Not so much the mysterious, enigmatic riddle

Not so much the mysterious, enigmatic riddle

Borrowing Winston Churchill’s famous line about Russia, Turkey, under a suffocating Islamist rule, is no longer quite “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” In many ways, the Turkish political behavior is relatively as predictable as it was two decades ago.

Words may change slightly, and so may election slogans. Their meanings do not. At the peak of embarrassing corruption allegations before the March 30, 2014 local elections, then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, now president, claimed that the municipal elections would be Turkey’s “war of independence.” Slightly over a year later, heading for parliamentary elections, he says June 7 will mark a new “conquest.” In March 2014, most Turks thought this was going to be the most critical election in their country’s history. Nowadays, they think June 7 will be the most critical election in Turkey’s history. They will probably think the same for the next election.  

This column’s humble prophecy, published only two days before the March 30 elections, was:

“March 30 may not be too embarrassing for Mr. Erdoğan, although it may remove a few more stones from the foundation of sultan’s palace, sparking further erosion in the near future and bringing it closer to final destruction. March 30 may also provide the prime minister a fresh and perfectly legitimate license so that an increasing number of Turks may enjoy being strangled. 

(It then predicts “too many happy-looking faces in the world of Turkish politics” on March 31: Mr. Erdoğan, because his party finished first; and the two opposition parties, because they increased their votes by a couple percentage points.)  

“Even potential deserters from Mr. Erdoğan’s party and their potential partners who are now playing “wait and see” outside the arena will hesitate but look happy because Mr. Erdoğan’s popularity has dropped … On March 31, there will be hope for everyone to keep on fighting for better days.    

“The bad news is that Mr. Erdoğan has not left behind a manageable country even for himself to govern.” (Taken from “Winners in a losing country,” March 28, 2014.)

Two days before local elections in 2009, this column guessed: 

“This local election will not be an exception. More Turks are jobless today than in 2007. More Turks are poorer. More Turks have been born, grown into adolescence, passed 18. More Turks have been educated by pious families, more Turkish children have enrolled at Koranic schools, and more see their prime minister as a modern day sultan when he tells them Turkey is a global power … Mr. Erdoğan et al. have God on their side.” (“Here we go again,” March 27, 2009). 

“What will happen now?” this column asked in “Sunday under cloudy skies,” after Mr. Erdoğan’s landmark election victory in 2011. “Whatever has happened between July 2007 [elections] and June 2011 [elections],” it answered. “The same answer may not be too unrealistic to guess what will happen now – until parliamentary elections in 2015,” another line here said after local polls last year (“Sunday under cloudy skies (II),” April 2, 2014.) And it went on to say, “Mr. Erdoğan’s victory is a genuine victory. But it may not be as good as he wished it were. He failed to ‘raise devout generations’ with 50 percent of the nationwide vote (and about 325 seats in Parliament). With 43 percent … which would earn him about 290 seats, that holy ideal may be even more difficult… 

“In 2011, the two [non-Kurdish] opposition parties’ combined vote was 11 percentage points less than Mr. Erdoğan’s. In 2014, they are the same. And 290 is just too small a number to amend the Constitution to seal one-man rule in the shape of an executive presidency.”

And finally, before the presidential elections last August, this column’s prophecy was simple: “After Aug. 10, like before, everything in Turkey will change so that nothing changes.”

Forgive the irony in repeating another line published here: 

“Turkey is like a piano partition composed by Philip Glass: It finds beauty in itself by repeating itself.”