time voting in favor or against their country’s new constitution, crafted by the general who shunted Mr. Morsi and his Brothers from the presidency into prison – by the man Mr. Erdoğan has publicly despised as a coup leader.
In a vote few people think produced inaccurate or manipulated numbers, 38 percent of the Egyptians turned out, and 98 percent of them voted in favor of the coup leader’s constitution, or, in euphemistic words, his roadmap for democracy. That makes 37 percent of all Egyptians. Or 10.1 percentage points higher than Mr. Morsi’s popularity.
Mr. Erdoğan may believe that 26.9 is bigger than 37 – according to his Islamist algebra. But science will say the opposite. In the unlikely event that Mr Erdoğan admits 37 is bigger than 26.9, he should support the Egyptian roadmap for democracy – and the coup leader who has now proven to be the darling of the Egyptian national will.
Sadly, Turkey falls into the category of countries where “at least the trains run on time.” Egypt may follow suit. Cheers to the national will!