Legitimate and illegitimate dictators

Legitimate and illegitimate dictators

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has once again declared his refusal to recognize the legitimacy of Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and reproached countries that have accepted Mr.. el-Sisi as a legitimate leader.

“They [el-Sisi] toppled a person [Mohamed Morsi] who came to power through votes. What did those countries who call themselves ‘democratic’ say? Did they speak up?” These are the words with which Mr. Erdoğan, once again, expressed his part-time democrat-self. “Even if you consider him legitimate, we will not consider him legitimate.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Erdoğan does not understand that his political past and present fail him to convince the world that he and only he is the God of Democracy.

His one-time best regional ally (and family friend) Bashar al-Assad was not reigning in the cradle of democracy before the Syrian became Mr. Erdoğan’s most powerful regional obsession. Nor is the dynasty that is Mr. Erdoğan’s only (and best) ally presently came to power out of the ballot box; and no doubt Mr. Erdoğan has no concerns over why Qataris cannot elect their leaders. One wonders: Has the Turkish Patron Saint of World Democracy ever advised his royal Saudi friends to scrap their dynasty and introduce the ballot box?

Could it be that Mr. Erdoğan’s obsession not to accept Messrs. al-Assad and el-Sisi is because these gentlemen have blood on their hands? Over 150,000 victims in Syria and 3,000 in Egypt? Why, then, was Mr. Erdoğan “good friends” with Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, who has an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for the deaths of hundreds of thousands and for crimes against humanity? What, really, makes Mr. al-Bashir a “legitimate leader” for Mr. Erdoğan? 

I must perhaps repeat: Last July, Mr. el-Sisi of Egypt, won 45.6 percent of the vote (96.7 percent of the 47 percent turnout), one year after he ousted President Morsi in a coup d’état. Mr. Morsi had won 26.9 percent of the national vote (51.7 percent of the 52 percent turnout). In other words, the coup leader’s popular vote was 18.7 percentage points higher than the coup victim’s. But there is more.

Only half a year ago, the Thai army staged a coup d’état against a democratically-elected government. The Turkish Patron Saint of World Democracy has not spoken a word against that coup. The “page about Thailand” in the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s website does not even mention the coup; but it mentions the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries; the Thai foreign minister’s 2010 visit to Turkey; the rise in bilateral trade; Istanbul-Bangkok flights being one of the Turkish national carrier’s busiest routes; 40,000 Turkish tourists visiting Thailand every year; and Turkish investments and schools in Thailand. Where is Turkey, the feared enemy of the world’s coup-makers?

Just a few weeks ago, Burkina Faso’s military dissolved Parliament and announced a transitional government after violent protests against President Blaise Compaoré. The protests had been sparked by the government’s attempt to push a constitutional change through Parliament to allow Mr. Compaoré to seek reelection next year.

Army chief General Honoré Traoré said the new government would be installed after consultation with all political parties and would lead the country to an election within 12 months. The general also announced a curfew.

Ironically, Burkina Faso is one of the 21 countries in the world to which Turkey sends “military aid.” So, Turkish public money may have been used in overthrowing the “legitimate” government in the West African country.

Does Mr. Erdoğan know that another illegitimate coup had taken place somewhere on earth? He may not, but the Foreign Ministry in Ankara apparently does. A statement from the ministry said: “We watch the developments with concern … We recommend restraint … We hope that a solution based on dialogue and consensus with the participation of all parties could be found.”

Very dry, is it not, for the ministry of a country whose leader has dedicated himself to fight all coup-makers?

The truth is, the Patron Saint has the habit of rising against illegitimate coup leaders only when they target Islamist ambitions and governments. Other coups are irrelevant or just fine.