Turkey’s ‘Ohi Day?’

Turkey’s ‘Ohi Day?’

In a rather kitsch scene reminiscent of Turkish and former Soviet bloc celebrations, thousands of locals proudly watched students, fire brigades, Red Cross workers and others parading on the main promenade of a Greek island in the northern Aegean. The locals saluted the parade for “Ohi Day,” or “No Day,” commemorating the rejection by Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas of the ultimatum made by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on Oct. 28, 1940, the subsequent Greek counterattack against the invading Italian forces and the Greek resistance during the Axis occupation.

Across the most beautiful sea, ironically four days after the Greek “Ohi Day,” the Turks will have a chance to say “No” to the Turkish occupation of Turkey; either President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s neo-Ottomans will say “No” to the occupation of their emerging empire by a long list of “traitors,” or the traitors to Mr. Erdogan’s neo-Ottomans.  

As your columnist wrote two days before the indecisive June 7 elections, 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.

There has been little change since June 7, except a few election slogans. There is little reason to expect a major change on Nov. 1. Mr. Erdogan had claimed that the municipal elections of March 30, 2014, would be Turkey’s “war of independence” – a Turkish “Ohi Day,” in many ways, he thought. Mr. Erdogan said that June 7 would mark a new “conquest,” – another Turkish “Ohi Day.”

Most Turks thought that June 7 would be the “most critical election in Turkey’s history.” “They will probably think the same for the next election,” your columnist wrote on June 5. And, yes, most Turks think that Nov. 1 will be the “most critical election in Turkey’s history.” Until the next election day…

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

“Predictably, March 30 may not be too embarrassing for Mr. Erdoğan, although it may remove a few more stones from the foundation of the sultan’s palace. It may also provide [then prime minister] Mr. Erdoğan a fresh and perfectly legitimate license so that an increasing number of Turks may enjoy being strangled.” They keep on enjoying being strangled in every way Mr. Erdoğan deems appropriate, including, most recently, the detention of 12- and 13-year-old kids for insulting him. 

“The bad news is that Mr. Erdoğan has not left behind a manageable country even for himself to govern.” (Taken from this column, “Winners in a losing country,” March 28, 2014.) On Nov. 2, with or without a ballot mandate to form a single-party government, Mr. Erdoğan’s man at the prime ministry will find an increasingly unmanageable country to rule.

What will happen then? Whatever has happened between the June 2011 election and June 7, 2015, and between June 7 and Nov. 1. Most probably there will not be a government without Mr. Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). Most probably Mr. Erdoğan will have to shelve his ambitions to raise devout generations, and his man at the prime ministry will have to postpone his ambitions about the emerging Turkish empire. Mr. Erdoğan may also have to postpone his ambitions about constitutionally legalizing his de facto executive presidential powers.

In short, everything in the Crescent and Star will have to change so that nothing changes. 

Borrowing from an earlier column here: “Turkey is like a piano partition composed by Philip Glass: It finds beauty in itself by repeating itself.”